Book Reviews

Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative
by David Brock

Hardcover: 288 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.17 x 9.52 x 6.48
Publisher: Crown Pub; ; (March 5, 2002)
ISBN: 0812930991

Review by William A. Spriggs, January 19, 2003

Once again, let me remind readers of this web site that I do occasionally stray from the web site's theme and read other publications that do not appear to be related. However, if one assumes that innate evolutionary pressures guide many of our present human behaviors, then one can easily conclude that a book about exposing political "dirty tricks" by the conservatives at the highest level of American politics is right in our path of study.

And, boy does this book get primal -- down and dirty, would be a better description. What is important to readers of this web site is the relationship of this book -- a book about the highest levels of American politics -- and to the book titled Moses was a Right-Wing Conserevative. (See my review Sept. 3, 2001).(See my review Sept. 3, 2001). That book, to put into its simplest form, was about the lowest level of American politics -- politics mixed with American religious fundamentalism, and written by a man named, John L. Plough, who could easily be considered an obscure "front-line trooper." In comparing the two books, one can begin to construct the common thread in human beliefs that guide American politics up from the slime pits of religious extremism to right-wing conservatism. What one finds is that the innate expressions of hate of one's opponent appear to be the same but that the outward expressions of those hate expressions get more subtle and "polite" the higher the hierarchy.

Blinded by the Right, however, could easily be deemed a memoir and confessional of someone who managed to circulate in the highest levels of conservative hierarchies. If this were still the Cold War, and the author was a Russian, then David Brock could easily be the equivalent of a three-star general. The author, a former journalist for the conservative magazine, The American Spectator -- who curiously enough, began his writing career at the University of California, Berkley by being a left-leaning liberal -- describes in minute detail his captivation by the siren wail of money and power; he details how he was nurtured, mentored, and led by the Right down a path of conservative thought. He also relates a stunning fact on page 196: "All of us at the Spectator were in it together at one level or another, scamming Scaife. (Mr. Scaife was the financial backer behind The American Spectator).

You may recall that David Brock is the journalist who helped to discredit Anita Hill with his book, The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story, by injecting into the American cultural stream the "idea" that Ms. Hill was "a little bit nutty, and a little bit slutty" -- in other words, Mr. Brock was able to publish an American best-seller based upon the simple human predisposition for gossip; this totally "discredited" her testimony against the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. You may recall that Ms. Hill testified that Mr. Thomas made inappropriate sexual suggestive remarks toward Ms. Hill, boasted of his sexual prowess, and his shared his views about his obsession at viewing pornographic videos. In this case, "local gossip" and a well-oiled conservative media blitz was used "beat back" her testimony, and thus, to influence national affairs for years to come. Brock later discloses in this book, that in a phone conservation with the Supreme justice, Judge Thomas admits to Brock that the allegations made by Ms. Hill were true.

Brock, by his own confessional, (or is it delusional projection?) was responsible for his participation in the conservative, financially-backed "Arkansas Project" which led to "troopergate" and, more importantly, to the legitimizing (establishing a cultural norm) in the main-stream press that it was OK to investigate the private affairs of a sitting President. It appeared as if, after troopergate, Bill Clinton was wounded in the water, and the sharks could smell blood -- and that made it OK to attack the sitting President; this then led, or helped, to trigger the events that led to the impeachment trial of Clinton (Of course, Mr. Clinton helped to advance his own demise by dallying with Monica Lewinski). Brock admits that he was "thrilled" to be in the thick of things that swirled around the right-wing dirty tricks operations that moved below the radar screen during the Gingrich era -- and by being a true believer in the conservative agenda -- until he could no longer deny that the political force he was advancing was built on little more than lies, hate, and hypocristy.

The most important parts of Blinded by the Right come in the early parts of the book when Brock lays before the reader the basic philosophy of the modern American conservative movement. It is in this section that evolutionary psychologists can gain the most insight because basic "innate" thoughts, emotions, and political maneuver mechanisms are spread out before us like a buffet. In the following quote, Brock lays bare his general overview assessment of the people involved in the conservative movement:

The leaders of our (conservative) generation had been drawn to Washington, rather than New York, where politics, not ideas, are central. Yet we were different as well from past generations who had come to the capital to make their mark. High-minded ideals of public service and journalism were little in evidence, nor was there much concern or compassion for those less fortunate than us. for all our ferocious intensity, our hatred of big government and big media, our ideology was in a way empty, more an attitude, a kind of playground politics, than a philosophy of government. p. 33.

In another overview of conservatives, there are many references to the Democrats or the Left as "the enemy." As such, we find the conservative making references to "wars," "battles," and "struggles," with the "opposition." One must constantly be reminded that these are humans and not chimpanzees fighting for hierarchical positioning. What I am trying to place before you is evidence that innate "confrontational" motivations are at work. Some excellent examples:

Bo Hi Pak, The Washington Times' (a conservative newspaper based in Washington D.C.) president.....Pak described his challenge this way: "It is a total war, basically war of ideas, war of minds. The battlefield is the human mind. That's where the battle is fought. So in this war, the entire thing will be mobilized -- political means, social means, economic means and propagandistic means -- trying to take over the other person's mind. p. 23.


In a 1988 speech decrying the left's campaign against (Supreme Court nominee) Bork, Newt Gingrich captured well how we saw things in the movement: 'The left at its core understands in a way Grant understood after Shiloh that this is a civil war, that only one side will prevail, and the other side will be relegated to history. This war has to be fought with the scale and duration and savagery that is only true of civil wars. While we are lucky in this country that our civil wars are fought at the ballot box, not on the battlefields, nonetheless it is a civil war." p.47.


Weyrich...."We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are (conservative) radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of the country...He describes his views as Moaist..'"I believe you have to control the countryside, and the capital will eventually fall'...He advocated no-holds-barred tactics. 'I am struck by the fact that we have lots of people who want to be nicer than God. If you read Scripture, Jesus was not some sort of milquetoast person with supreme charity...He cut people in two'. p.54.

And finally:

"...but the Gingrich revolutionaries read the (1994) election results as a sweeping mandate for radical conservatism, slashing government spending, eliminating federal departments, and enacting huge tax cuts...Gingrich protégé Grover Norquist sent out an invitation to a post election party at his Capitol Hill home. Quoting from the movie Conan the Barbarian, it said: "TO CRUSH ENEMIES, SEE THEM DRIVEN BEFORE YOU, AND HEAR THE LAMENTATIONS OF THEIR WOMEN" (Capitals mine). p. 218.

So, as you can see, the examples above give excellent examples of "war conflict" mentality of the conservative thought. But if one looks very close, what you find is this: "War" victory represents the masculine innate past that shouts out and declares that "to the victor goes the spoils." and "Show no mercy to the enemy," etc. And if we translate that into a modern conservative mantra and distribute it to the masses, it comes out like this: unregulated capitalism combined with an attack on altruism. Nothing really changes: the basic motivation remains the same, (win at all cost to gain the best advantage for yourself, your clan, your village, and show no mercy for your opponent; Social Darwinism in the raw -- give every advantage to the rich; control the media to control the culture; control the courts, etc.) It is just that the shift in the timeline and culture changes the outward movements. The question we have to ask is this: Will this greed and the attack on altruism from our past be with us forever, or is it just the momentary "success" of a relatively few? Obviously, if we look around us, we find that the vast majority of humanity lives in a non-violent, altruistic world. Will good ultimately triumph over evil? I believe that as science advances, it will show us that compassion and diversity is the path that evolution is truly heading on.

But every "revolution" begins with the individual and the actions that they take. In conclusion of this review, we are also given a very close view of the internal struggle that the author confines to us as his thought process changes from "evil" that he has perpetrated, to his attempt to do "good" by writing this confessional. Throughout the book, Brock gives many examples of his desire for maintaining "high ideals" while "selling out" those ideals in order to advance in the conservative hierarchy. Here are two perfect examples.

My intense desire to succeed in my chosen career as a conservative writer, and to belong to my tribe, obscured any other feelings or values that would have complicated the picture, and I buried many of my beliefs to fit into the movement. p.46.


Rationalization and denial were no longer possible. The proverbial scales were starting to fall from my eyes. I was now on notice that my relationship to the conservative movement was not an alliance, but a misalliance. Yet I had gone to Provincetown to work on a draft of The Real Anita Hill. With rhetoric of the culture war, and whose constituency was in large measure about to jump ship on principle. What principle would that have been, after all? I was not a Log Cabin Republican, the openly gay men and women trying to liberalize GOP ranks. I was a closeted opportunist. I had no interior life to speak of -- my sole focus was outside myself, on my career, my book, my place in the conservative movement, my now tight relations with a circle of conservative friends. I had so little sense of self, particularly as a gay man, that I had no principle to defend. The die was cast. I chose to turn a blind eye to rhetoric and intentions that I knew were wrong. My book cemented my place on the wrong side in a culture war that was offically declaring gays as targets, objects of scorn, even persecution. I again put my conscience in abeyance, this time knowingly. p. 126

The above paragraph is perhaps one of the most insightful ever written (at least, one that I can recall) that describes a personal conflict of interest between one individual's internal "desire" to go in one particular direction, and yet the strong external forces at work in the group selection process that "forces" our species to go against "their individual better judgment." I believe that this an excellent example of human natural selection in motion (even though debate still swirls around human sexual orientation) as biological internal emotional pressures are being overridden by "external" -- meaning events outside the individual's personal experience -- that occur outside of the human brain. In this particular case, this male focuses on his quest for a hierarchy position at his local environment by "conforming," "assimilating" -- that is "changing" his behavior to match the "external forces" around him -- social norms -- the "required behavior" of the conservative movement. So, if one "high-ranking 'General'" in the conservative cause can "see the light" and defect from the old evolutionary path of total greed and the rejection of compassion for those less fortunate, is it possible that others could follow? I know so; time is on the side or love, peace, and the rejection of our violent biological past. Make love not war.

Overall, Blinded by the Right is long, "gossipy," and "chatty"; it is totally anecdotal in form as we would have to take Mr. Brock's word for everything. As such, it is not really suited for any interests except those who consider themselves political junkies who have an interest in evolutionary human behavior as well

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