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There’s a lot going on here, so let me sort it out. For starters, even if “hard-core” liberals may not feel a need for a separate network, as Kurtz remarked, a great many of them will be happy to tell you that papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times are too right-wing for their taste. The contretemps over the Post’s review of the Brock book is a case in point. The reviewer, Bruce Bawer, who is openly gay, dismissed the book as nothing more than posturing and humbug. Rather than address the points Bawer raised, Brock’s defenders (and Brock himself, even though in his famous opening he admits his book is “terrible”) immediately cried foul and charged that Bawer had concealed his one-time connection as movie critic of The American Spectator — the same magazine he roundly denounced after breaking with it and the right in 1990. Bawer would have a conflict of interest only if he still defended the magazine, which his review made clear is the last thing he would be prepared to do.
In any case, so much for Brock’s gratitude to Bawer for his pioneering work. Meanwhile, the Post, in Kurtz’s reply as in an earlier reply, paid lip service to the possibility of conflict, though without doing anything to satisfy the Brock contingent. (There is a wonderful obsessiveness in this “conflict” business: The New York Times Book Review yesterday ran a fawningly pro-Clinton review in which the reviewer, William Kennedy, a well-known novelist, is first described as “one of 40 Irish-Americans who traveled to Ireland with President Clinton in 1995.” If not for that trip, evidently, Kennedy would today be working for Kenneth Starr.)
Brock and his fanatical defenders now complain that the right is not reviewing his book. But why should it? What should one do after being stabbed in the back? Turn around to get stabbed in the stomach and chest?
The Bawer example offers ample reason to ignore Brock. In his book Brock describes Bawer’s departure from the Spectator as a specimen of the “magazine’s earlier history involving one gay conservative writer.” He mentions asking me about Bawer and then shrugging off my “awkward” response and probing no further. “I wasn’t going to let possible prejudice against another writer, whom I did not know, upset my world,” he confesses. That’s the extent of what he has to say about Bawer in his book.
Yet in his complaint to the Post, he outright lies (as he reportedly did when asked about the review in an appearance on C-Span): “My book also contains a passage that puts the credibility of Bawer’s published account of his controversial departure from the magazine in question.” No wonder he now finds Clinton appealing. He does no such thing in his book, but apparently thinks that because he asked a third party about Bawer that meant he was questioning his credibility. This is someone who deserves critical engagement?
Any talk respectable liberal opinion would have sympathy for Brock was put to rest in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review by this passage in Frank Bruni’s review regarding Brock’s purported “awakening at long last to the concept of integrity”:
“A less charitable interpretation might be that Brock wanted a new act, and found it in self-flagellation. For a photograph that accompanied a 1997 article in Esquire in which he first began to confess his right-wing sins, he let himself be tied to a tree and surrounded by kindling, the pose of a heretic on the precipice of immolation. He subsequently wrote yet another confessional for Esquire. ‘Blinded by the Right’ is only his latest stab at a rather theatrical brand of contrition.”
Written out of polite company, Brock is now stuck with a collection of defenders who make themselves heard at a website sweetly named Media Whores Online — it’s the place to go to keep up with the latest on Brock’s book, with links to most every review now out. In best leftist fashion, this website keeps its identity obscure — though one will be hard-pressed to find a more unadulterated practitioner of the agit-prop style. Who is not with them and with Brock or Clinton or Conason is against them and must be crushed — or at least inundated with e-mails demanding a retraction, an abject apology, and (in the case of the Washington Post Book World), a new review and erasure of the offending original from its archives.
Media Whores Online was first out of the gate denouncing Bawer’s review — though it never did link to Bawer’s immediate reply posted on Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews.org. By that point, it was attacking Robert Ray for his final report and Susan Schmidt’s reporting on Clinton.
By hard-core standards, the gigolos at Media Whores Online display occasional wit, if unwittingly. Still on its main page is a photograph of a bumper sticker displayed on a rear window. “I Believe David Brock” it reads, just the sort of thing that could make a jealous Anita Hill act a bit nutty.
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