Outrage burns in many an American breast, but there's scant outlet for it in the political arena. A friend of mine took his family to the annual Puyallup Fair near Tacoma, Washington. There was a CNN booth, in which a mini "Democracy Wall", an 8-by-4-foot sheet of butcher paper, was available for people to scrawl their sentiments in felt-tip. Fast as the CNN staffers changed the paper, scores more hastened forward to scribble their views, almost all of them harsh in language toward both CNN and the President. Families photographed each other in postures vulgarly disrespectful to the life-size cutout of Wolf Blitzer. When an older man -- he turned out to be the retired commander of a nuclear submarine -- rebuked the crowd and called for loyalty to Bush, the mood turned ugly, and for reasons of his personal safety he was advised to leave. "And yet," said my friend, the anthropologist David Price, "try getting these people to an antiwar rally."This is the jumping off point for a Cockburnian diatribe on the looniness of the 9/11 conspiracy aficionados. He simply dismisses them all as nuts, there is no bin Laden-Bush 9/11 conspiracy, end of discussion.
All this nuttiness, continues Cockburn, is merely a distraction:
I'm sure that the Bush gang, and all the conspirators of capital, are delighted at the obsessions of the 9/11 cultists. It's a distraction from the 1,001 real plots of capitalism that demand exposure and political challenge.This is easy for him to say. Cockburn, after all, whether he likes or even wants to admit, is the product of privilege though his official biographies are very coy about his family and education, it's as if he burst forth on the journalistic stage fully-grown, as Athene from Zeus' head.
Yet for all of Cockburn's outrage and all his sarcasm and condescension he never once, at least from the little I've read of his works over the years, offers up any perscription for what ails us. And this is precisely why I have a love/hate relationship with Cockburn's writing: While many of his columns are spot on and I wholeheartedly agree with his conclusions, when it comes to shaking the grimy hands of the working class, Cockburn instinctively recoils. Socialist son of a Communist he maybe, but please don't mistake Mr. Cockburn for an eight-hour-a-day man.