Alexander Cockburn's Recent Death Reminds Us Of His Long-Ago Visit Here


We disagreed with Alexander Cockburn, well, more than half the time, and that was a good thing.

We had read him for years when he was with the Village Voice(long before the New Times chain took over the New York City alternative weekly giant), and really appreciated how he skewered those on the left and right who fell under his acidic radar.

So, naturally, when he came to Arizona in the late 1980s to do a speech or a reading of some sort, we went by to check it out.

Don't recall the topic, but the Scottish-born writer -- officially known as a "leftist" -- was entertaining as hell and reminded us of how his incessant blasting of the mainstream media in his Village Voice column called Press Clips had, in a real way, pushed us toward Phoenix New Times in the mid-1980s.

(FYI, co-owner Mike Lacey had a little something to do with that, too.)

After Cockburn's talk, and a spirited question-and-answer session, he announced he was going to a local pub for a bit and invited anyone in the audience (only about 50 people) to join him.

About six of us did.

Unlike some similar adventures, when the visiting luminary holds court for the adoring masses (or few), Cockburn seemed more interested in hearing about what was happening in Arizona.

A bat-shit governor. An equally loony State Legislature. Lots of murders. A generally weak mainstream media.

Sound familiar?

Cockburn was a good listener with a quick laugh and a raconteur, a nice combination.

For us personally in that sliver of time, he was not at all a disappointment.

A few examples of his slice-and-dice style that we culled from the Net, the first a take-down of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman:

"Friedman exhibits on a weekly basis one of the severest cases known to science of Lippmann's condition, named for the legendary journalistic hot-air salesman, Walter Lippmann, and alluding to the inherent tendency of all pundits to swell in self-importance to zeppelin-like dimensions."

In one of his last efforts, Cockburn compared President Barack Obama to North Korean dictator Kim Jong II for the administration's decision to litigate against suspected terrorists before military tribunals rather than civilian courts.

He called it another "mile marker in the steady slide of the U.S. downhill toward the status of a banana republic."

Cockburn spared no one, and his death at age 71 last Friday in California made us sad.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin