Commentary Magazine


Topic: Alexander Cockburn

Remembering Cockburn’s Heresies

In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as  heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.

Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.

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In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as  heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.

Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.

As John Fund writes over at National Review Online, Cockburn’s denunciation of global warming as a fraud (led by what he termed as that “hypocritical mountebank” Al Gore) constituted a genuine heresy from his longtime leftism. Fund believes that had Cockburn not fallen ill, he might have helped generate a genuine debate about the issue. That would have been interesting, and Cockburn deserves credit for not being one more leftist sheep following the ideological party line on this issue. But I think Fund is probably being a bit too generous when he says, “Conservatives should recognize that he was getting more and more things ‘right’ toward the end.”

Fund, who got to know him when he was his editor at the Wall Street Journal, rightly acknowledges that Cockburn was a “fierce and often irrational critic of everything to do with Israel.” But the irrationality was not just your garden-variety left-wing distaste for Zionism. His Counterpunch website was denounced by Alan Dershowitz and others for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Cockburn’s sly comments about the “nasty stories about Jews sloshing around the press” helped publicize 9/11 truther lies while allowing him to profess his neutrality about the subject.

In Cockburn’s case, the Times’ obit did mention, at least in passing, his attempts to minimize Stalin’s mass murders as well as the fact that he was fired from the Village Voice for being paid by an anti-Israel group. But it left the discussion of anti-Semitism on the cutting room floor along with any mention of his heresy on global warming. The newspaper generally likes its dead leftist heroes untainted by accusations of anti-Semitism. But it’s clear they can’t tolerate any discussion of their deviations from the current orthodoxy on climate change.

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Blind Leftist Squirrel Finds His Global Warming Acorn

There are some people who are so odious that when you find yourself on the same side of an issue with them, your first instinct must be to question whether you were right in the first place. Alexander Cockburn is certainly such a person. He is a rabid leftist, apologist for totalitarians and a vicious hater of Israel. From his perch as editor of his own rag CounterPunch and as a columnist for the Nation, he has spewed forth nonsense and bile for a long time. But like the proverbial blind squirrel, it appears as though even Cockburn is capable of finding an acorn. That is the only way to explain the utterly rational and completely on-target attack on the Copenhagen Global Warming jamboree and the entire Climategate cover-up that he has written for the Nation and which can be read for free at RealClearPolitics.com.

The headline on the version of the piece that appeared in the Nation aptly summed up the way in which the belief that global warming is caused by human activity is now more a matter of religious faith than of rational science: “From Nicea to Copenhagen.” He describes Copenhagen as “surely the most outlandish foray into intellectual fantasizing since the fourth-century Christian bishops assembled in 325 AD for the Council of Nicaea to debate whether God the Father was supreme or had to share equal status in the pecking order of eternity with his Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Making the same point that Bret Stephens highlighted with greater clarity in the Wall Street Journal on December 1, Cockburn shows that money is more of a motivation for the environmental alarmists than for the skeptics:

It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate-modeling enterprises and a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia. It’s where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.

He goes on to nail the Climategate e-mails as indicative of the falsity of the theory that global warming is caused by mankind and rightly notes that such corruption is far from uncommon in the sciences.

Cockburn is, of course, a marginal figure even on the Left; so his apostasy from the true faith on warming, which is itself a derivative of the Left’s antagonism to capitalism, is just a pinprick in the vast body of unthinking consensus that characterizes most of the media’s commentary on this issue. But his voice is just one more being raised to say that the emperors who met in Copenhagen have no clothes on. As such, no matter how distasteful it may be to find oneself in agreement with him, it must be considered a hopeful sign.

There are some people who are so odious that when you find yourself on the same side of an issue with them, your first instinct must be to question whether you were right in the first place. Alexander Cockburn is certainly such a person. He is a rabid leftist, apologist for totalitarians and a vicious hater of Israel. From his perch as editor of his own rag CounterPunch and as a columnist for the Nation, he has spewed forth nonsense and bile for a long time. But like the proverbial blind squirrel, it appears as though even Cockburn is capable of finding an acorn. That is the only way to explain the utterly rational and completely on-target attack on the Copenhagen Global Warming jamboree and the entire Climategate cover-up that he has written for the Nation and which can be read for free at RealClearPolitics.com.

The headline on the version of the piece that appeared in the Nation aptly summed up the way in which the belief that global warming is caused by human activity is now more a matter of religious faith than of rational science: “From Nicea to Copenhagen.” He describes Copenhagen as “surely the most outlandish foray into intellectual fantasizing since the fourth-century Christian bishops assembled in 325 AD for the Council of Nicaea to debate whether God the Father was supreme or had to share equal status in the pecking order of eternity with his Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Making the same point that Bret Stephens highlighted with greater clarity in the Wall Street Journal on December 1, Cockburn shows that money is more of a motivation for the environmental alarmists than for the skeptics:

It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate-modeling enterprises and a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia. It’s where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.

He goes on to nail the Climategate e-mails as indicative of the falsity of the theory that global warming is caused by mankind and rightly notes that such corruption is far from uncommon in the sciences.

Cockburn is, of course, a marginal figure even on the Left; so his apostasy from the true faith on warming, which is itself a derivative of the Left’s antagonism to capitalism, is just a pinprick in the vast body of unthinking consensus that characterizes most of the media’s commentary on this issue. But his voice is just one more being raised to say that the emperors who met in Copenhagen have no clothes on. As such, no matter how distasteful it may be to find oneself in agreement with him, it must be considered a hopeful sign.

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