uses of sex-talk in the high calling of disparaging it is nicely
illustrated by Frank Rich of the New York Times, who has
written about the (brace yourself) re-re-defection of author David
Brock. Mr. Brock, in his ongoing confessional book, writes now,
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative.
Some years ago, as editor of a magazine, I published a searching
review of British libel law. Now it isn't easy to do this without
citing examples of what has been ruled libelous by the courts, or
what barely escaped being ruled libelous. The essay, written by
a distinguished British historian, begot criticism in England for
having repeated libels. The critics had a point: If you quote
somebody as having written, "Alice Wolverine made her living
as a whore," even though Alice sued and won a judgment, it
is difficult to explain how the libel was defended, or prosecuted,
without repeating the bad tale about not-bad Alice.
critic Frank Rich is terribly anxious to make sex-oriented points,
in order to deplore their being made. Here is what he has to work
David Brock first got public attention by writing a book, the finding
of which was that Anita Hill, the alleged victim of Clarence Thomas,
was "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty."
Two things then happened. David Brock decided to atone for his past
attack on Miss Hill, and incidentally on Hillary Clinton, to which
end he wrote another book and an article for Esquire called "Confessions
of a Right-Wing Hit Man." Here he appeared as St. Sebastian,
waiting, eyes lifted to heaven, for the arrows that would martyr
him. But before the arrows came to an absolute rest, a second thing
happened another confession, the new book turning, apparently,
this way and that, on this and that, redefining the Brockian view
of things. It is treated by Mr. Rich with the exegetical curiosity
one might show to a Vatican III.
Now it is sort of essential to the fresh view of Brock that he be
recognized as a self-declared homosexual, which makes it easier
for Mr. Rich simultaneously to deplore all the political/cultural
commentary that writhes in and out of public figures' sexual lives.
He does this by giving out the names of public figures who were/are/may
be gay, adulterous, or hypocritical. This permits him to tell us
that he is glad that the Nineties are at least temporarily behind
us, the Nineties being the decade in which Anita Hill was written
about as sluttish, and Bill Clinton as a libertine. He has, providentially,
an opportunity to talk about people and things he doesn't like,
where possible dredging up a sex angle. He does not like the Washington
Times, so he runs over Arnaud de Borchgrave, its sometime editor,
because . . . because the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose movement owns
the Times, officiates over multiple-marriage ceremonies.
The Nineties was when "the hottest partisan battles"
we can now see "revolved around Long Dong Silver and
Paula Jones, not Stalin." That gave us a chance to talk about
Long Dong Silver. And, while at it, to say that Clarence Thomas
rented some porn videos, though Brock denied this (the second time
around) and now repudiates his denial.
This permits us to denounce people who denounce sexual misconduct,
along the lines of, "A Richard Mellon Scaife-financed talk-show
bloviator and cut-and-paste writer like William Bennett," whom
you would not recognize as having been a professor of philosophy
at Boston University and a former secretary of education. And we
are reminded that Whittaker Chambers (in his youth, this being something
we are not reminded of) had homosexual experiences, as did Allan
Bloom, and that Rudy Giuliani is a womanizer, also Newt Gingrich,
also Henry Hyde and Robert Livingston, that Roy Cohn was a homosexual,
also J. Edgar Hoover, as also one of Phyllis Schlafly's children.
We are quite carried along, but then we learn that Brock's slur
against Anita Hill was motivated by the desire to "force the
conservatives to love a faggot whether they liked it or not"!
This should not have worried Brock, Mr. Rich tells us, because far
from being ostracized as a homosexual, he was courted à
outrance! At a party at his Georgetown home, he had to eject
a conservative columnist "after he pushed me onto a bed, into
a pile of coats, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat."
And that became a way of life for poor Brock, as for instance his
problem with "the closeted pro-impeachment Republican congressman,
who had pursued me drunkenly through a black-tie Washington dinner,
offering a flower he had plucked from a bud vase, condemning Clinton
for demeaning his office."
Frank Rich is glad that that kind of thing is behind us, at least
for the time being.