Counterpunch Shadowboxes and Loses

In a fair boxing match, opponents enter the ring with similarly padded gloves and battle under the bright lights for the world to see.  There are, of course, cases where one fighter cheats, as in the infamous case in 1983 when Luis Resto wore weakly padded gloves and hand wraps hardened with plaster to make them rock solid.  His opponent, Billy Collins, an up-and-coming boxer from Tennessee with a 14-0 record, was permanently and very seriously injured in the fight at Madison Square Garden. His eyes were battered shut and his vision damaged. He never fought again and died depressed the following year at age twenty-two.

In the fight for truth in the public arena, similar subterfuges occur.

To battle honestly in the open forum, to argue to and fro squarely, is often prevented in advance by eliminating an opponent’s voice from the debate.  This is the typical method used by the corporate mass media that stack the deck with sycophants and refuse dissidents a place to voice their ideas.

Then there is the masquerade of fighting an opponent who is really a collaborator and benefactor, whose punches one counters in a game of shadow boxing meant to convince the audience that the fight is real and you are on their side.  Some alternative media use this technique because they are gatekeepers for the power elite.

Sometimes this ruse is so blatant that the fix becomes transparent because the smart-asses who play this game screw up, yet they still expect their real opponents to shut up and walk away because their fixer’s mantra  is “Never apologize, never explain.”  It has always been the code of the rich and powerful.

Some are brawlers, however, and fight back against this bullshit.

The well-known leftist website Counterpunch is an example of the “never apologize, never explain” school.  A number of writers and journalists who have published many pieces at Counterpunch have been banned from this site in recent years without an explanation, Andre Vltchek and C.J. Hopkins being two who crossed an invisible boundary the Shadow had drawn and were never again published by Counterpunch. Others, smelling an odd odor, have walked away. The numbers are growing.

I’ve recently seen Counterpunch shadowbox and the Shadow won.

On January 29, 2019, I published an article highly critical of the CIA (The CIA Then and Now: Old Wine in New Bottles) that was posted at Global Research. Lew Rockwell picked it up the next day.  Dissident Voice also posted it on the 30th.  Then The Unz Review published it on January 31, 2019. Four ideologically diverse websites that saw value in a harsh and complicated critique of the spy agency. Other sites would also publish it in the following days, including Off-Guardian.  After the piece appeared, I received an email from the editor of Counterpunch, Jeffrey St Clair, telling me that he too was going to publish this article on Friday, February 1, for Counterpunch’s weekend edition. I had written a few dozen pieces that Counterpunch had published and had a very cordial relationship with St Clair.  In fact, when I was in Rome in 2018, he had asked me to place a stone for him on Keats’ and Shelley’s graves when I visited the cemetery where they were buried.  I did that, and my wife took photos that I sent to him.  All was copacetic.  Buddies.  High fives!

On February 1, 2019, shortly after midnight Eastern time (12:02 AM), Counterpunch published my piece for their weekend edition where articles remain for three days.  When I awoke at 4 A.M., I saw it.  Then at 8 A. M., when I arrived at the college where I teach, I again saw it.  At 11 A.M., when I had finished teaching a few classes, I looked again and it had disappeared.  Transitive verb: Counterpunch had disappeared it. Eliminated it. Scratched it. Excised it.

All the other numerous articles remained.  Only mine was gone.  At first I thought it was a mistake.  But as the day wore on I wondered.  So I emailed St Clair and asked my buddy what had happened.  As compatriots don’t do, he did not reply.  But I assumed he was busy, as I am, and gets many emails. So I waited.  When I emailed him again, there was no reply.  A third very cordial email three days later went unanswered.

Unlike Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, I am no longer waiting.  No reply is coming, and St Clair isn’t Godot, or on second thought he may be, a chimerical leftist gatekeeper enticing Counterpunch’s followers to wait forever for a revelation that isn’t coming.  Like his mentor and the founder of Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn, who was so fond of excoriating as “idiots” and “conspiracy nuts” anyone questioning the JFK assassination or the attacks of September 11, 2001 – two fundamental issues that only believers in official government conspiracy theories such as Cockburn could dismiss – St Clair seems similarly dismissive of explaining why a writer’s critique of the CIA would deserve to be eliminated after being published.  As if only an idiot would want to know.

However, any reasonable person would ask: Why would he not respond?  St Clair, the editor-in-chief, published the piece and then disappeared it after 10-11 hours?  This is highly unusual, to put it mildly. Unprecedented for the so-called left-wing alternative media. It is the kind of thing when done by the mainstream corporate media would be denounced and exposed as censorship.  Not publishing an article is a publication’s prerogative, of course, but what could cause one to eliminate an article highly critical of the CIA after people had ten or so hours to read it, and since the author and editor had a very cordial relationship up to that point and the editor had days to read it carefully?

Having eliminated the piece from their front page weekend edition where it could have been viewed by readers for four days while that page was available, they subsequently dumped it into their archives where the only reader who would later see it would be one who knew about it and went looking for it by title or author’s name.  Very few would have reason to do that, of course, though readers of this article may be among the few.  Censors often have a bag of tricks that allow for plausible denial after the fact.

One doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that someone objected to the piece.  But who could that be?  If it were St Clair’s managing editor, Joshua Frank, twenty years his junior (the two run the operation), then St Clair could have explained to me why, since we were on good terms.  I wouldn’t have liked it and argued my points, but at least we could have cordially agreed to disagree.  But the Frank possibility makes no sense, for a managing editor would be intimately involved in the publishing process that was completed the previous day in time for the very early Friday A.M. postings.  And in any case, St Clair is in charge.

Clearly an outside reader objected.  The question is: Who is that reader who could exert such control over a publication that promotes itself as one that “Tells the Facts, Names the Names”?  A publication that is considered radically leftist and in opposition to the ruling elites.

Okay, Counterpunch, would you name the name of the shadowy one who won this fight?

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Read other articles by Edward, or visit Edward's website.