Cockburn wrote pointed, "fearless" columns for the Nation and Village Voice.
Alexander Cockburn, a sharp-witted journalist and unapologetic provocateur on the left who brought a hard-nosed intensity to his political columns in the Nation, the Village Voice and other outlets, died Friday at a medical clinic near Frankfurt, Germany. He was 71.
He was being treated for colorectal cancer, said Jeffrey St. Clair, co-editor with Cockburn of CounterPunch, a magazine and website.
Cockburn (pronounced KOH-burn) brought a British tradition of argumentation and outrageously opinionated journalism to the United States when he arrived in 1972. He was an avowed liberal -- even a radical -- who eagerly engaged in 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."
After coming to the United States, Cockburn 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, 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.
Cockburn was an undisguised leftist who "defined the frontiers of candid progressive ideas," consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader said in an interview. "He was fearless."
In the 1980s, Cockburn condemned U.S. intervention in Central America and later military forays in the Mideast, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He disputed the notion of a "liberal media," and 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, 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.
Cockburn was critical of what he deemed the conservatism of President Obama and called filmmaker Michael Moore a "blowhard and a jerk." Seldom predictable in his views, Cockburn was a proponent of gun rights and believed global warming was not necessarily the result of human activity.