Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) left us a memoir entitled Hitch-22, and then went on to narrate the recorded version. I began to listen through the book last year, but it is dense going and I set it aside near the end of the year and began a re-listen of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln bio. But two weeks ago I returned to Hitch's book just in time to pick up the story of his conversion to high-profile public advocacy of "regime change" in Iraq -- i.e. let's get rid of the psychotic mass-murderer Saddam Hussein. This became the watershed moment of his political evolution, the cardinal sin his Leftist colleagues would never forgive or forget.

I planned a short notice to put up here on Duckman, derived from an aside by Hitchens pertaining to how his critics began to mount their attacks on him. This is wonderful, vintage Hitch:

"I had become too accustomed to the pseudo-Left new style, whereby if your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one. This vulgar method, which is now the norm and the standard in much non-Left journalism as well, is designed to have the effect of making any noisy moron into a master analyst."

That comment was intended to form the basis of a little bit of restrained Hitch hagiography, focusing on his travels in Kurdistan after Saddam's fall. But this morning I made a mistake. Please read on:

I almost always follow a personal rule of thumb, to wit, when viewing a webpage promising news of a recent outcropping of violence -- violence of any sort, not necessarily race-spawned -- and bespeckled with colorful buttons bearing the legend "Video," I never click for video. In seventy six years I have already streamed a sufficiency of images of graphic violence through my brain, which ought at this late date be relieved of the ugly chore of processing yet more.

I had already read about a young black man who, yesterday, 23 Aug 2020 (it was claimed), had been shot by a policeman several times in the back, and at point-blank range to boot. Somehow he has survived. Something in me said, "This I gotta see." The video, regrettably, bore out the reports I had read. The man was in the act of opening the driver's side door of an SUV with a policeman only scant feet behind him, with sidearm drawn.

What's going on here?

It's already been, by my reckoning, some years since the phrase "suicide by police" entered our lexicons. These words were used, obviously, to denote a death brought on by a subject deliberately taunting armed police, say, by pointing a firearm at them. That turns out to be a very efficient shortcut to expiration of self.

This current incident suggests a new type of psychopathology has emerged, characterized by delusions of indestructibility. Whereas in "death by police" the suicidal intent is front and center, and is what -- it may be reasonably concluded I would argue -- the subject seeks. What I see in this newer variant of mental illness is something of the opposite case: the subject behaves as if he believes there is no way he is about to die. That's not what he wants.

Are young black men now beset by a delusion of a "SuperPower", namely that by sheer braggadocio they can face down policemen and render them helpless?

How will this end?

Next: my fascination with the role of delusion in social and cultural analysis.