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Farewell, Alex, My Friend
July 21, 2012 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Our friend and comrade Alexander Cockburn died last night in Germany, after a fierce two-year long battle against cancer. His daughter Daisy was at his bedside.

I didn't always agree with him, but, like Hitchens, he was always an interesting read. And unlike Hitchens, he kept his painful struggle with cancer a total secret.
posted by condesita (62 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by 2N2222 at 11:51 AM on July 21, 2012


Fucking damn.

I will miss him a lot- I really appreciated all his writing.

The world is a poorer place without him.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:55 AM on July 21, 2012


He was one of the big reasons I used to read the New York Review.
posted by jamjam at 11:57 AM on July 21, 2012


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posted by Egg Shen at 12:06 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by vitabellosi at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2012


Sad to hear it was to such a prolonged and painful illness.
On a largely pointless aside, see the obit calls his dad "brilliant' - my impression was he was remembered largely these days for swallowing the Soviet line about Spain a bit too readily. Is there more that's good and I should read?
posted by Abiezer at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2012


SAD!
posted by growabrain at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2012


There aren't that many irreplaceable people in the world, but Alex Cockburn was one of them, and we're all poorer without him around, publishing the journalism and analysis that no one else will touch, keeping the political and journalistic world honest with his unbelievably long memory and his trenchant, unafraid, cutting pen. RIP.
posted by RogerB at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


What RogerB said.
posted by Kwine at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2012


This is a major bummer.

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posted by quazichimp at 12:38 PM on July 21, 2012


Crud.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:07 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by viramamunivar at 1:13 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by bookman117 at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by OmieWise at 1:39 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by From Bklyn at 1:44 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by graymouser at 1:46 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by readery at 1:47 PM on July 21, 2012


Pardon me for asking, but is there some virtue in keeping your painful struggle with cancer a total secret?
posted by pomegranate at 1:47 PM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have read five hundred sad stories in Counterpunch but this might be the saddest. That website is almost always pure awesome even when I vehemently disagree with their point-of-view.
posted by bukvich at 1:48 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


What RogerB said.

Fucking MegaDitto.
posted by y2karl at 1:48 PM on July 21, 2012


There were things I disagreed severely with Cockburn on, but the man was true to his principles to the end. Hitchens wasn't, and doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.
posted by graymouser at 1:50 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pardon me for asking, but is there some virtue in keeping your painful struggle with cancer a total secret?

Serious illness is a very personal, and thus to many, private, matter. Hard to believe in our everyone-is-on-display culture, but I imagine he just wanted to keep his personal stuff private.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ididn't care for much of what the man wrote, but, that said, I see no reason to praise or blame someone for keeping secret one's illness or revealing it.Hitchins prided himself on his public stance as a non-believer; thus he let his readers know he would not alter his position in light of what he was undergoing. Cockburn chose to keep secret his illness and that choice is equally as good as the choice made by Hitchins. Neither man needs to be praised or faulted for his choice in this.
posted by Postroad at 1:57 PM on July 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


Met him years ago at a conference in Chicago and he was not only as smart and incisive as you'd imagine, but hilarious and charming and gracious as well. A great voice for the progressive side, and a major loss.

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posted by scody at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pardon me for asking, but is there some virtue in keeping your painful struggle with cancer a total secret?

No one said there was. The point was that Cockburn and Hitchens had a lot of similarities (one in particular more tragic than the rest), but they differed in the way they approached public attention to their illnesses.

Personally, I felt Hitchens was flaunting not his illness but the fact that his mortality hadn't "led him to Jesus" or forced him to rethink his anti-theism.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2012


What's perhaps most amazing, both about that death notice (!) and this thread, is that some people appear to hate Christopher Hitchens so much that they can't even say something about the life of Alexander Cockburn without taking a swipe at Hitchens.
posted by Dasein at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


What's perhaps most amazing, both about that death notice (!) and this thread, is that some people appear to hate Christopher Hitchens so much that they can't even say something about the life of Alexander Cockburn without taking a swipe at Hitchens.

If you're referring to my comment, I only brought up Hitchens because he was mentioned in the OP, FWIW, and would otherwise have stuck with the dot. I find the OP's comparison objectionable.
posted by graymouser at 2:24 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do too, but was hesitant to say anything. The guy died, there's no reason for the quasi-editorializing nature of the Hitchens comparison. And saying that Hitchens was "flaunting" his lack of a come-to-Jesus experience while fucking dying is just gross. There's plenty of examples to look at that explain why a public intellectual would want to make absolutely certain that everyone knows there was no deathbed conversion. This post would have been perfectly fine without that little dig tucked in.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by aught at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2012


Fair enough, graymouser. It's the article and this post that I think are in incredibly poor taste.
posted by Dasein at 2:32 PM on July 21, 2012


I find the OP's comparison objectionable.

Apologies all around--I didn't mean to come off as judgmental in that comment. I meant to say that though I sometimes disagreed with both (in some cases a great deal), I enjoyed their work equally. The comparison, for me, was how I had about a year to come to terms with Hitch going, and no warning at all with Cockburn. It was a shock, that's all.
posted by condesita at 2:36 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fair enough.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by learnsome at 2:48 PM on July 21, 2012


i used to read him when working at the college paper eons ago and think...now THAT'S a journalist worth emulating. i think the same thing, only more so, today.
posted by ecourbanist at 2:48 PM on July 21, 2012


Shocking. Could always count on AC to cut through the BS. End of an era.
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posted by telstar at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by Splunge at 2:52 PM on July 21, 2012


From John Nichols:

Alex chose as the title and the underlying theme of his finest collection of essays, The Golden Age Is In Us, a line from the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. In Tristes Tropiques Levi-Strauss wrote:

If men have always been concerned with only one task—how to create a society fit to live in—the forces which inspired our distant ancestors are also present in us. Nothing is settled; everything can still be altered. What was done but turned out wrong, can be done again. The Golden Age, which blind superstition had placed behind [or ahead of] us, is in us.

Alex taught me, he taught us all, that those were not blandly optimistic words. They are demanding. They suggest that we have fewer excuses than we thought, that this is the place, that now is the time and that there is truth in the Gandhian maxim that we are the people we’ve been waiting for.
posted by Karmadillo at 3:01 PM on July 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


God damn. I hung on the man's every word back in the '80s, when he was essential reading for the repellent Age of Reagan (and I started getting disillusioned with the Voice when they fired him). I'm very sorry to hear this news.

> the obit calls his dad "brilliant' - my impression was he was remembered largely these days for swallowing the Soviet line about Spain a bit too readily. Is there more that's good and I should read?

Claud Cockburn was indeed a brilliant writer; his autobiography I, Claud is absolutely hilarious and insightful and I'm constantly recommending it to people. Yes, he was a communist and had unfortunate views about Spain; that was true of a lot of people back then, very few of whom had his gift for prose.
posted by languagehat at 3:08 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


heh:
The first thing I said to him was, "You're my favorite commie." He smiled and knew and did not take it the wrong way.


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posted by stratastar at 6:01 PM on July 21, 2012


His last Counterpunch column: Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain’s History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?

His last Nation column: Barclays and the Limits of Financial Reform

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posted by homunculus at 6:13 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by BibiRose at 6:44 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by lowest east side at 7:15 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by lalochezia at 9:24 PM on July 21, 2012


Mentioned in the same breath / death.

Hitchens is mentioned in every notice of Cockburn's death I have read so far.
posted by pianomover at 9:27 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 10:51 PM on July 21, 2012


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posted by MFZ at 5:09 AM on July 22, 2012


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posted by Halloween Jack at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2012


Hitchens is mentioned in every notice of Cockburn's death I have read so far.

Still at a loss to understand why anyone considers this even remotely odd. The two were like the British-expat, contrarian Abbott & Costello, lobbing invective at one another from facing pages of the same damn magazine. They both took turns into what many considered hyper-contrarian folly in their later years (Cockburn siding with global-warming deniers, Hitchens with Iraq War hawks). And they both died within months of one another of the same disease.

Hard not to draw parallels. Just sayin'.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 7:23 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Mister Bijou at 7:52 AM on July 22, 2012


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posted by kozad at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2012


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posted by steambadger at 8:24 AM on July 22, 2012


[Folks do not turn this into an anti-Cockburn rant. Feel free to save up your material for a later post or just hold off. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hadn't realized he was trucking with global warming denialists. If true, it would be very disappointing.

Nevertheless, he was a fine writer.

And it's a rough way to go. And it was his business if he wanted to keep it out of the public -- he never seemed like much of a publicity seeker, anyway.
posted by lodurr at 12:21 PM on July 22, 2012


The New York Times obituary is pretty good. I really liked this part:

He joined The Nation in 1984 after leaving The Voice, and took that magazine’s old rivalry with the more centrist New Republic to a new level. He referred to the contents of The New Republic as “the weekly catchment of drivel.”
posted by bukvich at 1:43 PM on July 22, 2012


How can you quote that without quoting the following sentence?

After Martin Peretz, the publisher of the The New Republic, had a fainting spell in Paris in the late 1980s, Mr. Cockburn gleefully noted that it occurred at an expensive restaurant where patrons were “so bloated that they have to be rubbed down with Vaseline to squeeze through the door.”

Miss ya, Alex!
posted by languagehat at 3:18 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Terrific Cockburn memories from (I presume) Bruce Anderson of the Anderson Valley Advertiser.
posted by RogerB at 5:58 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


MeTa.
posted by homunculus at 6:11 PM on July 22, 2012


A sad day for Journalism.
I didn't always agree with his point of view or the arguments he put forward; he was an unapologetic provocateur but he he sure as hell made a person think.
"His legacy was his commitment to truth, his disgust at the pretense of objectivity, his belief that every piece of writing had an ideological slant, and that you had to admit it".
(via).

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posted by adamvasco at 2:10 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember reading his pieces pretty regularly from a slightly different pub. called New York Press through most of the 90s, and I was always amazed by the access he had. It was almost supernatural in it's nuance.

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posted by Skygazer at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2012


From James Fallows' blog, here's a very charming interview with him at his house in Humboldt County in 2007.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:27 PM on July 23, 2012


Commemorating Alexander Cockburn
The Irish New Left journalist and stylist Alexander Cockburn is dead. I don't like dissing the just-deceased, but I have a standard response to the passing of people like Cockburn: I'm not happy that he's dead, and I'm not happy that he lived.

Also, here's the link from an earlier comment.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:57 AM on July 25, 2012


Hitchens is mentioned in every notice of Cockburn's death I have read so far.

Interestingly, this is not so much the case in the conservative press and its adjuncts.

Under the circumstances, one would like to have known what Hitchens would have written about his death
posted by BWA at 4:21 PM on July 25, 2012


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