Yesterday we met the late Claud Cockburn, a propaganda tool of Stalin’s who passed himself off as a legitimate journalist.
Cockburn had three sons, all of whom became journalists of varying degrees of legitimacy. The oldest, Alexander – born in 1941 and educated, like his father, at Keble College, Oxford – was, more than his brothers, the keeper of their father’s flame and the follower in his footsteps. Which is to say that he routinely wrote columns celebrating his father’s legacy, shamelessly repeated his father’s flagrant lies, and himself made a career of defending Stalin, the Soviet Union, and, later, post-Soviet Russia.
Presumably because he was the son of such an illustrious, well-connected hack, Alex Cockburn made his name quickly, going straight from Oxford to the Times Literary Supplement and New Statesman and then – after relocating, in familiar British-journalist fashion, to the U.S. – to the Village Voice, then The Nation. In the 1990s he co-founded the loony-left rag CounterPunch, of which he served as co-editor until his death in 2012. When he died, Cockburn, like many another Communist, was given a thorough whitewash in the New York Times and other mainstream media, which memorialized him as a brilliantly crusading journalist and honorable liberal truth-teller.
In fact there was nothing liberal about him. As Harold Meyerson wrote after Cockburn’s death, a “contempt for liberals and social democrats was a hallmark” of his work; he “took particular pleasure in calumniating” anti-Communist socialists such as George Orwell and Irving Howe, because their “democratic scruples” threatened Cockburn’s own “claim to radical rectitude (not to mention communism’s claim to socialist legitimacy).” In short, he was the very tintype of his dad.
As with his father, Alex’s politics were always of a piece: ardently pro-Soviet, anti-American, anti-Israeli, and – not to mince words about it – unapologetically anti-Semitic. One of the things that made CounterPunch distinctive, as it happens, was that he actually allowed into its pages – which were mostly populated by far-left nuts – the occasional piece by a far-right nut who shared his own virulent Jew-hatred.
Exactly how anti-Semitic was he? This anti-Semitic: in 2009 he ran an article by Alison Weir accusing Israel of kidnapping Palestinians in order to harvest their organs for transplant.
As for his devotion to Stalin, we’ll quote Meyerson again: “Alex never ceased casting Stalin in the best light possible, consistently downplaying the number of Russians (including virtually all the original Bolsheviks) who died by his hand.” He defended Stalin’s signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. He blamed postwar totalitarianism in Eastern Europe on the Cold War – in other words, on the West, rather than on Stalin, who’d actually imposed the totalitarianism. Though firmly opposed to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he defended the USSR’s earlier incursion into that country. He also applauded the fact that the USSR had stolen America’s nuclear secrets, “thus ending the US monopoly on Armageddon, and in my view making the world a safer place.” In fact, the U.S. monopoly had lasted four years, long enough for the U.S. to have exploited that monopoly in the same way Hitler or Stalin would have done in a heartbeat – namely, by using it to subdue the entire planet.