and Associates 1117 West 5th Street Austin, Texas 78703 REALTOR it Representing all types of properties In Austin and Central Texas interesting & unusual property a specialty. 477-3651 I i t Listed On The National Register of Historic Places “Go gather by the humming sea Some twisted, echo-harboring shell, And to it all thy secrets tell” W. B. Yeats P.O. Box 8 Port Aransas, TX 78373 of the wrist rather than by pressing a subjugation. NYR, December 8, 1977 But the best of these essays are in the section called “Terms of the Trade,” whoe subject is journalism in its historical and contemporary aberrations. He takes on the general “psychopathology” of the trade, the bloviated musings of the foreign correspondent and the pundit \(or “bigfoot” the relative value of human corpses on the international scales of the average newspaper, even the propensity of journalists to hand “prizes” to each other like party favors. The essays on the foreign N East Dallas Printing Company Full Service Union Printing 211 S. Peak Dallas, Tx 75226 they collect as well an indispensable lexicon of the universal cliches of journalism, handy in reducing the average op-ed page to a pile of confetti-like phrases: “the menace of the modern world,” “the timeless rhythms of the countryside,” “strategically vital,” and so on. \(There is a useful dictionary in the making here, if Cockburn only can find the “the first law of all journalism, which is to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it.” I could swear that in another context, Cockburn has recited another first law of all journalism: “everything always happens for the first time.” In fact these are corollaries, for the first requires “reporting” received ideas as fact and the second, claiming theni as revelation. These two cardinal principles are useful antidotes to keep in mind while reading your daily newspaper. Cockburn is best known for his own reporting, currently most prominent in his bi-weekly column for The Nation, “Beat the Devil.” \(The title is taken from a novel and screenplay written by his father; since Cockburn’s primary “beat” is the press .. . of the Reagan Era,” he has collected a sizable portion of his journalism of the ’80s, from The Nation, The Village Voice, WSJ, the LA Weekly, and a few other places. There is a wide range of topics, from Beirut to New Hampshire, Israel to Iran, Herman Kahn to Marilyn Monroe, but its subjectin-progress is a capsule history of “Reaganism”: “shorthand for a particular culture of consumption, a reverie of militarism, of violence redeemed; of a manic, corrupted and malevolent idealism.” The last phrase is telling, for Cockburn is virtually unique among commentators, even on the left, in seeing the right-wing fervor in the country as not simply an aberration but founded upon a coherent, vaguely religious idealism that would destroy everything it cannot convert to its own uses. Millenialism and its astrologers are confined neither to the 15th century nor to the dictatorial palaces of the Third World. If the American Empire presents an increasingly dismal prospect of venality and wilful ignorance in the years of its precipitate decline, expatriate Cockburn reminds us that “the more things change. . . .” He grew up “amid the relics of an empire corrupted far beyond the reach of the popular indignation that discomfitted Nixon and then Reagan.” His dispatches, passionate as they are, are leavened with a sense of historical perspective, whether that be of the press-censored history of the American interventions in Central America, or of the pop-mythologized history of the Yalta conference: It is hard to know what the denouncers of Yalta would prefer to have happened. If you start by refusing to accept that the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fighting, and was mainly responsible for the defeat of fascism, then you end by ignoring the realities of the war and prating nonsense about ‘betrayal’ and Roosevelt’s `ignorance’ at Yalta, as if Churchill had not already accepted those realities a year earlier in Moscow in the famous agreement with Stalin on spheres of influence. The Nation, March 9, 1985 As this reading of history undermines one of the most cherished press-and-government myths underlying the Cold War, it is not one likely to get a wide dissemination. Cockburn is at his best as a counterpuncher, and he spends much of his time exploding whatever favored corporate press mythology about Central America, about the Middle East, about Star Wars, about the Press itself is currently dominating all avenues of public discussion. At this task there is no one better, but he is only one man writing mostly in small journals. Would there were 20 more of him, across the country. He himself is gamefully optimistic about the growth of the alternative press and the progressive movement in the country \(pointing to the Jackson campaign and the Central American peace campaign like to share his/ optimism, but I wonder. I would single out, in particular, two areas of his recent journalism for which he is to be especially applauded: his determination to expose the true story of the U.S. war on Central America \(not only in Nicaragua against Israel’s war on the Palestinians. The former is now beginning to verge on conventional wisdom, at least until the next election once again allows open season on campesinos. For the latter, he has been subject to endless vilification and slander of the most hateful and incendiary sort \(often events in the West Bank have provided a bloody and probably momentary vindication. I invite those who would be healthily immunized against future press campaigns of apologetics for tyranny to buy this book and read it, and to seek out Cockburn’s new work wherever they ,can find it. No doubt the attacks will continue, because Cockburn shows no sign of diminishing energies, and the frenzy of the outcries against him will be conditioned only by whose ox is lately being gored. It would be helpful if he had to spend less of his against calumnies. Fellow writers Would do well to form a Society for the Prevention of Lies against Cockburn and to stamp out the slanders where they appear, for their true intent is to intimidate and browbeat into frightened silence anyone, anywhere, who would raise a voice of dissent, against the privileged lies of tyrannical governments, and their apologists in the press. 20 JUNE 3, 1988
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