The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Cox's novel is trashy... but David Brock's self-serving, self-pitying apologia pro vita sua BLINDED BY THE RIGHT is just nasty. I'm having my senior students read it in our ethics and writing class because the book is about Brock's career as a "right-wing hit man" and his eventual, some might say disingenuous, awakening to the way his employers at the AMERICAN SPECTATOR, WASHINGTON TIMES, and other right-wing publications and foundations.

Brock was a gay conservative at Berkeley in the early 1980s, and fell in with the hard-partying, obnoxious group of young right-wingers led by the DARTMOUTH REVIEW crowd. They--Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Sousza, Lisa Schifferen, and so on--gravitated to Washington and, in Brock's telling, fully joined the Movement in the failed campaign to seat Robert Bork on the Supreme Court. Brock's book tells of his work as an investigative "journalist" (well, more of an opposition-research bulldog) and author of THE REAL ANITA HILL.

It's not a fun book to read, but it's irresistible. Nobody has forgotten just how ugly the 1990s were, I hope--the Swift Boat lies were a brief reminder of what the 1990s were like all of the time--but Brock was in the middle of all those frothing-at-the-mouth Clinton haters and retells their stories gleefully, if his style leaves something to be desired. (Every new character is introduced with a sentence beginning with an appositive.) Nothing new there. But hearing how "mainstream" conservative intellectuals like Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, and David Frum were happy to spread obvious lies about the Clintons behind behind dozens of murders is a little eye-opening; I had thought they let the "extra chromosome crowd" (as Lee Atwater called them) spread those rumors.

I also enjoy reading Brock's nasty descriptions of such luminaries as Coulter, Richard Mellon Scaife, Ted Olson and his deceased wife Barbara, Pat Buckley, and Clarence Thomas. He says that Christopher Hitchens is filthy (Hitchens rebuts him here), and alleges that Matt Drudge came on to him and giggled when Brock asked about how Drudge fact-checks. I think my favorite stories, though, are about that tireless publicity hound Arianna Huffington, whose role in the Gingrich revolution he details. This is funny.

The problem is with his essential argument: that he was shocked, shocked at the level of bigotry and homophobia and misogyny in the right-wing movement. He tries to get us to believe that he thought the Reagan revolution was about freedom, strength, and classical Lockean liberalism, and that when the ugly bigotry raised its head--both before and after Brock himself came out of the closet--he distanced himself from the movement. This is utterly ludicrous. Reagan's attitude towards gays was probably a little more enlightened than his knuckle-dragging cabinet's; he'd been in Hollywood for years, after all. But he still wouldn't mention AIDS until late in his presidency. And as for bigotry? Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi (location of the MISSISSIPPI BURNING murders) with a call for states' rights. Anyone joining that movement who wasn't aware of its attitude toward women, gays, ethnic and religious minorities, and pretty much anyone who didn't profess--not necessarily live, because the movement's own figures don't live it--utter dedication to God and church and the flag and the monogamous marriage just didn't want to be aware of it.

I asked my students not to buy the book, but rather to get it from the library. I didn't want to get Brock any more money.

Brock now runs Media Matters for America, a lefty media watchdog organization.


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