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David Brock: Blinded By The Right: The Conscience Of An Ex-Conservative

Sifting through the ooze and muck of every sordid right-wing smear campaign of the '90s—from Anita Hill to Troopergate to the all-fronts crusade to impeach Bill Clinton—will reveal David Brock at the bottom, planting dirty bombs built from unverified gossip, hearsay, speculation, and lies. Coming from a dubious source like The American Spectator, which had no fact-checkers or any other evidence of journalistic standards, Brock's pieces were easy to discredit but impossible to defuse. Once his bombshells were detonated, the trumped-up scandals rippled freely through talk radio and the Internet, then quickly seeped into the legitimate media and the halls of government, where they could do real damage. After the earth has been scorched and the tenor of political discourse axed at the knees, Brock has finally come clean about his past, first in a 1997 Esquire article called "Confessions Of A Right-Wing Hit Man," and now in the riveting tell-all book Blinded By The Right. Given his reputation, certain questions are unavoidable: Is his apology sincere, or yet another example of the mercenary opportunism that has fueled his career? Is the book a credible exposé of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," or merely an act of revenge on his former comrades-in-arms? Not surprisingly, opinion so far has divided strictly along partisan lines, with the most damning review coming from a Washington Post critic who conspicuously failed to mention his own history at the Spectator. Still given to hyperbolic language and stinging broadsides, Brock turns on himself for once, and the book's self-lacerating tone may be the strongest evidence of its veracity. His arresting mutation from a liberal idealist to a conservative activist and back again owes something to his polarized view of the world, beginning with his cartoonish description of Berkeley in the early '80s. Reacting against rampant political correctness on campus, Brock assumed his familiar role as a pariah, railing against leftist radicals through inflammatory pieces for the college newspaper. A talented writer with no formal journalistic training, he was recruited by Rev. Sun Myung Moon's The Washington Times during the Reagan years, and later jumped to an activist position at the Heritage Foundation, where he started writing freelance pieces for the Spectator. Incensed after the 11th-hour testimony of Anita Hill threatened to send Clarence Thomas the way of Robert Bork, Brock penned a vicious attack piece called "The Real Anita Hill," which included the infamous slur, "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty." Brock parlayed the article into a best-selling book, making him an instant celebrity in conservative circles and financing his posh Georgetown digs, referred to as "the house that Anita built." With the support of a single-minded cabal of lawyers, foundations, think tanks, and generous donors such as billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, Brock continued using unscrupulous tactics, which led to the ridiculous Troopergate fiasco and a well-funded "Arkansas Project" designed to bring down the Clintons. All the while, Brock says, he turned a blind eye to the intolerance and hatred ushered in by the religious right, which sought to limit the freedom that Republicans claim to value. At the heart of Brock's crisis of conscience was his homosexuality, which he kept closeted as he continued to do his work; when he was finally outed in the press, he wasn't ostracized by his far-right peers, who hypocritically accepted him despite their virulent anti-gay rhetoric. The cold shoulder came later, when Brock published The Seduction Of Hillary Rodham, which painted the first lady in a surprisingly sympathetic light, questioning the legitimacy of Whitewater and the other charges against her. Though his account can't be easily trusted, Brock's gradual turn to the left seems plausible in its pop-psychological details, and his depiction of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" is convincing in its intricate mechanizations. Opinions may vary over whether his penance is genuine, self-serving, or both, but Blinded By The Right apologizes with a candor that's undeniably revealing.

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