November 10, 2004

Apology

On March 13, 2002, I wrote about ex-right wing rabid attack dog David Brock's book, Blinded by the Right, at http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/TotW/Daily_Journal_Folder/Daily_Journal2002FM.html:

We need to be reminded just how large a chunk of the Republican political establishment went a lot slutty and a lot nutty in their management and use of Brock when he was their mendacious pit-bull sliming every liberal he could find in the 1990s. The book is also quite scary, because the picture it paints of the moral state of the right wing in the 1990s is--if true--far worse and far more depraved than anything I had feared or imagined.

We knew that the right wing was happy to ally with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon--even though Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and others saw Moon's cult "a religious alternative to Communism"--against the real enemy, for they see the moral equivalent of Communists as much less threatening than American Democrats. We did not know that American Enterprise Institute fellows like Nick Eberstadt spent their evenings ridiculing their gay conservative friends behind their backs. And we did not know that conservatives like Elliott Abrams were deeply dismayed at the idea that the rot had penetrated so far that a conservative audience would applaud a known homosexual....

We knew that David Brock had lost credit among the right when his 1996 biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton was not vicious enough. We did not know that Simon and Schuster's publisher, Jack Romanos, hoped that Brock would be able to discover and reveal that she was a lesbian. And we did not know that independent counsel Starr's deputies called her "bitch" when her face appeared on TV.

How much of all this is true? The anti-semitism, the gay-bashing, and so forth is attested by many other sources. It is neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, after all, who is opposed to researching treatments for AIDS. The pieces of the book which are Brock recounting things he saw are likely to be reliable--he did see them, after all, and few have disputed his accounts of what took place. The rest? Unfortunately, here we have an author with a demonstrated inability to interview sources, unable to sift truth from falsehood. So as for the rest it is anybody's guess.

Now comes Nick Eberstadt, demanding an apology: "You should be ashamed of yourself. You tarnish my good name by taking as fact ("We did not know that...") what are in truth yet more lies from a self-admitted, promiscuous liar. My wife and I were very kind to David Brock for a number of years. That is a fact. He has since revealed himself to be what he is. What do you reveal about *yourself* in this careless, gossipy blog? You might want to think about that."

He's right. Let me apologize: I have no warrant for stating that I "know" anything that David Brock asserts, unless I have confirmed it by careful checking and independent evidence. I do remember thinking when I wrote the passage that the "if true" at the beginning of the passage and the "anyone's guess" at the end were sufficient markers of suspended judgment to drain the "we did not knows" of much of their force. But clearly not.

Posted by DeLong at November 10, 2004 09:47 PM | TrackBack
Comments

30 months after the subject passage was written he wants an apology? I'd say the statue of limitations has run out, or "a card laid is a card played," or something.

Posted by: Linkmeister at November 10, 2004 10:47 PM

My blog roll is predicated upon this. I expect you to make clarifications and corrections for the things that you have said in the past that were off. It's one reason I continue to return to this site. Kudos to you for not only reprinting Eberstadt's comments, but agreeing with them and responding to them in this way.

Posted by: Saam Barrager at November 10, 2004 10:50 PM

Nick Eberstadt's protestations aside, the right-wing's mean spiritedness, bad faith and dishonesty have been only too evident to those with eyes to see. They are only too anxious to be afforded a show of civility that we have long ceased to expect from them.

Having just finished reading David Brock's 'The Republican Noise Machine: Right_Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy', I found it a credible and well written book. It is no surprise that his former friends would want to discredit him.

I, for one, could care less whether or not Nick Eberstadt and his wife snickered about their gay friend's sexual preferences. One only has to look around to see what a godawful mess the Right has made of the whole goddam cake. Petty intolerance is a minor blemish by comparison.

Posted by: William E. Elston at November 10, 2004 11:33 PM

Never apologize to conservatives. They are all liars and thieves. Never forget that.

Posted by: Firebug at November 10, 2004 11:57 PM

You have admitted a mistake. This sends mixed messages to the troops. You must now be defeated.

Posted by: a-ro at November 11, 2004 03:47 AM

Yikes!

I realize that Professor DeLong did not post the entire demand for apology from Eberstadt, but if the major thrust of his counter argument to the Brock book was "my wife and I were very kind to David Brock for many years" well. . .Yikes.

"I was kind to that ungrateful cur. I was kind to my underpaid workers for many years giving them half a day off at Christams -- before they turned on me and voted to unionize. I was kind to my slaves and rarely beat them -- unless they deserved it. I was kind to that little homosexual boy and only ridiculed him to my wife behind his back -- until he turned on me."

"Kind" in the context used by Big Nick is always condescending and reeks of the righteous master "shocked, shocked!" by serving class betrayal. It is no suprise, and in fact very predictable, that the charge of "promiscuous liar" is levied against Brock by one who has not yet (and so, never will) turned to a deep personal examination of his own sincerity.

Compare Brock's Anita Hill book to "Blinded." Note the language of glib invective against someone Brock never knew vs the language of struggle to balance personal feelings of deep betrayal by himself as well as by others personally known to him. Look at Brock's Media Matters now. Even in a Sisyphus like frustrating battle of daily spin control, Brock struggles to counter right wing glib invective with reality based argument.

It is always so much easier to not think, to not explore -- particularly self-explore -- than it is to find free floating 'facts' and use 'attacks' by 'enemies' to shore up and justify an unexamined position. I did not "fact-check" Brock's book in relation to every personal relationship that he discussed in his book; I did respond and recognize his own struggle to find, first, personal truth in his late coming of age memoir.

Professor DeLong, with all due respect, I think the appropriate response to Eberstadt's bizarre twelve steps in reverse (make a list of all the people in your past who 'wounded' you and then contact them and demand an apology) mission would be to think, pityingly, "the unexamined life is not worth living," and then outloud say "Fuck off."

Posted by: Egg at November 11, 2004 05:02 AM

Prof, your caveats around that passage were quite sufficient. You owe Eberstadt nothing but the back of your hand.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at November 11, 2004 05:08 AM

a-ro right. You have shown yourself to be indecisive. Where is your steady blogmeistership in a time of change?

Posted by: Nancy Irving at November 11, 2004 05:43 AM

Since Prof. DeLong has a respect for verifiable facts over hearsay, this post is understandable.

But what I am waiting for is the apology the right-wing and conservatives in general owe the nation. They can start by sending apologies to the amputees and gravely injured at Walter Reed--and send a few condolensces to those who died in a war initiated on lies. They can continue with apologies to those they have conspired to prevent from voting via intimidation and various other schemes. Let them also apologize for being bedfellows of racists, warmongers and liars. Or for destroying our reputation worldwide. The list of their assaults on decency and democracy is virtually endless--and their hypocrisy in demanding respect is a shining, laughable lie.

I'm sure McCarthy felt persecuted too, but history tends to remember criminals accurately. And their protestations at alleged slights will be compared to the destruction they created.

Posted by: Tim B. at November 11, 2004 06:11 AM

Did Eberstadt specifically say that what Brock said was false? It seems he just objects to having someone go public with what he wanted to remain private.

There really is that feeling of entitlement -- the Brock should be grateful to his benefactors. It sounded virtually feudal, as if a nobleman were claiming that testimony against him from a caitiff commoner should be disallowed (a kind of claim which is routine in all heierarchal societies). He even went beyond disallowing testimony from the cur Brock, to insinuating that Brad's blog was in peril of being so branded too. After all, Brad is just a professor at Berkeley, not an actually important person. (Isn't the name DeLong French, BTW? ISn't France next, once we've pacified Iraq?)

Writers for the major media react similiarly when faced with free-lance media critics. Even virtually unknown writers from the not-quite-first-rank media (e.g. Norah Vincent from the LA Times)will pull rank on uneccredited critics. Unsurprisingly, media people have become more arrogant as their actual performance has deteriorated.

Posted by: Zizka at November 11, 2004 06:12 AM

Congratulations to Prof. DeLong for not behaving as though there is a minimum level of graciousness he need not rise above. His apology, and Mr. Eberstadt's mealy-mouthed complaint, speak for themselves.

Posted by: Anderson at November 11, 2004 06:35 AM

What everyone else said.

Brad Delong is a gracious fellow.

The slime machine of the Republican Party has not a single grace note in its savage music.

They've won. We've lost.

Lesson?

Fuck 'em.

Posted by: John Thullen at November 11, 2004 07:54 AM

Whethern required or not, Prof. DeLong's apology is far classier than the complaint. But what, exactly, does Eberstadt say is false? As far as I can see, he denies nothing that Brock says about him.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci at November 11, 2004 07:59 AM

Also look at the cold, depersonalized way this stupid fuck talks about Mr. Brock: "My wife and I were very kind to David Brock for a number of years. That is a fact. He has since revealed himself to be what he is."

What he is? Which of course is the word that shan't be said. We were nice to him. Then he told us "WHAT" he was (not who, cause gays belong 'man on dog').

Does this guy not realize what a total asshole he is? Mr. DeLong you are a classy guy but this piece of shit doesn't deserve the time of day from you.

Posted by: bo at November 11, 2004 08:03 AM

Whether required or not, Prof. DeLong's apology is far classier than the complaint. But what, exactly, does Eberstadt say is false? As far as I can see, he does not deny anything Brock actually said about him. Calling a man -- generally -- a liar is not the same as calling what he says -- specifically -- a lie.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci at November 11, 2004 08:04 AM

When Brock's book came out, I saw a lot of comments to the effect of, "If he was a liar then, how do we know he's not liar now?" I think this conditional exemplifies a lot of what is wrong with our relationship to the media at present. How we know is by making a judgement of the same type that we make about "real" people in our lives - we ask, for instance, what reason he might have for lying.

This kind of "we'll never know" shoulder-shrugging in the face of a call for judgement is laziness, a cop-out that lets us believe whatever feels good.

Of course we can't really know if Brock was lying in Blinded... but in it he gives a perfectly credible case for why he was lying then and isn't know. Choosing to forego judgement of his case on our part is the same kind of failure that we castigate the media for, when they offer us "Earth Flat: Experts Disagree" constructions.

Posted by: cerebrocrat at November 11, 2004 08:04 AM

This little exchange illustrates why the Democrats have been losing elections.

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky at November 11, 2004 08:05 AM

Hitchens on David Brock:

http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020527&s=hitchens

May 9, 2002
MINORITY REPORT by Christopher Hitchens

The Real David Brock

When incurable liberals like Todd Gitlin and Eric Alterman begin using the name Whittaker Chambers as a term of approbation, we are entitled to say that there has been what the Germans call a Tendenzwende, or shift in the zeitgeist. The odd thing is that they have both chosen to compare Chambers's Witness, a serious and dramatic memoir by any standards, to a flimsy and self-worshiping book titled Blinded by the Right, by David Brock. Meyer Schapiro, one of the moral heroes of the democratic left, once said that Whittaker Chambers was incapable of telling a lie. That might well be phrasing it too strongly, but I have now been provoked by curiosity into reading Brock, and I would say without any hesitation that he is incapable of recognizing the truth, let alone of telling it.

The whole book is an exercise in self-love, disguised as an exercise in self-abnegation. How could he, asks the author of himself, have possibly gone on so long in telling lies, smearing reputations and inventing facts? The obvious answer--that he adored the easy money and the cheap fame that this brought him--was more than enough to still his doubts for several years. However, his publisher seems to have required a more high-toned explanation before furnishing him with a fresh tranche of money and renown. And Brock's new story--that he was taken in by a vast right-wing conspiracy--is just as much of a lie as his earlier ones.

On page 128, Brock does what many defectors do, and claims that it was his party, not he, that had changed. The tone of the 1992 Republican convention was the alleged tipping point, with its antigay, anti-1960s, Christian Coalition themes. On page 121 Brock makes the demented assertion that the GOP had "virtually launched an antigay pogrom," before sobbing, "there was far less ideological affinity between the GOP and me than when I had first come to Washington. The party had left me and many other libertarian-leaning conservatives back in Houston." So at least that fixes a date, in what is a very rambling and egocentric narrative. And the date makes it easy to demonstrate that Brock is a phony. His early hero Reagan made alliances with Jerry Falwell, fulminated against the 1960s, refused to mention the term "AIDS" in public and encouraged Jeane Kirkpatrick's veiled attack on the "San Francisco Democrats" in 1984. As a longtime Bay Area denizen, Brock would have had a hard time missing that last reference, or any of the others. So he's plainly still lying about his past. He's also lying about his future: the "Troopergate" allegations appeared under his name a good while later than 1992, and sometime well after that he was billed as a featured speaker by the Christian Coalition.

Who is such a sap as to take the word of such a person? Brock masks his deep-seated mendacity from others and (perhaps) from himself by a simple if contemptible device of rhetoric. He switches between passive and active. Thus of one conservative smear-op, he tells us that "I allowed myself to get mixed up" in it. His masochism even permits him to say, at a reactionary award ceremony in far-off St. Louis, at which he somehow found himself, that "I was miserable. Yet this was how I made my living and it was who I had become. The conservatives had bought my brain." And paid well over the odds for it, I should say. Never mind, he always cheers up by letting himself be drawn in to another bad business. And here we get the same paltry narcissism in its opposite form: "I was a full-scale combatant, I had war-wounds to show for it, and I needed the thrill of another round of battle."

He finds it difficult to refer to himself--when he isn't crippled by self-loathing--without using the words "icon" and "poster boy." There are actually very few revelations in the book, unless you are surprised to learn that a cabal of right-wingers tried to frame the Clintons for killing Vince Foster. (Brock now prefers the even more far-out view that Foster was murdered by the Wall Street Journal.) Referring to the anti-Semitism of a famous conservative, he cites what might be a joke in poor taste and says it was "one of her gentler remarks." What, couldn't he have cited a more damning one? There are countless silly mistakes, including the date of Theodore and Barbara Olson's wedding, and many innuendoes, such as the (unsupported) suggestion that it is Richard Mellon Scaife who has committed not one but two murders. In his coarse attack on Juanita Broaddrick, whose allegation of rape was supported by several contemporaneous witnesses and has not yet been denied by Clinton himself, Brock does not even do the elementary work of stating the case he is trying to rebut. Instead, he inserts a completely gratuitous slander against a decent woman, all of whose independent assertions have survived meticulous fact-checking. The defamation game is still all that this creep knows. Etiquette requires that I mention a very rude description of myself, concentrating on the grossly physical, which includes the assertion that I am unwashed as well as unkempt. Those who know me will confirm that while I may not be tidy, I am so clean you could eat your dinner off me. Perhaps I did not want to put Mr. Brock to the labor of proving this. At any rate, I am relieved to find I am not his type. However, I forgive him this sophomoric passage because its empty hatred was so obviously feigned after the event, and because it describes me as five years younger than I am.

Still, I wanted to take an extra shower after trudging through this dismally written, pick-nose, spiteful and furtive little book. It glitters with malice and the more cowardly kind of "disclosure"; it's a dank, filthy tissue turned inside out. And it is all written allegedly as a defense of the Clintons' right to privacy! As someone who despised Clinton from the very first, I remember resenting the damage done by hysterical and fabricated right-wing attacks, which bought him time and sympathy. Anyone really interested in this period should grab the paperback version of Michael Isikoff's Uncovering Clinton, a verifiable story told by a serious journalist, who began by disbelieving the rumors and discovered by honest exertion that many of them, and some that had not even been suspected, were true.

Posted by: Peter K. at November 11, 2004 08:16 AM

Puchalsky is kidding, right? I thought the odious Kerry daughters were the real reason why the Democrats lost. Historical revisionism already.

Yeah, Hitchens is as impartial a critic as anyone could hope for, all right.

It's probably not checkable, but Brock says that he was living large when he was on the rightwing gravy train, and that his income plummeted when he changed sides. The "he was lying before, so he's probably lying now too" defense is a shyster standby, and usually not as powerful as it's claimed to be, especially when it's made by former accomplices.

Posted by: Zizka at November 11, 2004 09:07 AM

Thanks Chris. Are you ready for the same type of critical examination of your "ideological journey"? Or should I say "ideological journIES".

Didn't think so.

The word is 'hypocrisy'.

And your beautiful, arrogant, foot-stomping prose notwithstanding, there is ample empirical evidence for the charges Brock levels against the VRWC. Maybe you can ponder that over a few gin and tonics.

Posted by: Lewis Carroll at November 11, 2004 09:12 AM

Growing up in Kansas, when I became interested in politics in high school, I was nudged pretty firmly towards the radical right. I was taken to right wing meetings, including the John Birch Society - and later formed a YAF chapter in my high school. Going to college, I formed one there, but in time turned against the Vietnam War, and ended up with plenty of sympathies for both the anti-war left, with whom I cooperated on anti-war and anti-draft issues, and also with libertarians on their free market approaches. I went from being considered a real up-and-coming young Kansas conservative to a kind of turncoat. This was in the late '60s and early '70s.

This is a quick background for my credibility in saying that when I read Brock's Blinded By the Right, it felt all too true. I was never as high up as he in the ranks of right apparatchiks, but I was up high enough to hear plenty of unguarded comments and the like - and they were of a piece with what Brock reveals. What he describes IS how many on the right think, in private.

Further, when I was a young conservative the leading intellectuals were people like Freidman, Hayek, Mises, Kirk, and other serious thinkers. Today the contemporary equivalents are Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. This is indicative of a movement that has increasingly defined itself by what it is against rather than what it is for - and that what it is against is increasingly a caricature of liberalism rather than anything resembling real liberals. Hence its reliance on smear, lies, and invective. They no longer really have a strong intellectual foundation - hence their movement towards undefined "values" and incorporating the irrationalities of religious fundamentalism as key elements of their coalition. When a movement has inchoate ideas or none at all, it can grow best by spreading discord and anger - and any means are legitimate. These are not nice people at the top, no matter how personally charming they may appear.

I think Brock speaks the truth as he sees it - and the truth he reported was what I experienced, once I could step outside of my ideological blinders and ask: "what did I just hear?"

In my view, DeLong owes no apologies based on what he has reported in his blog above, and I regret he gave them, though it speaks highly of him personally that he did.

Posted by: Gus diZerega at November 11, 2004 09:35 AM

Has anyone ever walked into a bar right around closing time completely sober and ran into a ranting drunk? This sure reminds me of this:

"As someone who despised Clinton from the very first, I remember resenting the damage done by hysterical and fabricated right-wing attacks, which bought him time and sympathy"

followed with

"Anyone really interested in this period should grab the paperback version of Michael Isikoff's Uncovering Clinton, a verifiable story told by a serious journalist"

all in the same paragraph - i.e. right wing trashing of Clinton bad , but go read a book whose sources were those right wing trashing people

BTW, Isikoff, "A Serious Journalist"? - HA!

Posted by: David Baker at November 11, 2004 10:00 AM

Who is Nick Eberstadt? Seriously. Well, I'll tell you who he is now - the guy that Brock said talked bad about his gay friends behind their back. Do you know anything else about him? I don't.

With all due respect to him and to Prof. DeLong, I doubt anyway remembered or cared, or maybe even read about whatever it was that Brock wrote about him and that the Professor appears to have repeated 2 years ago.

Does Eberstadt believe this clarification helps his reputation? Certainly not his reputation for intelligence.

Posted by: Armando at November 11, 2004 10:29 AM

I have to agree with C.J.Colucci above. Nothing in Eberstadt's statement contradicts Brock's claim. Brock's claim is about fellow Republican's being friendly to him (or other gay Republicans) while ridiculing him (or them) in private. Eberstadt does not deny this. The proper thing would be withdraw the apology and demand satisfaction :-)

Posted by: JerryN at November 11, 2004 10:44 AM

Yup, Hitchens is what he is.

But, study his chewy, delicious prose. Emulate it.

And then spit it back at them.

Posted by: John Thullen at November 11, 2004 11:18 AM

From the Hitchens excerpt:

Those who know me will confirm that while I may not be tidy, I am so clean you could eat your dinner off me.

Ewwwww. Must. cleanse. brain.

Posted by: Jim at November 11, 2004 11:53 AM

I seem to recall Horowitz pulling a similar stunt back when Brock's memoir was more current. He even cited the third party to the alleged remark as a witness. Problem was, that third party, when asked, backed up Brock.

The thing about wingnuts is that they've grown used to a lazy media not checking up on their lies, and they figure trusting folks don't expect bald-faced lies. If Eberhardt isn't pulling them same stunt, he has his peers to blame for my not believing him for a second.

Posted by: TK at November 12, 2004 12:41 PM

The Moonies are many a depraved thing but calling the Moonies the "moral equivalent of
Communists" is really too much, unless Brad is hiding a few Moonie Gulags, several Moonie collectivization famines, and an assortment of Moonie wars in his back yard collection.

Posted by: Jeb Stuart at November 14, 2004 02:31 AM