Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Alex Cockburn is an ass, but I don't know anyone in this country who could replace him as a genuine left-wing journalist. We'd have to try importing someone new, and whoever it was would be too smart to leave the British Isles. We could get someone from the Caribbean, but Americans don't take negroes seriously. Of course there's Hitchens, Cockburn's old nemesis; though I don't like him very much he's important. But he and Buckley are cut from the same cloth: moralizing bastards oozing hypocrisy; and both break out in a cold sweat hearing the word 'pussy'. I don't think either ever recovered from being buggered as schoolboys.

Alterman by comparison is an adolescent braggart. He's bright, as every Manhattanite claims to be, and he serves a purpose, but he's utterly replaceable. He does nothing for the scene that someone more articulate and self-aware couldn't do better. And his attempts at cultural seriousness amount to little more than hammering into our heads how much more liberal he is than we are for idolizing a rich rock star who imagines he speaks for every down-trodden soul on the American continent. Springsteen and Alterman share the illusion that to write a sympathetic description of someone else's experience is to share it, but art and language don't work that way. Springsteen wrote a song about the dangers and desperation of working in a meth labs in the desert but it didn't have the intimacy of a narcocorrido or of his best songs, which are about the towns he grew up in.

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