Alexander Cockburn was, until yesterday, the living embodiment of the bridge between the far Right – in particular, the Jew-baiting far Right – and the far Left.
Excuse me, running “journalism” by the Holocaust-denier (and apparent collaborationist with the Lukashenko dictatorship) Israel Shamir is not vile? Making a cause celebre of fellow Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is not vile? Providing a soapbox for Bosnia genocide denial is not vile? Cheering on Ahmadinejad’s electoral fraud is not vile? Cheering on the mass-murdering jihadis in Iraq is not vile? Engaging in vulgar Jew-baiting of public officials is not vile? Xenophobic talk about how Washington is “occupied” by Israel is not vile? Running fraudulent interviews without bothering to check them out first is not vile? How about denying climate change? Is that vile enough for you?
If you want the low down on this man’s life, as well as a little on his family background, read this post by Bob.
Gene adds: Another blast from Cockburn’s past.
Alan A adds: And here’s The Guardian’s obit – unsurprising stuff for an outfit which is in many ways CounterPunch-lite.
Perhaps his most controversial battles were over antisemitism. Cockburn always denied that he was an antisemite: his point was that Israel and its defenders were quick to accuse anyone who criticised Israeli policy of antisemitism. In response to the accusation of antisemitism by the Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, he edited a collection of essays, The Politics of Antisemitism (2003), to which he contributed an essay called My Life As an “Antisemite”. One could always tell when Israel was behaving badly, he wrote, because of the accusations of antisemitism hurled at its critics.
That’s why he published the Nazis he did. But of course, we also learn:
Only a few weeks ago, he deprecated the fashion for finding signs of fascism in European politics. “If there’s any nation in the world,” he pronounced, “that’s well on the way to meeting the admittedly vague label of ‘fascists’, surely it’s the United States … We live in a fascist country, ‘proto-fascist’ if you want to allay public disquiet … So quit beating up on Europe.”
Note, incidentally, how The Guardian parades Cockburn’s position on antisemitism as a matter of pride, and does not mention his repeated publishing of Holocaust deniers, their supporters, and other extremists and bigots.
Today, The Guardian leads with the following:
In praise of … the Cockburns
These radical aristocrats – or aristocratic radicals – have been pillars of progressive journalism for decades
When distinguished sons and daughters follow distinguished parents it is easy to mutter about charmed circles. Yet there are genuine family talents that span the generations. The Huxleys and Freuds are examples, and the death of Alexander Cockburn is a reminder that the Cockburns are another. These radical aristocrats – or aristocratic radicals – have been pillars of progressive journalism for decades. Claud Cockburn, although not without some blind spots, battered at received wisdom in the 1930s. His sons, Alexander and Andrew, continued the tradition in the United States, Alexander indicating that continuity by calling one of his columns Beat the Devil, from the title of his father’s novel. Here, Patrick Cockburn has been for years one of the best Middle East reporters and analysts. Alexander’s writing has been praised as the key to “a life of joyful and creative resistance” – a fine phrase that could well be applied to them all.
If you want to know the truth about Cockburn pere et fils, you couldn’t do better than read this piece by Bob From Brockley.
In short, Claude Cockburn was a lying shill for the USSR. He travelled to Spain during the Civil War, where his time was spend defaming POUM as an agent of the Germans and Italians. His son, Alexander, continued in precisely the same vein.
Here is Bob’s conclusion:
It is not accidental that the middle class radicalism of the 1960s passed on such a meager intellectual legacy and produced so few revolutionists. At the heart of the New Left’s political weakness lay an avoidance of the basic historical questions posed by Stalinism and the fate of the Soviet Union. In certain cases, such as Cockburn’s, these issues cut too close to the bone. For others, who justified their ideological indifference on “practical” grounds, the problems were simply too complicated.
An eclectic catch-all of political conceptions, with a dash of Maoism [in the 1960s, Cockburn spoke of “the astonishing works of Mao Tse Tung–philosopher and general, poet and statesman”], Castroism, “libertarianism” and other assorted ideological spices, the New Left could not provide a coherent perspective upon which to base a political struggle.”I would argue that it is worth paying attention to the Cockburn family franchise today because it sheds light on the new New Left, the convergence of Islamist theocrats and Third Worldist authoritarian nationalists with their liberal and “libertarian” useful idiots, fuelled by conspiracy theory, degenerated “anti-imperialism” and paranoid hatred of Israel and America, a formation whose house magazine is CounterPunch.
But, increasingly, this could be said of The Guardian.
In fact, isn’t The Guardian essentially an “aristocratic radical” paper? Like most “quality broadsheets”, its staff are overwhelmingly upper middle class. Rusbridger went to Cranleigh and Magadalene, Milne to Winchester and Baliol, Monbiot to Stowe and Brasenose, Jonathan Freedland to University College School and Wadham, Martin Rowson to Merchant Taylors and Pembroke (Cambridge). Alexander Cockburn, for that matter, went to Glenalmond College (an independent boys’ boarding school in Scotland) and at Keble College.
In the true aristocratic tradition, both The Guardian and Alexander Cockburn were motivated by a mixture of spite, bigotry, a sense of entitlement and groundless moral superiority.
Oh and, of course, a light frosting of Jew hatred.