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Alexander Cockburn, community radio provocateur, 1941-2012

Alex Cockburn; source:

Alexander Cockburn, long associated with a variety of leftist publications, is dead at the age of 71. He died after a “fierce two year battle with cancer,” his friend and associate at Counterpunch, Jeffrey St. Clair, reports:

Alex kept his illness a tightly guarded secret. Only a handful of us knew how terribly sick he truly was. He didn’t want the disease to define him. He didn’t want his friends and readers to shower him with sympathy. He didn’t want to blog his own death as Christopher Hitchens had done. Alex wanted to keep living his life right to the end.

I spent a large number of my politically formative years reading Cockburn in the Village Voice, The Nation magazine, and listening to him on the Pacifica radio stations, in whose internal politics he took a regular interest. I mostly experienced him as a dispenser of eloquent opinions, especially when it came to matters like US intervention in Central America. A search of the Pacifica Radio Archives will find many Cockburn conversations and speeches, including some unexpected ones. In 1990 Cockburn complained that leftists were becoming too pessimistic and that there were still reasons for hope for our political system.

But then there were rants like this one, served up following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 (hat tip to my Facebook friend Bill Weinberg for noticing it):

We all have to go one day, but pray God let it not be over Afghanistan. An unspeakable country filled with unspeakable people, sheepshaggers and smugglers, who have furnished in their leisure hours some of the worst arts and crafts ever to penetrate the occidental world. I yield to none in my sympathy to those prostrate beneath the Russian jackboot, but if ever a country deserved rape it’s Afghanistan.

To be fair, one read and listened to Cockburn for these rhetorical assaults, whether they made sense or not. He excoriated the 9/11 Truth movement, but then he laughed at global warming concerns. “There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend,” Cockburn insisted in 2007.

In the end, one paid attention to him just to read or hear what he would say next. Despite all the jolts, I will miss his voice.


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