Salon on Doug Henwood

Peter Kilander peterk at
Tue Dec 22 19:11:10 PST 1998

>Both Hitchens and Cockburn are overly fond of celebrity, among other
>unfortunate traits, but Alex at least feels an occasional need, or perhaps
>prodded by associates, to genuflect toward the grass roots.
>[These comments apply to their writings. Having lived for many years
without a
>television set at hand, I'm not versed in their video personae, nor Doug's
>either, for that matter.]

Ken, you do have one thing in common with Hitchens: he doesn't watch TV either. He told me he once tried to say TV is something you appear on rather than watch, but it came out so old-fartishly he dropped it. Cockburn opines that it isn't even worth going on TV because of the soundbite nature of it. He warned Ruth Conniff (Washington editor of The Progressive and regular talking head on FoxNetwork and MSNBC), who told him she was going to DC to be on TV, of exactly this. And he may have warned her of the celebrity thing, I can't remember.

Whether we like it or not, I agree with Calvin Trillin who says we need leftists on TV - that's where most people get their news. We need to be engaged in the "air war," and not just a "ground war" of a Christian Coalition-type mobilization. If Conniff and Hitchens and Doug are good at that sort of thing, I wish them all the best. A week or so ago on Meet the Press on national Sunday morning TV, Hitchens brilliantly made the point that the Clinton administration's shameful silence on the Pinochet matter may have something to do with Clinton's obvious interest in "sovereign immunity." That must have had a positive influence on somebody somewhere. Cockburn has also made a good point by saying that there soon will be a crisis of oversaturation of "Sabbath gasbags". They keep multiplying as do the shows. Why can't leftists fill some more of the slots?

Cockburn has taken a lot of flack, on this list even, for saying we shouldn't give up on the militia folks and their potential recruits. Here I agree with him. A teacher friend of mine has become friends with a fellow teacher who was once neo-nazi gang member in the working class suburbs of Chicago. This tatoo-covered, Jesse Ventura look-alike repented and even has a Jewish girlfriend now. He's still a crazy man, though.

Granted, maybe my views on Cockburn and Hitchens are distorted by the fact that they are very pleasant and cordial in person, even to a 28-year-old nobody like myself. There's probably some way to tie all this into what Doug was saying about his quote from Zizek's Sublime Object of Ideology in the "Hastert and ... tobacco" thread. Perhaps someone else would like to take a stab at it.

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