A new David Brock is rising. Among the neo-conservative movement's most
outspoken voices when he worked for the
American Spectator and the Washington Times, Brock shot to stardom with his
hatchet job, "The Real Anita Hill," and cemented it with his scurrilous
"Troopergate" report on Bill Clinton's alleged Arkansas sexcapades. The old
Brock was a trained attack-dog for the Right. The new Brock is
In his latest book, "Blinded by the Right," Brock describes how he abandoned
journalistic ethics to become a big shot in what he calls the "right-wing
Big Lie machine." In an interview with Working Assets Radio, the
self-described "hit man" for the conservative movement admitted Hillary
Clinton was correct when she claimed "there was a right-wing conspiracy"
behind the campaign to bring her husband down. While that
conspiracy may not have been that vast, it was tightly-knit, very affluent
and highly effective -- dogging a presidency and almost totaling a
With Brock now offering so many mea culpas, it seems churlish not to forgive
him. Political people have got to believe in redemption after all; if minds
can't change, then what is the point of argument?
The progressive public is resistant. "If you're saying you lied then,
why should we believe you now?" one caller from the San Francisco Bay Area
challenged Brock live on the air. It's a question that comes with any
political migration story.
"I am here voluntarily. I didn't have to do this. I had gotten away with a
lot of this," responded Brock, adding that he wants to dedicate as much of
the proceeds from his new book as he can to "good causes," including
projects to combat sexual harassment.
It's true, Brock got away with a lot of guff -- but not because
hardworking critics hadn't blown the whistle on his phony "facts." Many,
such as Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer of the Wall Street Journal, and the
media hounds at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting did just that,
dismantling Brock's elaborate constructions. However, these scattered
critiques were no match for the media "machine" behind Brock.
"There were people who called me to account," Brock said on the radio. "But those voices
were drowned out by media partisanship." The New York Times even gave
Brock's "Real Anita Hill" a rave review.
"Reviewers had to place a great degree of trust in my reliability as a
reporter, and unfortunately I let them down," Brock writes. In fact,
there was no "had to" about it; journalism is at least as open to critical
review as novels or films.
In the Spectator article on which his book was based, Brock called Hill "a
little bit nutty and a little bit slutty." It was nothing but "degraded
sarcasm -- inexcusable, disgusting," concludes Brock now. At the Times
and elsewhere, his reporting was taken seriously. Had Brock been an ace
for a left-wing rag as disreputable as the privately-bankrolled Spectator, he
would simply have been ignored at the Times, where valuable books from responsible progressive presses are thrown daily onto the reject pile.
To his credit, Brock outs a slew of once-popular right-wing pundits. By
Brock's account, Laura Ingraham has a screw loose; she threatens to break
all his windows after one of their wild nights on the town. Ann Coulter is a
virulent anti-Semite. "That she wanted to leave her New York law firm 'to
get away from all these Jews' was one of her gentler remarks," writes Brock.
And Brock, who is gay, describes TV talk show host Armstrong Williams
"peppering" him "with graphic questions about whether I was dominant or
submissive in bed."
These pundit pawns saw their stars rise higher the more invective they
hurled. The media outfits that hired them gave no similar pulpit
to even polite-mouthed pundits from the Left and Brock's tales certainly
illuminate this double-standard on what is considered acceptable political
behavior and talk.
But with their cheap work largely done and invective against dissenters
coming directly from the White House, the usefulness of these insta-pundits
was already diminishing before Brock's book appeared. Indeed, their
individual political fates don't much matter; the biases that corrupt our system
are institutional, not individual.
And, while Brock's tell-all book is a tasty read, the redemption of his
personal soul is not for us to grant him; his redemption in fact, is not the point. The habits of
mud-slinging perfected by Brock and his old gang smeared a president, but
they also injured untold numbers of people, lastingly and unjustly -- people who are in no position to forgive.
The "welfare queen," the "femi-Nazi," the "affirmative action hire," and
"killer kids" -- the right-wing Big Lie machine fuelled a decade of
about poor women, anti-violence activists, young people and advocates of
equal rights. Pathological lying became the stuff of politics -- not just
about a president's sex life -- but about why mothers go on welfare, who is
hurt by sexism and racism, and what is at the root of crime. That lying and
mudslinging translated into policies that are with us still -- and the
miseducation of a generation of voters, for which we continue to pay day
Forgive him? Sure. Yet, sadly, Brock's personal resurrection accomplishes
little; the damage has been done, as he himself found when he sat down to
read Anita Hill's own book, "Speaking Truth to Power."
"Learning about Anita Hill the human being behind the personal target was
just too painful," said Brock. So painful, in fact, that Brock couldn't
Perhaps the biggest cause Brock could contribute to now with his writing is
the humanizing of some other people, not only of himself.
Journalist Laura Flanders is the host of Working Assets Radio and author of "Real Majority, Media Minority: The Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting." Her Spin Doctor Laura columns appear daily on WorkingForChange. You can contact her at email@example.com
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