Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alexander Cockburn, writer, 1941-2012

As a regular contributor to Counterpunch, the political newsletter, the passing of Alexander Cockburn -- one of its founders -- is sad news. I met Alexander in the late 1980's in Key West, a place he loved and where he retreated. We both lamented what had been lost, there. He had confidence in my writing on Florida politics and the environment. For me, his support couldn't have been more timely. When I was released (due to political pressure from Tallahassee) from the Orlando Sentinel editorial page where I appeared as a frequent guest contributor, Cockburn and his colleague, Jeffrey St. Clair, allowed me space to publish. I never complained about the pay (there is none). Creating a community to represent points of view that the mainstream press shuns and susceptible to marginalization and co-opting by the left and right is vitally important these days. I sometimes refer to Eyeonmiami as our local samizdat; the form of underground news that was illicitly distributed in the Soviet Union. Counterpunch has grander ambitions. Alexander Cockburn was an unrelenting critic, writer, and publisher. He lived the adage; if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention. Thank you, Alex.

Radical writer Alexander Cockburn, longtime columnist for The Nation, dead of cancer at 71, By Associated Press

NEW YORK — Radical writer Alexander Cockburn, a longtime columnist for The Nation and editor of the political newsletter CounterPunch, died Friday in Germany at age 71.

He had been receiving treatment for two years for cancer, his fellow editor at CounterPunch, Jeffrey St. Clair, wrote on the publication’s website.

Cockburn, who lived in recent years in Petrolia, Calif., was known for an acidic pen that spared few on either the left or right for policies that he felt were hypocritical or corrupt...

In his last column for The Nation, published July 11, he lamented the “culture of rabid criminality” in the international banking system and predicted that even reform and tough enforcement wouldn’t save it from eventual collapse.

In another recent missive, he likened President Barack Obama to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il for supporting the handling of suspected terrorists in military, rather than civilian courts — a step he called another “mile marker in the steady slide of the U.S. downhill towards the status of a banana republic.”

Cockburn infuriated some liberals by writing skeptically about global warming, and bothered neoconservatives with his ferocious attacks on Israel.

“He was an extraordinarily provocative, polemical, elegant columnist and writer. And he certainly was someone who never wavered in dissenting from what was the conventional line,” said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation.

Cockburn disclosed his illness to only a few people.

In his essay announcing Cockburn’s death, St. Clair wrote that he kept quiet about the cancer because he didn’t want friends and readers showering him with sympathy.

“His body was deteriorating, but his prose remained as sharp, lucid and deadly as ever,” St. Clair wrote.

Born in Scotland in 1941 and raised in Ireland, Cockburn was the son of the British novelist Claud Cockburn. In the 1970s and 80s he wrote for the Village Voice, but was fired for taking a $10,000 grant from the Institute of Arab Studies to write a book about Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. He also had a column for a time in the Wall Street Journal.

But his longest affiliation was with The Nation, where Cockburn wrote columns for decades attacking U.S. foreign policy, lambasting the mainstream press and assailing Democrats for not being progressive enough. He also became known for his battles in print with a fellow columnist at The Nation, Christopher Hitchens. He co-founded CounterPunch with St. Clair in 1996.

“His range was extraordinary. He could write about fox hunting, and he could write about foreign intervention,” vanden Heuvel said. “We had disagreements. And it was an honor, in many ways, to join the growing list of people Alexander would attack with his pen.”

1 comment:

South Florida Lawyers said...

Nicely done, thank you for the remembrance. I could not have gotten through the 80s without his writing in The Nation.