Golden Oldies

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Alexander Cockburn's 1982 spoof of The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, as the Newshour was then known, is now online. A sample:

MACNEIL: Mr. Tooth, why eat human flesh?

TOOTH: Robin, it is full of protein and delicious too. Without human meat, our pioneers would be unable to explore the West properly. This would present an inviting opportunity to the French, who menace our pioneer routes from the north.

MACNEIL: Thank you. Jim?

LEHRER: Now for another view of cannibalism. Bertram Brussell-Sprout is leading the fight to control the eating of animal fats and meats. Mr. Sprout, would you include human flesh in this proposed regulation?

SPROUT: Most certainly, Jim. Our studies show that some human flesh available for sale to the public is maggot-ridden, improperly cut, and often incorrectly graded. We think the public should be protected from such abuses.

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  1. Love him or hate him, Cockburn is a fantastic writer.

    Jesse, you know him, (I think) how would you describe Cockburn politically? His article on eminent domain was pro-private property. I know he subscribes to the Marxist critique, yet he talks bout his cross country Mercedes trips and owns a townhouse in Georgetown. Doesnt sound like the limosine liberals I know.

  2. I’ve met him briefly three or four times; I’m not sure that qualifies as knowing him. From his writing, I’d say he’s more or less an anarcho-syndicalist. At some point in the ’90s, he wrote that he considered himself “Marxish” rather than “Marxist”; he’s certainly aware of the dangers of state power, though obviously he doesn’t draw from that all the conclusions that the modal Reason writer would. Definitely not a liberal, limousine or otherwise.

  3. He gives the McNeil-Lehrer stiffs what they deserve.

    As Joe Bob Briggs said, Charlayne Hunter-Gault looks like she straps her face on with bailing wire every morning, and asks questions in a way that reminds you of Vincent Price when he’s been smoking Arkansas polio week for a couple of weeks.

  4. The PBS show Washington Week is just as bad if not worse.

    Such blandness is supposed to be virtous, by people who don’t realize that their are at least two different types of excitement to be had from news. One type is the thrill of watching the runnaway bride or the murderer du jour (this isn’t necessary bad but neither does it give one any larger perspective beyond isolated events). The second type of thrill is watching people powerfully argue powerful points of view. Don’t expect either form of excitement to be found on Washington Week etc. (you might just have to read blogs).

    On those shows any bland opinion is as plausible as any other and readily believed by the bland commentors. Last time I watched it the commentors seemed to think the idea that the war in Iraq was going well was perfectly plausible! Um excuse me while I …..

    The worst part is PBS viewers are constantly subjected to advertising saying how wonderful and educational PBS is. Poppycock! Compared to what?

    PBS doesn’t have a wide range of ideas expressed in it at all, compared to what is to be found with just a quick glance at the local bookstore or libarary. It’s all a very narrow and boring view of the world, making you think you’ve heard it all before you’ve even begun (the process is most accurately called “dumbing down”).

  5. Dead on & hilarious!

    C-SPAN kicks PBS’s ass. Although I must admit that Frontline is often pretty fucking good.

    I once heard Cockburn describe himself as a Stalinist. Was he joking?

  6. I only watched it for the cartoons, I’ll admit.

  7. Mr. Rogers: He called himself a “Stalinist baby-killer” obviously sarcastically, but he did unsarcastically lament the fall of the Soviet Union, and often expresses his contempt for George Orwell. Basically, he could be described as someone on the far Left who has so much contempt for conventional center-left types that he often makes common cause with the Right against them. His father, Claude Cockburn, was a member of the British Communist Party for many years, and Alex’s critics say that this is where Alex’s Orwell-hatred comes from (he denies it, says he arrived at it on his own).

  8. I believe the Mercedes are the result of Alex marrying a series of American heiresses. That may be a calumny spread by his political enemies, but it amuses me.

    In its early days what is now The NewsHour was much more of a talking heads show than even today’s version is. At least they do filmed lead-ins to the debates describing the background of an issue. They also run footage from some independent British sources dealing with foreign affairs. But the “right wing kooks v. centrists” description Cockburn gives is obviously from his own ideological perch. It seems to me that it is just as often “advocate of leviathan government v. me-too-but-less RINO.” On some issues, such as environmental ones, they have pure lefty kooks on, and over the years I’ve seen plenty of Institute for Policy Studies types discuss foreign policy, along with the Brookings, Heritage and CATO folks.

    One thing has got to change, though. Lehrer has got to drop that extra Olklahoman long-a sound he squeezes into the first syllable of “measure.” It grates on the ear – “may-zhure.” Yuck!

    Kevin

  9. Mr. Rogers: Cockburn is only semi-facetious when he describes himself as a Stalinist. He’s certainly no anarcho-syndicalist. He often pines for the old USSR and makes only the mildest criticisms of Stalin (See, Papa Joe could sometimes be a bit overzealous in his methods but at least he dragged Russia into the modern world!)

    Here’s a classic Cockburn column where he’s pining for the fjords:

    http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/1991/37/37p13.htm

  10. Jodie: There’s a shift in Cockburn’s politics after the Soviet Union collapses, away from Leninism and toward anarchism and populism. (He’s also rumored to have had an unpleasant run-in with the IRS, which if true might explain a thing or two as well.) When Brian Doherty and I saw him speak in Los Angeles a few years ago, he even criticized Castro’s lousy record on civil liberties, something I wouldn’t have expected from the Cockburn of the ’80s. (Also, the book he was promoting at the time slammed Armand Hammer for his Soviet ties, another argument you’re not likely to hear from a Stalinist.) These days his columns are less likely to resemble the one you posted, and more likely to sound like this.

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