[update below] [2nd update below]
I just learned that Alexander Cockburn died. Just seven months after his onetime confrère and fellow US-based British pundit-polemicist Christopher Hitchens. As I wrote a sort of tribute to Hitchens back then, I suppose I should write one for Cockburn too. I was a fan of Cockburn back in my gauchiste days and followed his writings closely, from 1979—when I first started to read him in The Village Voice—to 1984 or ’85, when I ceased to be a fan. I then came to despise him and for all sorts of political reasons, most notably for his defense of the Soviet Union and, in the 1990s, of the Serbs during the wars in the former Yugoslavia (for this, I wanted to punch him in the face). Unlike with Hitchens I didn’t see Cockburn’s writings too often over the past decade, as these mainly appeared on his flaky, ultra-gauchiste CounterPunch website, of which I am definitely not an habitué, though have seen it every now and then over the years, mainly when a gauchiste friend or two hurls a link from it at me. But Cockburn, like Hitchens, remained a great writer and despite his politics—when it comes to polemicizing with style, Brits are superior to Americans—, and took sensible positions on a few issues. And to his credit, I suppose, he rubbished the 9/11 conspiracy theories, which are no doubt adhered to by a sizeable number of his readers (not to mention CounterPunch contributors). (But then, anyone who gives the slightest credence to 9/11 trutherism seriously needs to have his or her head examined). The last piece I read by Cockburn was his farewell tribute to his frère ennemi Hitchens, which I thought was amusing and spot on. Too bad Hitchens isn’t around to write a tribute in kind to Cockburn.
UPDATE: A New York friend, who is well-known in progressive intellectual circles there, has written the following to me: “I stopped reading AC a long time ago. It was disgraceful that Counterpunch began publishing the likes of Israel Shamir, whose forthcoming piece apparently ‘reveals’ that the Dreyfus Affair had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.” (July 22)
2nd UPDATE: Ronald Radosh, who used to be a leftist—but hasn’t been for a long time now—, has an anti-tribute to Cockburn, whom he didn’t like too much… (July 24)