Friday, September 16, 2005

Grapple in the Apple

The Grapple in the Apple has had the predicted results: those on Galloway's side think he won and Hitchens was humiliated, those on Hitchens's side.... you fill the rest in.

Gary Younge in The Guardian ('Crusing for a brusing') carries this view (some some omissions here):
"What had been billed as "the grapple in the Big Apple" in the end owed more to pugilism than polemics, with jibes, like jabs, missing more often than they landed, and many a blow below the belt.

"Hitchens berated Galloway for his "sinister piffle", congratulating him on "being 100% consistent in [his] support for thugs and criminals" and declaring: "The man's search for a Fatherland knows no ends." Galloway branded Hitchens a hypocrite and "a jester at the court of the Bourbon Bushes". Describing Hitchens' journey from the left to the right, Galloway said: "What we have witnessed is something unique in natural history. It's the first metamorphosis of a butterfly back into a slug." In the heat of battle the fact that butterflies come from caterpillars did not temper the applause from the audience, roughly two-thirds of whom backed Galloway.

"Having both torched the moral high ground, they would both later claim it as their own. At one point Galloway told Hitchens "Your nose is growing," only to deride his opponent for his "cheap demagoguery". Hitchens scolded the jeering audience for their "zoo-like noises", only to say that Galloway's "vile and cheap guttersnipe abuse is a disgrace".

"In a debate that drew as much from the culture of the playground as the traditions of parliament, no hyperbolic stone was left unturned.

"If there was light amid all this heat it shone not from their well-rehearsed and familiar arguments, but from their mis-steps. Galloway learned the hard way that four years after the attacks on the twin towers there are still some things you cannot say about September 11 that are common currency in Britain just a few months after the July 7 bombings.
"You may believe they came out of a clear blue sky," he said to a chorus of boos and single-finger gestures. "But they came out of a swamp of hatred created by us." Hitchens replied: "You picked the wrong city to say that in, and the wrong month."

"But it was Hitchens who made the greater gaffe when he implied, to howls of disbelief, that race played no part in those who perished in Hurricane Katrina, and that George Bush could not have helped the victims because he was obstructed by state officials. At this point he might have taken his cue from Liston, who spat out his mouthpiece as the bell tolled for the seventh round against Muhammad Ali, declaring "That's it". But he soldiered on. Having lost the audience he then turned on them. "I'm just reminding you that you're on telly," he said. "I just hope your friends and relatives aren't watching."

"Galloway won on points. Sadly, by the end of the night, few could remember what the point was."

The BBC is impressed enough to change its Radio 4 schedules on Saturday night and offer us an edited version of the exchange at 10.15.


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