Mr. Cockburn (pronounced KOH-burn) brought a British tradition of argumentation and outrageously opinionated journalism to the United States when he arrived in the 1970s. He was an avowed liberal — even a radical — who eagerly engaged rhetorical battles with opponents and friends across the political spectrum.
“Alex had an uncompromising vision of life and of his writing,” St. Clair said. “He was writing incredibly controversial columns, and American readers had no experience with that forthright British style.”
Mr. Cockburn came to the United States in 1972 and quickly established a journalistic beachhead at the Village Voice in New York. His columns about politics and the media were marked by stylistic grace and sharp opinions.
After he was suspended in 1984 for accepting a $10,000 grant from an organization with Arab ties, Mr. Cockburn began writing for the Nation, where his columns appeared until his death. He also wrote books and was, at various times, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Harper’s and the Atlantic magazines and, since the 1990s, CounterPunch.
Mr. Cockburn was an undisguised leftist who “defined the frontiers of candid progressive ideas,” consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader said Saturday in an interview. “He was fearless.”
In the 1980s, Mr. Cockburn condemned U.S. intervention in Central America and later military forays in the Middle East, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He wrote books condemning depredation of the environment. He was a long-running critic of Israel and what he considered the mistreatment of Palestinians living in Israel.
He disputed the notion of a “liberal media” in the United States, writing in the Nation of “the needless buckling under by the mainstream press to the forces of the right.”
Since the 1980s, he had a standard speech called “The Media: Watchdog or Lapdog?”
“Basically, the press will never defy power, will never defy the administration in the long run,” he said in 1987.
Consistently critical of conservative policies and politicians, Mr. Cockburn seemed to reserve his deepest scorn for Democrats and other liberals who lacked the courage of their putative beliefs. He encouraged the creation of a third party that would be a liberal alternative to the Democrats and Republicans — whom he considered virtually interchangeable.
“He had a no-holds-barred mind,” Nader said. “Even though he had progressive views, it didn’t mean he didn’t go after progressives. One slip, and he’d pounce on you.”
Mr. Cockburn was critical of what he deemed the conservatism of President Obama and denounced filmmaker Michael Moore as a “blowhard and a jerk.”