If you dont recognize Brocks name or from his contributions to Esquire, Rolling Stone, Talk, New York Times, Washington Post op-ed pages, or National Public Radio, to name a few, you very likely might know him as the author of “The Real Anita Hill“ and “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.“
Both are infamous, and for completely different reasons. As a right-wing journalist who was also a closeted gay man, he was a puppet of his movement, his star rising when he trashed Anita Hill out in his first tome and earned a rep for his soundbite description of his subject as a “little bit slutty and a little bit nutty.“ Later, he wrote the Troopergate story for American Spectator, which led to the book on Hillary Clinton, where his conscience caught up with him. When the work turned out to be a rather fair, impartial accounting, Brock fell out of favor with his Republican friends faster than you can say “Roy Cohen.“
All of which paved the way for this True Confessions-styled mea culpa memoir of Brocks own ascendency (if you will) to a world of deceit, dangerous agendas, and deeply disturbed politicos. The first words of the prologue are “This is a terrible book. It is about what the conservative movement did, and what I did, as we plotted in the shadows, disregarded the law, and abused power to win even greater power.“ Nuff said - we know theres a train wreck coming.
Brock is a detailed and colorful storyteller, and his is an insiders perspective with pedigree. In the first chapter, “The Making of a Conservative,“ he tells of his days as an enfant terrible in the journalism department of Berkeley, where he began to conform his own moral and political views and leanings to those who gave him attention and responsibility. This was the genesis for a dangerous pattern that was to solidify over the next 15 years or so. In this excerpt, he describes how shady behavior and conservatism began to morph together for him as he battled an effort to remove him from the helm of the student paper:
“To me, liberals were flatly and unapologetically advocating censorship of opinions they considered illegitimate and immoral, a rerun of the Kirkpatrick incident. The argument went: An editor at a newspaper with a 150-year progressive tradition should not be allowed to publish such obscene views. I was branded a warmonger, a fascist, and worse. I was determined to stand my ground and fight, all the more so because, as I saw it, the fight was not about Grenada, but about the First Amendment. Viewing it this way, as a moral rather than an ideological struggle, I became as self-righteous and rigid as my critics, who in my eyes were not just wrong but un-American. I survived the threatened recall only on a technicality. The bylaws governing the cooperative had no provision for removing editors, and they could be amended only at the end of the academic year when new editors were elected. Continuing on as editor, I accepted and even embraced the controversy I incited, willfully doing everything I could to enhance my outsider status. I baited my liberal adversaries, publishing a diatribe against a board of regents proposal to strengthen affirmative action programs. Meanwhile, every editorial decision I made was seen by many on the staff as motivated by an evil right-wing plot. Being an outspoken conservative in Berkeley got me noticed, which I relished. I imagined myself as David against the liberal Goliath. By the end of my junior year, I had become both a hated -- and, I‘m sorry to say, something of a hateful -- figure in the newsroom. I demonized my enemies on the staff, led by a bubbly blond from Pasadena and a brooding Hispanic fellow, both of whom I openly and wrongly scorned as witless affirmative action hires. I was also caught in an embarrassing lie. A small cadre of loyalists had stuck by me through the Grenada controversy. As a way of building up my power base, when a problem arose in a story one of them had written after it was published, I sought to tarnish the reputation of one of my foes, who had edited the piece. I told the editor in chief that the vice chancellor had called to complain about the story. She immediately called the university official and found out the truth: He hadn‘t called. When the editor confronted me about the lie, I froze, speechless, and walked away. Soon enough, everyone in the newsroom knew I had lied. Though my poor cadre knew about my lie and voted for me anyway, I lost overwhelmingly in my campaign to be elected editor in chief. For good measure, the bylaws were amended to provide for the removal of editors on a majority vote of the staff: the Brock Amendment.“
From that point on, Brock built a career on suppressing his own liberal social values to climb up the ranks in the conservative movement, something of an “All About Eve“ meets “All the Presidents Men.“ It really isnt a pretty sight, no matter which way you turn. Brock absolves Hill, vilifies Clarence Thomas, names a whole lot of names, exposes himself as “the center of the right-wing dirty tricks operation of the Gingrich era“ as well as an integral part of the events leading to President Clintons impeachment, and goes on the attack on a dizzying number of topics, most notably the poisonous political climate that ousted Al Gore from the White House and ushered in a Republican successor. Some have bandied back, charging that if Brock lied for so many years, how could we possibly believe him now, but to be fair, he shines the light on himself with an equally unrelenting glare, and it is in some of these sections that the author earns the most empathy, if not sympathy, from the reader. As a “witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine,“ Brock not only lost his soul, he also sold it, and in that regard, we can only wonder if this outing (no pun intended, as he also masterminded the spin around announcing his sexuality to the world) of his past sins has brought him the redemption that he ultimately could not find in the cause in which he was once a true believer.