April 8, 2002
10:17 PM   Subscribe

David Brock's book "Blinded by the Right" chronicles the laundry list of illegality he took part in as a part of the conservative machine, smearing both Anita Hill and Bill Clinton during the 1990's. He claims all the ridiculous things you've heard about "vast right-wing conspiracies" were true, and that it's time the truth come out. Is this guy for real, or blowing smoke up our collective asses?
posted by mathowie (27 comments total)
Paul Krugman had something to say about it in the New York Times. He doesn't let Brock off the hook by any means either.
posted by y2karl at 10:35 PM on April 8, 2002

He's for real, but keep in mind, he's just trying to sell his book, so I would take it with a grain of salt (as I do all conspiracy theories).
posted by insomnyuk at 10:41 PM on April 8, 2002

The issue with Brock is that when someone admits they lied frequently in the past, how can you ever believe anything they say ever again? He's just a little publicity queen, for all I can see. And it seems that many liberal journalist don't give a flying f**k what he says either. For some interesting takes on him, try Andrew Sullivan's take on him (scroll down a bit), or this piece from the WaPo. Also try this piece from someone who went to Berkely with Brock.

I also sometimes find myself in a similar predicament to Brock: trying to deal with being a politically conservative/fairly socially liberal gay man. I can't get with many conservatives, because of their flirtations with religious/social conservatism, and I don't fit in with most extreme liberals either. It's kind of a political rock and a hard place, one which someone like Andrew Sullivan usually manages to negotiate well. But Brock, while trying to negotiate one bad ideological line, now the other, screwed himself and his cred. In the words of the knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "He chose... poorly."
posted by evanizer at 10:44 PM on April 8, 2002

Not to put too fine a point on it: While George Soros was spending lavishly to promote democracy abroad, Mr. Scaife was spending lavishly to undermine it at home.

from Paul Krugman. Interesting to note that Ann Coulter, for one, was at one time one of the little elves in Scaife's workshop.
posted by y2karl at 10:48 PM on April 8, 2002

The issue with Brock is that when someone admits they lied frequently in the past, how can you ever believe anything they say ever again?

Indeed. In ten years will he pen another, claiming that THIS one was all a lie?
posted by HTuttle at 11:11 PM on April 8, 2002

Somehow I doubt it.
posted by y2karl at 11:19 PM on April 8, 2002

On the credibility issue - I just ordered it from Amazon so it'll be a bit before I read it, but it seems to me that I'll be able to judge it's authenticity like I would any other book; I'll look at what is sourced, quoted or documented. If, however, it's vague or hazy on names and places, then I believe that suspicion might be warranted. Has anyone here read it yet?
posted by stevis at 11:19 PM on April 8, 2002

I wonder how long its going to be before he gets hit with a few libel lawsuits. If he really went out of his way to slander people, especially calling Anita Hill a slut, someone is going to see a golden opportunity to milk his sorry ass.
posted by skallas at 11:26 PM on April 8, 2002

Basically, Brock's in a very similar situation as Jim Jeffords. The left will never really trust him or fully accept him because he's an admitted liar who has done them much damage over the years (not that Jeffords is a liar, but you're all smart enough to understand the comparison), and the right will never take him back because he's a turncoat. Brock also has the problem that much of what he now claims to be false has long since been proven true by other independent sources anyway.

For the record, I've never read a David Brock book, from either his Jekyll or Hyde phases, mainly because I did read some of his American Spectator articles way back when, and he came off as a sleazy muckraker even then.

He'll certainly make some cash off this book though. It's makes claims so many desperately want to believe are true that they'll happily pay up to feel vindicated.
posted by aaron at 11:27 PM on April 8, 2002

I highly recommend Joe Conason's "The Hunting of the President", which came out last year, as a far better researched and documented expose of how the rabid right wing attempted continuous political assassination against Clinton from the moment he began running for office. Unlike Brock, Conason has no journalistic baggage or credibility issues, and his book works hard to document and track down just what the hell happened during that 8- year- period.

evanizer: And it seems that many liberal journalist don't give a flying f**k what he says either. For some interesting takes on him, try Andrew Sullivan's take on him...

Andrew Sullivan, a "liberal journalist"? That's, um, a stretch to be sure. For that matter, Sullivan's own journalistic standing and credible is eroding rather fast, blog or no blog.

It's unsurprising that those who lean right- in particular those who he calls out in his book- are using a variation of the "little bit nutty and a little bit slutty" smear against Brock. Can't say it's not poetic justice or deserved, since apologies or no he did participate in the beginnings of this national travesty. A current rumor circulating among the hate-talk radio circuit is that Brock only is writing this book because he is/was sleeping with a gay former aide of Hillary Clinton (a charge Brock addresses in his book, because it was also pulled out way back when he first started departing from the right-wing hit machine) shows that the techniques Brock once used in service of attack politics are naturally being used against him.

Note that neither of the example links evanizer points to (or most any critiques of the book itself you'll find) address factual issues with the book itself, but instead simply make the [valid] point that Brock's word doesn't carry a lot of weight. Lots of people have attacked Brock's general credibility without addressing any of his factual claims directly (Timothy Noah of Slate being an exception, although his criticisms were of decidedly nitpicky nature, such as not if but when exactly he found out that Laura Ingraham participated in anti-gay activism at the Dartmouth Review).

Which makes Brock an interesting case; while anyone could and should admit that his testimony in and of itself is useless, much of what he has said is backed up by historical record that other, far more credible journalists have unearthed. This makes his personal recounts of the people behind the scenes more of a "fleshing out" (and make no mistake, Brock's book is not a scholarly, footnoted treatise but more of a personal confessional of what was seen and done as part of this movement) of the psychology behind these Clinton-haters than a bold and unsupported claim that stands alone by itself.
posted by hincandenza at 11:33 PM on April 8, 2002

so what's your point aaron?

perhaps the truth is: the republican party and their scary supporters are chasing all but their most conservative members from their ranks?

one hopes the presence of michael moore's "Stupid White Men" (speaking of books and amazon.com) at the very top of the NY Times bestseller list gives some hope for democratic voter turnout in 200 or so days..
posted by specialk420 at 11:46 PM on April 8, 2002

Brock was on The Daily Show last week, repeating pretty much the same things he has been saying since last July, when he went on whoring the excerpt of his book in the August issue of Talk Magazine. Even with his twice around the talk-show circuit, no one really knows what the whole truth is. I guess Brock can add a few more to the 911 reasons [via: Interesting Monstah/Caught in Between].
posted by tamim at 11:47 PM on April 8, 2002

I wasn't referring to Sullivan being a liberal journalist, but Tim Noah, Mickey Kaus and Jill Abramson. Noah's recent piece in Slate is a good one.

(aside: How is Sullivan's " journalistic standing and credible [sic]...eroding rather fast"? Have you been listening to Michelangelo Signorile?)
posted by evanizer at 11:53 PM on April 8, 2002

Part of a much longer piece on Brock and the free pass he's getting from the mainstream media, from the Media Research Center:
The host of a comedy show posed tougher questions to conservative-basher David Brock on Tuesday night than did Today co-host Matt Lauer or CNN’s Aaron Brown back in mid-March.

On the April 2 Daily Show on the Comedy Central cable channel, a mock newscast, host Jon Stewart asked Brock: "Is the left-wing innocent in all this?" He wondered: "Don’t they have their own team of guys trying to dig up dirt on the right? Isn’t this a relatively balanced operation?" When Brock disagreed, Stewart pointed out: "Hustler, Larry Flint, offered millions of dollars to people for sexual material on right-wingers, on Gingrich and those folks. There is some balance to it."


Back to Tuesday’s Daily Show on Comedy Central, like [Matt] Lauer and [Aaron] Brown, Stewart bought into Brock’s claims, but he at least suggested conservatives aren’t the only ones who do the awful things alleged by Brock.

Stewart’s first question, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "When Hillary Clinton went on the Today Show and went, ‘there’s a right wing conspiracy,’ everyone said [makes dismissive noise], but there was."

Stewart jokingly asked: "But is it ‘vast’ or is it, is it relatively narrow? Actually, it’s you and who else?"

Stewart pursued Brock’s claims that his Paula Jones reporting and defense of Clarence Thomas were inaccurate stories funded by one rich conservative: "Let me ask you this though, how did it get such legs, what’s frightening to me, is that, I’m assuming you’re saying these allegations are not true, how does it get such legs? How does this small, like you say, paranoid sort of guy, conspiratorial, very rich, get such play in the mainstream world?"
Again, this is only a chunk of a much longer report on Jon Stewart's interview with Brock. Read the whole thing. It's amazing that the most fair and balanced interrogation of Brock came from a comedy show host.
posted by aaron at 12:17 AM on April 9, 2002

evanizer: aside: How is Sullivan's " journalistic standing and credible [sic]...eroding rather fast"?

I've noticed that the [sic] tag is often used as a way of diminishing a point by harping on a minor typo. I noticed my own typo just after I hit post, but figured it was unimportant. Thanks for noticing, though.

As for Sullivan's credibility: Well, sure: most recently his critique of Michael Moore's new book, claiming it demonstrated Moore's liberal cowardice because it didn't address 9-11 enough. Yet somehow, he neglected to mention or (as a supposed "journalist" to research and find out the well known fact) that the books were printed before September 11th and contained no mention of 9-11 because Moore is not a clairvoyant. The books languished in a warehouse in a much publicized dustup with his publisher. It would have personally cost Moore $100,000 to reprint the books to include mention of 9-11, a fact Sullivan was completely unaware of despite his statements to the contrary after the fact.

More damning, however, was his attack on Bush-critiqueing NYT op-ed columnist Paul Krugman for his Enron ties. Now, while many a pundit- including Krugman- had taken Enron cash over the years, Sullivan chose to focus disproportionately on Bush-criticizin' Krugman. Krugman took $50,000 from Enron for two days work before he ever worked for the NYT, and cut ties to Enron when he started at the paper, fully disclosing this conflict-of-interest months before in other articles about Enron before it really exploded as a story late last year (meanwhile, Bill Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard had taken $100,000 from Enron and didn't disclose it). This sort of 'selective outrage' is bad enough, but what makes his very journalistic integrity questionable is that just a few months earlier, Sullivan accepted $7,500 from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturer's Association while writing pro- PhRMA articles on his site and at the Times, defending them against criticism in regards to their role in the global AIDS issue. When criticized, Sullivan lashed out at his detractors in predictable fashion. 6 months later he apparently had forgotten all about that little incident...

Lastly, check out the always intriguing and non-partisan spinsanity.org for many criticisms of Sullivan's less-than-stellar journalistic ethos.
posted by hincandenza at 12:29 AM on April 9, 2002

A relatively fair and balanced AP story on how political books on both sides of the political spectrum have taken over the bestseller lists of late. (It also notes the fact that "Bias" was #1 before Moore's book was relased. So much for turnout.)

Better read the link fast; Yahoo news links have limited shelf lives.
posted by aaron at 12:32 AM on April 9, 2002

aaron: Part of a much longer piece on Brock and the free pass he's getting from the mainstream media, from the Media Research Center:

Media Research Center... huh, that's Brent Bozell's little site, isn't it? Brent's mentioned in Brock's book, of course, and is heavily funded by Scaife money- a central target of Brock's book- as well as other grants from conservative outlets like the Olin Foundation or the Bradley Foundation. I don't think Brent mentioned this in his scathing review of Brock's book that starts "David Brock is a pathetic little man.". Quite the source you link to, aaron...

But like the attacks on Brock, those tidbits of info simply attack Bozell's credibility in general, without addressing the linked article. So I read Bozell's article at mrc, and it somewhat misrepresents the Brock/Stewart interview as being particularly challenging on Brock by Stewart (it should be available in full at comedycentral.com fairly soon in the "Archives" section). More to the point, it goes on suggest that the rest of the media is in cahoots with Brock's liberal conspiracy... short on actual documented facts, really, except two excerpts from Matt Lauer (?) and Aaron Brown. Bozell could have asked the journalistic question "How was Brock treated by FNC?"- I'm curious about this myself, actually, since I don't watch that channel- or "How does this less critical treatment compare with, say, how Bernard Goldberg was introduced before appearing to discuss his book, 'Bias'?". Strangely, MRC doesn't ask these questions.
posted by hincandenza at 12:55 AM on April 9, 2002

Bozell could have asked the journalistic question "How was Brock treated by FNC?"

He did, in the same article where he details the Matt Lauer and Aaron Brown interviews.
posted by aaron at 1:21 AM on April 9, 2002

Fair enough, didn't scroll up to see that. I'd still question a) MRC's general impartiality, and b) Goldberg's treatment by Lauer and Brown in particular, but in general as well. And I'm not talking about something like Sullivan pimping Ruffini's idiotic 'counting the terms liberal and conservative at Lexus-Nexus'.
posted by hincandenza at 1:44 AM on April 9, 2002

Is belief in something because it did happen better than belief in something because it's better to just believe? That ineffable question is why, as even a hard leftist, I cannot bring myself to hook, line and sinker myself with what amounts to little more than an opinion column, only printed upon hundreds of more pages. A term I've not used in years is evolutionary psychology. But it is that very fundamental streak in human nature to be dishonest, that causes me to look askance at any extreme one sided, well funded, better publicized treatise on why one side is the way it is and the other isn't. Human nature trumps all bets at getting at the impetus of sudden changes in idoelogical proclivity. Call that explanation simply a long winded way to express my disinterest in reading 'Blinded by the Right'.

How is it then that the sociological truth can be arrived at? It can't. There is too much to know, too much that circumvents the radar of any study into why one side behaves or exhibits certain symptoms the way that it does. The moment you formulate a hypothesis and send it to print is when you realize how much you've left out. Which is why it is a horrible choice of links to link to the MRC. I've never seen such loaded language meant to sway opinion of people who more likely than not, the political bent of the general media is moot. The news we get on those outlets is not the real news anyhow. So whether or not the news is leftistly (not a real word) biased, the way the media is and has been is just fine for the ideologues who run organizations and think tanks like the MRC (who still are their blustery selves), as Bush does have a high seventies approval rating and Ralph Nader's book blitz looks to be quite the flash in the pan. Not to say the two are at all interrelated. Besides it's still to early to tell anyhow. Dynamism. Dynamism. Dynamism.

Wrapped up like a douche in the middle of the night

I can't leave a bookstore these days without singing that non-line to myself.
posted by crasspastor at 4:24 AM on April 9, 2002

Political flip-flops by pundits are nothing new. In the early stages, the pundit publishes a book or an article declaring his newfound political intentions. Sometimes, the pundit will pull off something sensational, such as what Eldridge Cleaver did in 1975 when he stepped off a plane after a long exile from the States and declared himself a conservative and a born-again Christian. (And in Cleaver's case, after his death, it's rather interesting that Soul on Ice remains in print while his tell-all memoir of conversion, Soul on Fire, does not.)

A series of op-ed columns generally follow after this affirmation. Many of them are lambasting and defamatory. But since the American public has such a short-term memory, even gasbags like David Horowitz are allowed to wax on to the public in time, with readers wholly unscrupulous of the pundit's roots or little realizing that the newly transformed pundit's may just involve cashing in.

Brook, it would seem, is no exception. The book's sales figures speaks mountains.
posted by ed at 4:55 AM on April 9, 2002

I haven't paid much attention to Brock for two reasons: his lack of credibility and the fact that his allegations in Blinded by the Right are old news. It was blatantly obvious during the Clinton presidency that Scaife and others were bankrolling disreputable people who would do anything they could to damage the Clintons and other Democratic targets.
posted by rcade at 5:21 AM on April 9, 2002

America has dumbed-down politics so that its nothing more than a football game. People root for parties with not much more thought put into it than why they root for the Redskins...

What Scaife and his minions did was high treason, and they did it in broad daylight and got away with it. Bin laden owes Scaife a great deal of gratitude, IMO and I'm certain Scaife is on Bin Laden's Ramadan Card list each year.
posted by BentPenguin at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2002

Both these things are true:

There was a vast right wing conspiracy.

Clinton is a crook.
posted by Ty Webb at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2002

::cue voice of Captain Renault::

I'm shocked - SHOCKED! - to find that there's gambling going on at Rick's Cafe! Round up the (ahem) usual suspects.

The right doesn't have a monopoly on fatuous gasbaggery, or even treason. It does seem, however, that the democrats are more prone to petty criminality and thuggery, while the republicans, high treason and persversion of justice. Why is that?? Sometimes, I just wish Cheney would, I dunno, make an assload of money in a land scheme or something. Something uncomplicated. Something human.

In any event, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to think that both sides have well-financed operatives digging/dishing dirt - it just makes good political sense. We laughed at H. Clinton for her "vast right-wing conspiracy" comment not beacuse we didn't believe one existed (of course it does, not that vast, though) but because she was so whiny about it - hello kettle, this is pot: you're black! Brock's credibility as a journalist was obviously suspect from the beginning, and once that taint is laid, no amount of mea culpa-ing can erase it. So, he was a paid shill for some right-wing snipers? I believe I saw that theory posited first in Duh Magazine. What this book is, is career damage control. And I hope it's not working. As an ex-journo, I think one of the most important responsibilities of the working press - and one they shirk so extravagantly so often - is to remain as independant and objective as possible. Not to roll into a massive critique of the modern 4th estate, but their job is to provide their customers with the best, most accurate and most timely news as is possible, and they simply aren't doing it. Now, there's nothing wrong with being a reporter for a periodical with a PoV; it's quite another to knowingly provide bad information to you customers in the service of that PoV to the detriment of those you purport to serve. That's fraud.

I hope he put away some of that Scaife money in some good tax-free corporate paper :)

Bin laden owes Scaife a great deal of gratitude

Perhaps it's time for Godwin's Law to have a corollary?
posted by UncleFes at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2002

'Godwin's Law to have a corollary?' yeah, this FFP should be a benchmark.
posted by clavdivs at 9:18 AM on April 9, 2002

People root for parties with not much more thought put into it than why they root for the Redskins...

Go Democrats!
Go Skins!

Oh, I see... I think.

(go team, kick their asses)
posted by owillis at 9:28 AM on April 9, 2002

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