Response to: The Hot Air Factory [Alexander Cockburn]

By Chris Lowe Portland, Oregon
Submitted to Portside, June 29, 2006

[This is a response to Cockburn’s piece at]

Alexander Cockburn is always interesting to read as a gamble:
will he turn a satisfyingly pointed phrase or jibe at some
malfeasant? Will he make a really thought-provoking point, as
he sometimes does? For about a decade the gamble has paid off
less than it did before. Cockburn seems to have decided at
some point to become programmatic to the point of robotic in
his left contrarianism. The effects on both style and insight
seem deleterious, but maybe that’s just me getting older . . .

In the case at hand, his gratuitous trashing of
as “loony,” as a rhetorical device for criticizing left
overemphasis on Karl Rove and inflated political claims for
blogs, is a great pity and a serious distortion. In the first
place Truthout, for Portside readers unfamiliar with it,
really isn’t a blog or blogger-center at all. In fact much of
it is a good deal like Portside, except web-rather than e-mail
based, highlighting stories from the press but giving them a
different priority than their original frames, with some
original content. Their op-eds are partly recruited from
other sources (e.g. there’s one up now by Medea Benjamin from
Alternet) and partly original to them. They also run long
analytical pieces that are more than op-eds and more than
reportorial journalism stripped of analysis, which often are
quite good, especially on legal matters and on the occupation
in Iraq. Check them out at .

Among its virtues, Truthout and its archive are an excellent
source of evidence against the canard that “everyone knew” and
no one doubted that Hussein’s Iraq had an active weapons of
mass destruction program, possessed large quantities of such
weapons and posed an imminent threat to someone (whether it be
the U.S., Israel or its regional neighbors). They were active
in providing evidence, including platforms for former weapons
inspectors, news stories buried on the inside pages in the
regular press, and their own analyses especially by William
Rivers Pitt, that such views were either questionable or
false, amounting to sheer mongering of war. Their case shows
clearly hat the definition of “everyone” in the “everyone
knew” excuse is circular, because you couldn’t be admitted as
a “serious” person to the hegemonic political debate if you
disagreed on the war party’s view of Iraq’s putative Ws of MD.

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