James Fallows (as he points out himself, a blandly centrist journalist of a type that Cockburn despised) on Cockburn:
As Michael Tomasky points out in this appreciation, Alex Cockburn essentially pioneered the modern persona for which Christopher Hitchens became much better known: the fancily Oxford-educated leftie Brit litterateur/journalist who would say all the outrageous things his bland Yank counterparts lacked the wit, courage, erudition, or épater-spirit to utter on their own. As both Tomasky and James Wolcott make clear, Cockburn was far more committed and purposeful in his outrageousness. His own brutal obituary about Hitchens both explains and exemplifies the differences. Short version: Cockburn said that Hitchens always knew just how far he could go; Cockburn knew, and kept on going. His “Press Clips” column in the Village Voice genuinely revolutionized the way people talked and thought about the mainstream press.
It’s worth recalling that he was the first. Modern America’s first exposure to that literary, highly lapidary, polysyllabically festooned, and sometimes grotesquely overstated and unfair brand of polemicism that we now know so well. He blazed the trail that Hitchens and others followed. He was also America’s first modern press critic. A.J. Liebling, I would argue, did something a little different. The idea of weekly items critiquing the ideological presumptions of this particular Times article or that particular Washington Post column was invented by Alex.
It feels very end-of-an-era-like.