“Alexander Cockburn no more” would sound like a terrible headline. The reality of it is as biting as his prose. To think that I just got to know about his death early today shook me up a little more. I crumble easily and almost did. The ‘almost’ worked because every word of his obit on Christopher Hitchens still haunts. To many it was either blasphemous or an excoriating take on a man on a self-indulgent pulpit. I saw it as Alex’s honesty towards his ideas. The subject’s demise would not alter that.
I have gone through a few memorial pieces in respected mainstream publications. "Radical", "iconoclast" are the running themes. It is true he took no prisoners. It is true, and I say this from my experience, that he welcomed whatever skirted the beaten path. One day, about five years ago, when I came in from miles away and got accepted, he and Jeffrey St. Clair made me realise that CounterPunchers was a community.
There are several reasons to respect him for his hard-hitting work, but he was also aware of limits in certain areas. He did not carry one article I sent. He owed me no explanation, but he did. It was about sensitivities. I was surprised, even shocked. The good thing is it was not to coddle up to some commercial enterprise.
There was another piece he carried – an account by his nephew about his battle with schizophrenia. It appeared in the weekend edition and in his diary Alex introduced it. This, to me, is as honest as taking on the system and speaking of truths that are sought to be hidden away.
While he was open to different thoughts, he was human enough to have his own biases. How could we not expect it of one with such strong opinions?
He called his readers a “communicative lot”, forwarded emails that complained to him about publishing me, but expressed genuine happiness when some pieces “got around”. The people who have corresponded with me have been from varied fields based on the different subjects I wrote on – from scientists to academics, from fanatics to the faithful to atheists, from purists to adventurers, from the prurient to sexual libertarians (and, yes, some who wooed). They do not need an open forum.
That is the reason CP is not a journal. It is a movement. I differ with those who talk about it being non-mainstream. This is what the mainstream should be like. I’ve written for a whole range of publications and websites, and know the difference.
“Please ask your web team to fix it,” I had said in one of my emails about a broken link.
“Le ‘Web Team’, c'est Jeffrey. There's just the two of us. Best A,” was the reply.
So shall it always be…the two of them. And a bunch of writers and readers bound by questioning minds.
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I do not know what world I occupy to be so unaware. Here is Jeffrey's piece: Farewell, Alex, my friend