Alexander Cockburn 1941 – 2012: High and Low-Points.
More in Counterpunch. Hat-Tip Carlos.
The Wall Street Journal observed that in one of Cockburn’s last articles,
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’s The Incompatibles (1967) (co-edited with Robin Blackburn) and Student Power (1969) (co-edited with Robin Blackburn) long remained essentials on the shelves of young leftists. Associated with the British ‘New Left’ Cockburn is still listed as on the editorial board of New Left Review.
Since Cockburn has been resident in America he is, however, best known for Counterpunch. This bi-weekly “muckraking with a radical attitude” is not to everybody’s taste, and certainly not to the Tendance’s.
High-points of Cockburn’s own contributions have included criticism of 9/11 Conspiracy theories (translated and published in Le Monde Diplomatique). This had all the more impact in coming from a quarter where “wise guys” were ready to believe the worst of the US.
The latter began, “In a couple of hundred years, historians will be comparing the frenzies over our supposed human contribution to global warming to the tumults at the latter end of the tenth century as the Christian millennium approached. Then, as now, the doomsters identified human sinfulness as the propulsive factor in the planet’s rapid downward slide.”
And let us not forget this (Thu 3 May 2012) :
Marine Le Pen is a nationalist politician, quite reasonably exploiting the intense social discontent in France amid the imposition of the bankers’ austerity programs. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard put it in The Daily Telegraph recently, she “presents herself as a latterday Jeanne d’Arc, openly comparing France’s pro-EU camp with the Burgundians who plotted ‘English Annexation’ in the 1430s – or indeed ‘Les Collabos’ who bought peace after 1940. ‘Let us break the chains of the French people. Bring on the French Spring,’ she tells Front National rallies.”
Anti-Semitism? Diana Johnstone, an excellent journalist who has been reporting from France for years, writes to me, “There is absolutely nothing attesting to anti-Semitism on the part of Marine Le Pen. She has actually tried to woo the powerful Jewish organisations, and her anti-Islam stance is also a way to woo such groups. The simple fact is that the best way to destroy someone in this country is to call him or her ‘anti-Semitic’.”
Marine Le Pen certainly has made some unsavoury comments about immigrants and Islamisation. But she has gone to the heart of the matter, asserting that monetary union cannot be fudged, that it is incompatible with the French nation-state. She has won 18 per cent of the vote by campaigning to pull France out of the euro and smash the whole project. As Johnstone explains, a new poll shows only three per cent of French voters consider immigration the main issue. So logically, Le Pen cannot owe her 18 percent to that issue. *The number-one issue is employment.
Cockburn goes onto to observe, sagely, that the USA is a lot worse than anything dream up by the Front Nationale,
We live in a fascist country – ‘proto-fascist’ if you want to allay public disquiet, though there’s scant sign that most Americans are disturbed by the trends. So quit beating up on Europe.
In reality the Front National owed its support to hostility to immigration. It surfaced (during the early 1980s) with mass support on this subject well before ‘Islam’ was an issue. Marine Le Pen is influenced by the Nouvelle Droite which emphasises cultural difference and economic ’patriotism’. Her ‘sovereigntist’ defence of the French nation-state against the EU is rooted in this cultural racism. At the moment this also tends to mean hostility to Islam. But her closest allies include anti-semites, such as Frédéric Chatillon who incline to ’l’axe anti-impérialiste Iran-Syrie-Hezbollah’ against Israel.
When Christopher Hitchens died Cockburn wrote,
“As a writer his prose was limited in range.”
This perhaps also comes to mind when one thinks of Alexander Cockburn.
His writings may have roamed the planet but his ideas were narrow and his themes repetitive.
I preferred his father.
He went from Stalinism to the New Left; not the other way round.
* This is a statistical sleight of hand – or more bluntly, a lie:
“Les deux premiers thèmes sont encore et toujours des marqueurs déterminants du vote frontiste - l’immigration est citée comme un enjeu prioritaire par 62% des votants FN contre 24% pour l’ensemble de la population, l’insécurité à 44% contre 19%. Le thème sur lequel Marine Le Pen a gagné du crédit, et qui lui a permis d’élargir son électorat, c’est le pouvoir d’achat: 43% de ses électeurs ont été sensibles à ce thème, soit un niveau équivalent à la moyenne nationale (46%). Here.