Leonard Cohen, Our Most Important Spy (Just the Facts)


Maybe intelligence operatives wear tuxedos, drive Aston Martins, drink martinis, and say their names in reverse order, and maybe there’s no need to wonder about anyone who doesn’t fit that bill. On the other hand, if (just say) an intelligence operative might be good at covering his tracks and assuming the appearance of being something other than an intelligence operative (like a poet-novelist turned folk singer turned pop star, say), then maybe tracking his activities, seeing which people he associates with, where his money comes from, which groups are backing him, where he travels to and when, what sort of things happen around him or what kind of coded messages he leaves behind ~ crazy stuff like that ~ would be the logical way to proceed?

Please note, this post is not meant to assert that Leonard is now or ever has been an intelligence operative. Only he and his handlers would know that for sure, and only then if the answer were yes (which it may not be). This post merely presents a series of facts from the first forty years of Cohen’s life and lets them speak for themselves. With occasional testimony from Cohen’s ex-girlfriend, Ann Diamond, clearly indicated in italics.

Fact: Leonard Cohen born 1934 of predominant Jewish lineage. Officially “middle class” but his mother was the daughter of a Talmudic writer, Rabbi Solomon Klonitsky-Kline, of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry and his paternal grandfather was Lyon Cohen, founding president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Cohen: “I had a very Messianic childhood. . . I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest.”
Fact: Cohen’s father, a clothing manufacturer, died when Cohen was nine.
Fact: In 1944, Cohen started attending summer camp as a 10-year-old at Camp Hiawatha in the Laurentians region north of Montreal.
Fact: Excelled at school and college, student council member.
Fact: As a teenager Cohen started a band called Buckskin Boys. Hung out on St. Laurent Boulevard to watch “gangster, pimps, and wrestlers.”
(According to Ann Diamond’s testimony (ADT): St. Laurent Boulevard was a largely Jewish-run crime district; Cohen may have had family who were involved in local business.)
Fact: In 1950, Cohen became a counselor at Camp Sunshine, a Jewish community camp.
Fact: In 1951 (at 17) Cohen enrolled at McGill University, became president of the McGill Debating Union, and won the Chester MacNaghten Literary Competition for his poetry.
(ADT: In 1951, Cohen took part in Dr. Donald Hebb’s notorious sensory isolation experiments, for which student volunteers were paid $20 a day.)
Fact: Hebb was involved with CIA-backed mind control experiments at McGill Uni during this time. He did use student volunteers, and paid them $20 a day.) The notorious picture that’s been posted all over the internet is of one of them, or at least, it precisely matches the conditions they were subjected to. And it’s perhaps not an entirely subjective statement to say that he does resemble Leonard Cohen.
Fact: Cohen published his first poems in March 1954 in the magazine CIV/n, and the issue also included poetry by Cohen’s poet-professor (who was on the editorial board), Irving Layton. Cohen graduated from McGill the following year with a B.A. degree.
Fact: In 1956 Cohen’s poetry Let Us Compare Mythologies was published as the first book in the McGill Poetry Series, the year after Cohen’s graduation (poems written largely when Cohen was between the ages of 15 and 20). Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye praised the book, and continued to endorse Cohen’s work thereafter. Frye is considered one of the most influential critics of the 20th century.
Fact: Cohen supported himself during this period and into his twenties without having regular work, supposedly thanks to “a modest trust income” from his father’s will.
Fact: In 1958, Cohen participated in counseling children at a McGill-affiliated camp. His main interest appears to have been sex, however.

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Jasun Horsley

Jasun Horsley

Existential detective. Liminalist author. Movie autist in chronic confessional mode. You only think you don't know who I am.
Jasun Horsley

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