Spellbinding and agonizing for many reasons, foremost among them the fact that Maher’s tepid disapproval seems to be the only thing keeping the moronic audience from siding with this willful imbecile against two of the world’s leading public intellectuals. Ace calls this an “education,” but it isn’t; surely nothing was learned here. I don’t think Def’s exactly a Truther, either. He uses the same feeble “just asking questions” defense that Truthers do, but they at least come armed with talking points about thermite and the melting temperature of steel. His shtick is really more of a “question authority” pose taken to its limits of paranoia and nihilism: He doesn’t trust the government or the media, and he doesn’t trust Hitchens or Rushdie, and he doesn’t trust the subtitles on Bin Laden’s videos, because “villains” aren’t always so villainous when you look closer. Which, evidently, he’s unwilling to do himself.

Consider this yet another reason to like Hitchens, though. Is there anyone else on the chat-show circuit who would have kept after Def as persistently as he does? You keep waiting for him to relent in the name of “cultural differences,” but he never does. No sacred cows for Hitch.