Remembering Alexander Cockburn

by Mark Chmiel

Dear Andrew,

You and I make frequent reference these delirious days to Alexander Cockburn, who published us in his Counterpunch website back during both the Bush and Obama administrations. A while ago I reread his glorious book, The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys & Encounters 1987-1994, and I am happy to share with you several passages that reveal the man. He is missed.

Take a Look!


So the Golden Age is subversive and it’s fun, which means that for us on the left, it should be our goal and sales pitch. People love utopias that make sense….There is abundance, if we arrange things differently. The world can be turned upside down; that is, the right way up. The Golden Age is in us, if we know where to look, and what to think.

It would take the pen of Swift to evoke the nauseating scenes of hypocrisy, bad faith and self-delusion on the White House lawn on September 13, crammed as it was with people who for long years were complicit in the butchery and torture of Palestinians and the denial of their rights, now applauding the “symbolic handshake” that in fact ratified further abnegation of those same rights…. In the shadow of an American President with the poise and verbiage of the manager of a McDonald’s franchise, Arafat produced oratory so meager it made Rabin sound like Cicero. To think that long years of struggle and U.N. resolutions acknowledging Palestinian claims should end with this pathetic fellow shouting thank you to his suzerains.

The wars in Korea and Vietnam were not byproducts of superpower rivalry. In both instances the United States wanted to crush indigenous revolution.

The real J.F. K. backed a military coup in Guatemala to keep out Arevalo, denied the Dominican Republic the possibility of land reform, promoted a devastating cycle of Latin American history, including the anticipatory motions of the coup in Brazil, and backed a Ba’athist coup in Iraq that set a certain native of Tikrit on the path to power.

A neoliberal Democrat opened the door to Reagan, and hence to all those Neanderthal judges and Republican bureaucrats. Accept the terms of the system, and you get the system.

People liked Reagan’s rigorous schedule of long lie-in, mid-morning nap, post-prandial snooze, forty winks over the TV dinner and early bed. It meant less chance for him to do something stupid.

Counseled by friends of mature judgment, I try to like Clinton. It’s impossible. Listening to him is like having a pillow stuffed into one’s mouth. He just can’t stop talking.

The Advertiser is everything a local paper should be. It covers the school district and the police blotter. It harasses the lumber companies, broad-rumped bureaucrats, Nike-shod liberals and other enemies of the human spirit. It also runs a column by me.

So far as historical scruple goes, [Oliver] Stone makes Cecil B. De Mille look like Braudel.

Nations, like priests, should be trusted least when they are at their most self-righteous.

The annoying thing about Ireland is that you can spend half your life telling people to disabuse themselves of caricatures of the country and then you go home to find the old place busy caricaturing itself.

The Beats pointed the way for Dylan, to the gay movement, to the politics and culture both of self-realization and the spectacle. They also pointed the way to a lot of very bad writing.

GM had supplied the ’63 [Cadillac] with a staggering 143 interior choices and a subtlety in social grading that would have dazzled Proust.

And to this round this off, let his daughter Daisy have the last word: My father used to say that if I felt demoralized—like I was a teenager unlucky in love or something, or spited by the world—he’d recommend a few pages of Marx to cheer me up. There’s a lot of truth in that.