Sunday, April 29, 2007

Michael Berube, Alexander Cockburn

Here we see one of the last refuges of scoundrels: the old criticizing someone who criticized you for a totally unrelated matter in order to make you look better and them look worse.

The title link leads to a post by Michael Berube, the scholar of "Cultural Studies" who doesn't actually study any culture in particular but instead has just read a bunch of books on post-structuralist literary theory, where in passing he mentions Alexander Cockburn's essay where Cockburn dismissed human created global warming. That's kind of bad, but it's more of an extension of Cockburn's mistrust of mainstream liberals than anything else, at least in my reading (which is also probably why he wrote an essay advocating broader gun ownership after the Virginia Tech incident). But Berube isn't mentioning it randomly, no. In fact Cockburn has criticized Berube for being gung-ho about invading Afghanistan and making outrageous criticisms of Noam Chomsky for opposing the Afghan invasion and war, criticisms to the effect of "Chomsky doesn't understand that things have changed, and by the way he's irrelevant", which is something that person after person of the newly converted pro-war liberal trend expressed. It wasn't unique. It was predictable.

So...Alexander Cockburn publishes something skeptical of global warming, therefore Berube's support of Afghanistan and his criticism of Chomsky must be right. Funny how that works? Cockburn is obviously an irrational nut whose writing can't be trusted. Just like all those protesters who didn't agree with the Vietnam war.

Criticizing Cockburn implicitly as an irrational nut is the same old establishment way of discrediting dissent. They say something unpopular, surely you can't take them seriously? Surely you believe, based on my generally more kept appearance and my ability to make my way around a cocktail party, that I'm surely more in touch with reality than this guy.

Berube, you aren't a radical, you're the same old upper class establishment working your best to keep the rabble outside and you inside. With tenure.

* in response to the comment below: So I take it that you're in agreement with Cockburn's statement from 1980? After all it was a pro-Afghan war statement, as terrible as it was, and you're for the war in Afghanistan and against people like Noam Chomsky who oppose it. The issue isn't what a person wrote twenty seven years ago but what you're writing and supporting right now, which is the war on Afghanistan. Even if Cockburn was wrong in the article, he's right and Noam Chomsky is right, right now, and you are wrong. And yes, you did in fact use Cockburn's skepticism on global warming to try to bolster your own case against the left.

1 comment:

Michael Bérubé said...

Wow, not even close. Cockburn's essays on global warming stand or fall on their own dubious merits, and have nothing to do with the fact that he claimed that I supported the war in Iraq when in fact I opposed it. You play a version of the same game yourself when you suggest that I don't trust people who protested the Vietnam war, just because I point out that Cockburn really believes that global warming is a hoax.

Look, friend. Do yourself a favor. Actually read Cockburn's work. There you'll find that he not only lines up with James Inhofe on global warming and John Lott on guns, but has also written sympathetically of the Michigan Militia and other far-right "citizens' groups." And maybe you'll come around to see that there are some of us on the left -- people, like me, who've never even met the "upper class establishment" -- who think it's a bad idea for people on the left to align themselves with positions on the far right.

Special bonus edition: Who said the following?

"We all have to go one day, but pray God let it not be over Afghanistan. An unspeakable country filled with unspeakable people, sheepshaggers and smugglers, who have furnished in their leisure hours some of the worst arts and crafts ever to penetrate the occidental world.

"I yield to none in my sympathy to those prostrate beneath the Russian jackboot, but if ever a country deserved rape it's Afghanistan. Nothing but mountains filled with barbarous ethnics with views as medieval as their muskets, and unspeakably cruel too . . .

"Your Afghan's idea of a jolly good party is to cut off the balls of his foe, stuff them in his mouth and leave him as an object of derision in the local square. The British found this out, as they retreated pellmell across the passes, and so too has Ivan."

Answer: Alex Cockburn, "Press Clips," Village Voice, January 21, 1980.