Preface to Said’s Peace and its discontents

Christopher Hitchens

If it were possible to make one- just one- literary reform in the oppressive litany of clichés and received opinions that is delivered to us by modern journalistic discourse, my nomination for the reform would be this. No editor or headline writer or columnist or think-piece merchant should be allowed to employ the word ‘moderate’ and the word ‘reasonable’ as if they were synonymous or coterminous. Look at what happens in the absence of this reform. Even the noblest of words – the word ‘rational’ – becomes degraded by slothful association. Before too long it is the ‘moderate and rational forces’ who are prevailing. Next it is ‘ the voices of reason’ which must be attented to if the ‘moderate’ are to triumph. We know who the ‘moderates’ are, of course. They are the ones who know what’s good for them.

If the New York Times was describing any remotely analogous ‘process’ in the Middle East or Africa, we may imagine in what pitying and condescending and ‘rational’ terms it might do so.

No book can do everything or say everything, but it is my speculation that every line of Edward Said’s political work, since at least 1967, has been explicitly concerned with preventing the replication among Palestinians of the banana-republic style and method that has become so dismally familiar in the Arab world.

Preface by Christopher Hitchens, to Said’s Peace and its discontents



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