This post first appeared at j-hoberman.com.
Donald J. Trump is not the first professional entertainer or pitchman to be elected president of the United States but, however he may refuse to break character or take an adjustment, he is not Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was 1940s Hollywood incarnate. He was the embodiment of happy endings and uncomplicated emotions, amusing anecdotes and conspicuous consumption, cornball patriotism and paranoid anti-Communism, cheerful bromides and a built-in production code designed to suppress any uncomfortable truth. He was a true believer in the magic of the movies.
It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Alexander Cockburn, our good friend and staunch comrade, a wonderfully gifted writer and courageous journalist. We were privileged to publish half a dozen of his books, each major contributions to the culture and politics of the Left. Corruptions of Empire, published in 1988, displayed the impressive range of his writings, from trenchant indictments of imperialism and biting satire of liberal humbug to lyrical memories of his childhood and sardonic observation of the ruling order. Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon, written with Susanna Hecht, remains an exemplary account of a ravaged planet. Washington Babylon, written with Ken Silverstein, is a classic exposé of US politics and business. Each of these books went through many editions.
Across more than four decades Cockburn was a relentless and prophetic opponent of US militarism—his brothers Patrick and Andrew ensured that Alexander’s polemics were very well informed. We were proud to publish such works as Imperial Crusades (2004), written with Jeffrey St Clair and exploring the interconnections of the US wars of intervention. Alexander wrote for a wide spectrum of publications, with columns at different epochs in the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal as well as the Village Voice (in its heyday) and the Nation. ‘Press Clips’ in the Village Voice set new standards for scrutiny of print and broadcast media. Alexander’s ‘Beat the Devil’ column in the Nation ran for nearly three decades and established him as the most radical, literate, consistent, uncompromising—and witty—voice of the Left in the United States. Cockburn was a long-time editor of the London-based New Left Review. In the 1990s, with Jeffrey St Clair, Alexander founded Counterpunch, the much-consulted political newsletter and website. The response to 9/11 was soon to show the necessity for independent media outlets. At some future date we hope to contribute to an appropriate memorial to ‘Alexander the Brilliant’ - as Edward Said once called him. In the meantime, all our sympathy goes out to his cruelly-bereaved family and friends.