UPDATE: Hitchens' fellow traveler, Michael Totten, gives the full blow-by-blow of the attack, including photos of the sign defaced by Hitchens, and recounting how a Lebanese policeman refused to help them moments before the impending ambush and how they, along with journalist Jonathan Foreman, fled from the mob in a taxi.
Here is an excerpt of Totten's account of the attack:
We knew it, too, because six or seven furious men showed up all at once and faced us in the street. They stepped in front of the taxi and cut off our escape.
None wore masks, which was a good sign. And I didn't see any weapons. But they were well-built and their body language signaled imminent violence...
Christopher was the target. He was the one who had defaced their sign. One of the guys smacked him hard in the face. Another delivered a roundhouse kick to his legs. A third punched him and knocked him into the street between two parked cars. Then they gathered around and kicked him while he was down. They kicked him hard in the head, in the ribs, and in the legs.
Jonathan and I had about two and a half seconds to figure out what we should do when one of the SSNP members punched him in the side of the head and then kicked him.
I stoically accepted that I was about to get beaten myself. The fear drained out of me as I was reasonably sure they weren't going to kill us. They didn't have weapons or masks. They just wanted to beat us. There were too many for us to fend off. We lost the fight before it even began. I could have called for backup myself, but I didn't think of it - a mistake I will not make again. I have my own muscle crew on speed dial now for protection.
UPDATE: Hitchens is still in Beirut and went ahead with a scheduled lecture entitled "Who are the revolutionaries in today's Middle East?" at American University in Beirut on Wednesday night, Huffington Post has learned.
In the latest incident, Hitchens sustained gashed knuckles and bruises in a vicious street brawl with shoe-shopping thugs during a Valentine's Day night out on the streets of Beirut.
Hitchens, the chain-smoking, hard-drinking, intellectually ambitious Vanity Fair columnist, was beat up during the altercation, according to several blogs.
Hitchens was apparently visiting Beirut at the invitation of the Hariri-Saudi group, affiliated with the assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, when he defaced a poster for the Syrian Social Nationalist party and was assaulted by some members of the SSNP who happened to be walking by, according to the Angry Arab News Service.
But later that night, three of our "scoop" brigade--Jonathan Foreman, Michael Totten and Christopher Hitchens--got involved in a street brawl with some thugs of a Syria-loving skinhead party called the SNPN after Hitchens rather gallantly insulted their swastika flag. On our way to a meeting with Minister of State Nissib Lahoud, Hitchens showed me the gashed knuckles and bruises suffered during the punch up. The attackers had apparently come out of nowhere on posh Hamda Street, where they had gone to buy shoes. "I was on the ground," Hitchens said, "and getting it in the head." It was a miracle they didn't pull Kalashnikovs.
The Angry Arab News Service wrote on Tuesday:
At the invitation of Hariri-Saudi group, Hitchens is visiting Lebanon. A source sent me this: "I dont know if you find this as news worthy or not, but Christopher Hitchens is currently in Beirut sponsored by the same group that owns that crap NOW Lebanon. He got in a few nights ago and surprisingly went out drinking. On his way out of the bar he saw an SSNP poster and wrote on it "Fuck the SSNP". There just happened to be some SSNP thugs near by--most likely asking people for their ID, and most likely to no avail--and saw him write on the poster and kicked his ass. He is still walking with a limp."
The Abu Muqawama blog later noted:
Update: This story has now been confirmed. Look, it's widely known that since the May 2008 events the SSNP guys have behaved like thugs in Hamra (where the ass-kicking took place). But seriously, would you roll into East L.A. and start writing over gang signs? I mean, is that smart? C'mon, Brother Hitchens, we're rootin' for you, but have a little walkin' around sense. He was probably at De Prague. Where the wait staff is, like, 90% SSNP. Abu Muqawama's Top Three West Beirut Watering Holes: 1. Barometre (cheap arak, great fattoush); 2. Captain's Cabin; 3. Danny's. (In response to a reader, the great Chez Andre closed sometime a little over a year ago. That hole-in-the-wall was great.)