The common misapprehension is that madmen show signs of their condition at all times. Clinical practice and Peter Hitchens prove this isn’t so.
Most deluded people sound normal when discussing subjects that don’t trigger their delusion. Usually only one topic sets them off, although, Hitchens can evidently afford two.
He tends to make sense on most other subjects. But when a sore subject is mentioned, he’s away with the fairies. Since he controls the content of his Sunday column, one of those topics comes up regularly, but yesterday Mr Hitchens regaled us with both.
With the obtuseness of a certifiable maniac, he prefaces the first one with a veiled suggestion that it’s not he who’s mad but just about everyone else: “Plenty of people hate me for daring to point it out. Tough. I’ll say it once again…”
Well, I for one don’t hate Mr Hitchens. I’m genuinely concerned about his mental health, and also about the sanity of the publications that allow him to indulge his delusions.
The one reason plenty of people are supposed to hate him for concerns a startling discovery for which he takes credit without false modesty. Apparently psychotic people may commit violent acts, and psychotropic drugs may make people psychotic.
If that’s where Mr Hitchens left it, everyone would agree and some would say he’s stating the bleeding obvious. But he doesn’t leave it at that. Scanning the past 1,400 years and especially the last few, Mr Hitchens tends to suggest that Islamic violence has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with cannabis.
This tends to provoke comments about his sanity, or shortage thereof. I myself have written about this worrying situation a few times and, to obviate a need to repeat myself, you can easily look up those pieces (for example, 26 March, 2017).
Hitchens’s column yesterday is mostly a reaction to the reaction. He indignantly denies any charges of trying to vindicate Muslim terrorism. He has never done it and would never do it.
However, and that’s where the mania kicks in, he goes on to demonstrate that some murders, namely the one of Jo Cox, were indeed perpetrated by deranged chaps with a history of drug abuse.
By itself this illustration is a meaningless truism. It’s like saying that earthquakes sometimes happen. However, the statement becomes crazy if it’s augmented by a hint that earthquakes sometimes happen because there are too many black cats about.
On this occasion Mr Hitchens spares us his usual, somewhat illogical, extrapolation to the effect that, because some acts of terrorism are perpetrated by dopeheads, Islam has nothing to do with any of them. But this conclusion follows from the whole corpus of his writing on this subject.
Suddenly we leave the realm of rhetoric to enter one of psychiatry, especially since Mr Hitchens then segues into his parallel, unrelated mania. This has to do with his almost erotic adulation of Col. Putin, who wages a noble single-handed war against Nato’s attempts to blow up the world.
As proof of this dastardly intent Hitchens cites some facts. But then all madmen do that – it’s only in the spin they put on the facts that their disease reveals itself.
In this case, Mr Hitchens observes correctly that: “American nuclear bombers flew to the Baltic. Nato heavy artillery let rip close to the Russian city of Kaliningrad. A Nato jet buzzed the Russian Defence Minister’s plane.”
He then asks a presumably rhetorical question: “Who is actually turning up the heat here?”
Why, certainly not the KGB-run regime that pounces like a rabid dog on its neighbours, annexes their territory, murders tens of thousands, starts three wars in the last decade, amasses hundreds of thousands of troops on its western border, spends half its budget on the military, directly threatens at least three Nato members thereby creating a threat of nuclear war, constantly violates the airspace of Nato countries, foments trouble around the world, launches cyber attacks on Western institutions, conducts hysterical non-stop anti-Western propaganda in all media.
Of course not. It’s Nato, silly. You know, the organisation that has protected our freedom for the past 68 years.
This infernal organisation has a charter whose Article 5 says that an attack on one member is an attack on all. Since Putin’s regime has an overwhelming superiority in conventional capabilities over Nato in Europe, the latter would have only two options should the former pounce on the Baltics the way it has already pounced on Chechnya, Georgia and the Ukraine.
One, not to respond at all. Two, to respond with nuclear weapons.
The first option would neuter Nato out of existence, leaving Putin in control of Europe. The second one could spell nuclear holocaust. That’s why the most realistic option isn’t to respond to Putin’s aggression, but to try to prevent it.
To that end, following the decision taken at the 2014 Nato summit, in the immediate aftermath of Putin’s theft of the Crimea, the Western alliance has put a 5,000-strong contingent into the three Baltic members of Nato. They’re there to act as a tripwire in case of a Russian attack, and their presence is designed to discourage such an attack by demonstrating Nato’s commitment to Article 5.
Even such a tiny force, however, needs to be in a state of readiness. That’s why Nato has conducted the training exercises that our clinical case equates with “turning up the heat”.
Now hardly a day goes by that Russian planes don’t buzz Nato planes or installations. Yet Hitchens regards as an act of unprovoked aggression one of the few such incidents initiated by Nato.
Nato commanders are understandably tense every time Russian fighter-bombers appear in close proximity to the Baltics. In the case that pushed Mr Hitchens over the edge, two such warplanes materialised in the region, escorting an airliner that happened to carry Putin’s defence minister Shoigu.
This is how Nato explains the incident, first pointing out that the two fighter-bombers didn’t respond to air traffic control or requests to identify themselves:
“As is standard practice whenever unknown aircraft approach Nato air space, Nato and national air forces took to the sky to monitor these flights. When Nato aircraft intercept a plane they identify it visually, maintaining a safe distance at all times. Once complete, Nato jets break away.”
Moreover, Nato stated it had no information about who was aboard the passenger plane. All in all, it takes an advanced case of derangement to interpret the incident as Nato “turning up the heat”.
Actually, I’m paying Mr Hitchens a compliment by suggesting he’s unwell. Otherwise I’d have to wonder why a sane British hack feels called upon to repeat Putin’s propaganda verbatim.