He explains his earlier comments:

The point about ‘Game of Thrones’… is that conscience and fear of judgement are entirely absent from the lives of all, and that this is most evident in the deeds of the most successful characters. Compare Hamlet’s self-torture over whether he can kill Claudius , when Claudius is at his prayers. Or the genuine horror of the English people at the alleged murder of the Princes in the Tower by Richard III.

Two things:

  • One, Hamlet was a fictional character written in the Renaissance, not the Middle Ages.  Thus, his behavior is at best an indication of what Shakespeare thought a Prince would behave like, not what they actually did.
  • Two: okay, so the English were properly horrified. But I want to point out that Hitchens is undercutting his own point by bringing up the idea that Richard III would do that. Game of Thrones is about the medieval elite and their ruthless power grabs–just exactly like the real-life power grabs of people like Richard III, Henry II, Henry VIII and so on! He complains “conscience and fear of judgement are entirely absent… in the deeds of the most successful characters”, and yet, by his own showing, the most successful people in the actual Middle Ages were the same way! Nice guys, by most accounts, finished last in the Middle Ages.

Remember, I have no wish to defend Game of Thrones.  I’ve never seen it, and for all I know it may be the worst and most loathsome thing ever to darken a television screen.  I just have issues with Hitchens claiming that “the society it describes is far worse than the Middle Ages”.

Peter Hitchens is one of my favorite conservative writers.  I do not agree with him on very much, but he is an intelligent man, who usually analyzes political and social matters very well, even if he comes to very different conclusions than I do.

That said, sometimes he makes some pretty wacky assertions. For example, in his column today, Hitchens writes:

I am worried by the TV popularity of George R.R. Martin’s clever fantasy Game Of Thrones.

Mr Martin’s imaginary world is frighteningly cruel. The society it describes is far worse than the Middle Ages, because its characters are entirely unrestrained by Christian belief. [Emphasis mine] There’s a lifeless, despised religion but nobody takes it seriously.

I fear it will make those who watch it worse people than they were before.

I never watched this show, or read the books it is based on.   Yet, I still find this statement very, very difficult to believe.  There were a lot of bad things done in the Middle Ages, and its hard to see how George R.R. Martin could have invented something crueler than any one thought to do back then.

My core disagreement with Hitchens is that “Christian belief” made the Middle Ages more restrained.  He would have been correct if he had said that people who practiced Christian teachings were more restrained–“All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword“, after all–but the fact is there have been many people throughout history who professed Christian belief without ever letting the tenets of such belief color their actions in any way.

I think it’s pretty clear there were people in the Middle Ages who were unrestrained by Christian teaching.  And I am only talking about in the places that were generally “Christian” lands–that becomes even more obvious when you consider all the non-Christians in the Middle Ages.

Is April Fools’ Day on the 6th this year? Or am I missing  something?  I wish Hitchens would have gone into more detail about what cruel acts the Christian restraint of the Middle Ages prevented, because I frankly can’t come up with much evidence for the claim.

Well, I figure it can’t have been an entirely satisfactory event if both liberals like the blogger at This Ruthless World and conservatives like Peter Hitchens are displeased with it.  Though of course, for different reasons.  TRW seems to oppose the festivities out of a sense of republicanism (not Republicanism) and egalitarianism.  The late Christopher’s younger brother, on the other hand, seems to feel that the Monarch was not given sufficient respect and deference.

I kind of get why people like the Monarchy and its ceremonies, and yet at the same time, I don’t.  I can see there’s a certain appeal to the spectacle of lots of people in uniforms and dresses going about.   But it’s a bit odd all the same, especially when you consider the Queen’s lack of actual power. I suppose there is some “if I were in their shoes” fantasy appeal to the whole thing.

But anyway, what is interesting about both these pieces is that, although written from almost completely opposite political viewpoints, they come to a remarkably similar conclusion: that it all boils down to celebrity worship in the end.  Of course, Hitchens thinks that this is not always the case with Monarchy, but I think he tends to romanticize the past–or perhaps more accurately, he romanticizes “the way things are not”.

British conservative Peter Hitchens on his grudging admiration for Vladimir Putin:

[Putin] stands – as no other major leader does in the world today – for the rights of nations to decide their own business inside their own borders.

Hitchens goes on for a long time, making his case trying to justify–I think partially to himself–how he can manage to like someone like Putin. But really this one sentence says it all: Putin is a nationalist. So is Peter Hitchens. The rest follows from this.

Putin is exactly the sort of person nationalists love to have running their country. For starters, he strikes all the right macho poses. (Hunting shirtless, rigging himself out in jet pilot apparel before it was all the rage.) But Peter Hitchens is a tasteful, intelligent sort of nationalist, and so it requires more than that to take him and his fellows in.

What he likes about Putin is his policies. As Hitchens says:

After all, how many of us are as keen as we used to be on the supposed cure-alls and blessings of human rights, privatisation, the United Nations, the European Union, open borders, political correctness and free trade?Mr Putin’s Russia is refreshingly free of these things.

Emphasis mine.

It makes perfect sense that Hitchens would admire Putin for all these things. I expect most nationalists in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere, will come to be more and more enamored of Putin and perhaps seek candidates for office who emulate him.