Now, we can include on this list of old leftovers Alexander Cockburn. It should not come as too much of a surprise. He has spouted off contrarian views to the left for the better part of two decades. I have posted on these right-wing leftists in the past, with most of the converts becoming over time either neo-conservatives or libertarians. Whereas Hitchens malformed to the Manichaeism of neo-conservatism, Alex has cast his lot with the Old Right paleolibertarians (i.e., right-wing isolationists, social conservatives, and Social Darwinists). This is a strange descent for a man whose father was a leading voice for Communism in Great Britain back in the day, but Alex was never the organizer or politician that his father was, and ideologically Alex's greatest influence came from anarchism, not Marxism. This is a curious marriage, considering the role Claud Cockburn (Alexander's father) played in repressing the anarchist-influenced POUM during the Spanish Civil War. Then again, the Cockburn family is one filled with several generations of ambassadors, diplomats, and servants of the British Empire. Contradictions have never been a problem with this clan, although Claud was probably the most principled of the lot.
Unlike Hitchens' seemingly quick pre/post-test dip to the pools of the proprietor, Alex's was a long, slow march towards the politics of Ron Paul. He started probably under the influence of so many on the New Left, as victims of government persecution during COINTELPRO, instilling in our educated middle-class denizens a healthy suspicion of government, to the 1980s and '90s by becoming an apologist for anti-government militias, even supporting their cause celebre of opposing gun control. In that context, dislike for government is entirely understandable and still is, since the FBI continues to harass political radicals and leftists to this day (even monitoring pacifists and peace activists under the Patriot Act). What is less understandable is the attraction to the politics of white supremacist militia groups.
I first noticed it in Cockburn's support for the Branch Davidians and its pedophile leader David Koresh, and later on the Michigan Militia group following the Oklahoma City bombing. Some have opined that Alex's love affair with guns and militias might be a product of his own rural living in Northern California. This may be true, but there is nothing wrong with liking guns per se and a huge gap between hunting for game and claiming that David Koresh was a religious dissident on par with past political martyrs in this country's history. I think it was for him a sincere support for anything that opposed government power (a reductivist methodological obsession for anarchists and why so many of its ranks ultimately transformed over to those who stopped pretending that you could use such a tactic to build a cooperative society) since Alex's interest in anarchism following the 1960s brought him down his path.
You will also notice that if you bother to read Counterpunch over the years there is a disappointing lack of class-consciousness or much of anything to say about labor unions (unless it is a periodic guest article from JoAnn Wypijewski). There is a reason for that, particularly because so many of his site's articles are written by people (like Paul Craig Roberts, Bob Barr, and Ron Paul himself) who oppose the Wagner Act and would just as soon see labor unions outlawed. This is the same man who once wrote in his diary/autobiography that whenever he was bored or down he would go back and read Marx and Lenin to gain proper insight, advise previously given to him by his father. I suppose somewhere between his hunting trips and gun cleanings Murray Rothbard and Herbert Spencer must have entered Cockburn's daily reading list.
What is almost as disturbing as anything else, and the tipping point for me, is Cockburn's love affair with that other great cause of the right, anti-abortionism. Most recently, Alex has taken to comparing abortion to eugenics, and when not insinuating that being pro-choice is basically the equivalent of being a Nazi, he synopsizes modern liberalism and by extension feminism to this overtly misogynist statement.
Since the major preoccupation of liberals for 30 years has been the right to kill embryos, why should they not be suspect in their intentions toward those gasping in the thin air of senility? There is a strong eugenic thread to American progressivism, most horribly expressed in its very successful campaign across much of the twentieth century to sterilize “imbeciles.” Abortion is now widening in its function as a eugenic device.
Unless Alex has endorsed abortion under the guise of eugenics, there can be no other interpretation than abortion is the same as murder, especially if you equate the use of embryos for research to 'killing.' What compounds this nonsense is his views on the poor, in the same article.
"The poor die sooner, starting with black men who tend to drop dead in their middle 60s, usually from stress and diseases consequent on diet. The better-off folk drink less than they did in the 1950s, take a bit more exercise, and sometimes live longer. The poor get fatter and fatter."
"Mostly shunned in all this are the major causes of modern disease, which are environmental. Between 70 and 90 per cent of all cancer is environmental in origin. Heart disease and stroke – the largest killers today – are largely caused by hypertension and stress, which are derived from social conditions."
"America is very efficient in promulgating Death Plans –- tobacco, sugar additives, excessive salt, nitrous oxides out of power plant chimneys, nuclear testing in the 1950s, industrial accidents, speed-up at work and lengthening of the working day, rush-hour traffic – launched in the hope of making a buck and protected fiercely until, very occasionally, the mountain of corpses gets too high to be occluded by even the most refined techniques of the PR industry and the most lavish contributions to politicians. Thus it was with tobacco."
Note, this is the same Alexander Cockburn who in the late 1980s attacked the ban on smoking in commercial flights, and compared good health advocacy to fascism. I guess it is all environmentally-caused now, which is his way of saying if you are poor you are too stupid to be healthy. For such a great defender of the unborn, Alex seems quite Darwinian when writing about the poor in our current health care debate.
Thus it is the diminution of Alexander Cockburn's career into a dustbin of rants and ravings against the evils of liberalism, while touting his progressive roots, and obliquely using all of this as a cover to give aid to the very same people that would have had his father thrown in prison fifty years ago, if they were in a position to do so.
I suppose at this pace, within the next decade or so, if Alex is still amongst the living, he will be talking about the slovenliness of unions and finishing off his act of self-immolation by converting to Catholicism and leading a Mass for the forgotten fetal heroes, 'killed' by those greedy middle-aged women who aborted them. Who knows, maybe he will tell us all why he is posting articles written by a man who thinks the Confederacy was right and that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. When Ron Paul's candidacy died a year ago, I wrote a eulogy for the death of the right-wing left (those leftists who lived the illusion that a grand political coalition could be built with people who want to banish all public welfare, the minimum wage, and advocate secession as a Constitutional right). Cockburn was one of the right-wing left's last great proponents, a rank and assembly he can no longer consider himself amongst, seeing how he is now a full-fledged rightist.
One speculates what his father would have thought in 1937 Spain. I surmise Alex would have probably been on Franco's side, while telling us how Naziistic the Republicans were. A sad loss, but like with the all of the old rock bands who go on their elderly fund raising tours, I choose to remember Cockburn when he was still a radical progressive.