News Release

Alexander Cockburn, “Our Voltaire”, Dies at 71

JEFFREY ST. CLAIR, sitka at comcast.net
Co-editor of Counterpunch with Cockburn, St. Clair said today: “Alexander Cockburn was the fiercest, funniest and most uncompromising political writer of our era. He excoriated the powerful, punctured the pretentious and championed the oppressed. He was our Voltaire. He taught two generations how to think, how to look at the world.”

In his piece “Farewell, Alex, My Friend,” St. Clair writes: “Alex kept his illness a tightly guarded secret. Only a handful of us knew how terribly sick he truly was. He didn’t want the disease to define him. He didn’t want his friends and readers to shower him with sympathy. He didn’t want to blog his own death as Christopher Hitchens had done. Alex wanted to keep living his life right to the end. He wanted to live on his terms. And he wanted to continue writing through it all, just as his brilliant father, the novelist and journalist Claud Cockburn had done. And so he did. His body was deteriorating, but his prose remained as sharp, lucid and deadly as ever. …

“Alex lived a huge life and he lived it his way. He hated compromise in politics and he didn’t tolerate it in his own life. Alex was my pal, my mentor, my comrade. We joked, gossiped, argued and worked together nearly every day for the last 20 years. He leaves a huge void in our lives. But he taught at least two generations how to think, how to look at the world, how to live a life of joyful and creative resistance. So, the struggle continues and we’re going to remain engaged. He wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Books Cockburn and St. Clair wrote or edited together include End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, Five Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond and Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Cockburn’s books included Corruptions of Empire, The Golden Age Is in Us and The Democrats in End Time.

Many credit Cockburn’s writings with giving rise to much of today’s media criticism. Obituaries have appeared in The Nation (which he wrote for), Al Jazeera, AP, The New York Times and numerous other publications since his death this weekend. John Fund in the National Review writes: “I came to respect him for his passion, his willingness to examine a new development outside his normal orbit without blinders, and his ability to carry on countless grudges with others for slights both substantive and trivial — sometimes for the sheer fun of it.” Jesse Walker, in the libertarian magazine Reason, writes: “I had never read anything like this before. It wasn’t that the article was stylish and erudite; it’s that it was a stylish and erudite response to a porn shoot, a column that casually mixed culture and politics, serious analysis and jokes.”

In his 1982 piece “The Tedium Twins,” Cockburn mocked PBS NewsHour’s form of debate, wondering how it would cover the rise of Hilter, the crucifixion of Jesus or a “debate” on cannibalism.

His last piece criticized the Occupy movement.

C-Span “In Depth” interviewed Cockburn in 2007.