The Hitchens-Cockburn feud

The Hitchens-Cockburn spat has been going on for quite a long time, certainly long before the Hitchens/Blumenthal incident. As always in these situations one must ask to what extent it is rooted in real political differences and to what extent it is simply a manifestation of personal animosities and competitiveness. I suspect that the latter is more crucial here than the former. At any rate both men can be charged with betraying leftist ideals in various ways. In Cockburn's case through his championing of the militias and as Lou emphasizes, his support for Indian gambling casinos. While Hitchens has ruffled feathers with his anti-abortion stance. With Cockburn, the championing of the militias is probably not out of line with his idiosyncratic Stalinist politics since after all the German Communists in the early 1930s for a time collaborated with the Nazis in fomenting strikes in order to undermine the Weimar Republic. I think for Cockburn anything that disrupts the status quo, even if it comes from the lunatic right is viewed by him as good. Likewise Cockburn's cultivation of an image as what Lou calls a " backwoods misanthropic crank" is I suppose a return to certain family traditions, in this case perhaps not so reminiscent of father Claud, as of cousins Evelyn Waugh (and his son Auberon).

It is interesting to note that both men cut their political teeth in British Trotskyist politics, with Cockburn, arguably, returning more or less to the Stalinist politics of his father, Claud and Hitchens remaining more or less a left social democrat. I remember back in the '80s, Hitchens wrote a highly laudatory article on the left Labour politician, Tony Benn for Mother Jones. On the other hand Hitchens has not been shy about attacking such sacred cows as Mother Teresa and Princess Di.

As far as Sidney Blumenthal is concerned, I think here is a case of rather naked careerism and opportunism. Back in the 1970s, he used to write Marxist screeds for The Boston Phoenix and The Real Paper. By the 1980s he graduated to writing for The New Republic. In 1991, when candidate Bill Clinton was engaged in vigorously courting support within the media, Blumenthal was one of the first journalists to support him. After Clinton was elected president, Blumenthal's ass-kissing of Clinton began to regarded even within The New Republic as a kind of standing joke. However, it eventually paid off for him in the form of a White House job and the rest was history.

Jim Farmelant