The Unreal David Brock 

David Brock lied when he wrote about Anita Hill. He played it loose when he covered Bill Clinton. Then he misled us when he apologized for lying. What are we to make of his memories of Berkeley?

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But here again, Brock's account is disputed by other participants. About the only thing Brock's fellow exiles agree about is that the weekly they started was called the Berkeley Journal and that Brock was its publisher.

Steve Kettmann, the short-lived Journal's only editor-in-chief, said about ninety percent of the money used to finance the newspaper -- not magazine -- came out of the staff's pockets, not from conservative alumni. "Brock's primary job as publisher was to sell ads, which he did, and we had a few of those, which raised a little money," says Kettmann, an occasional contributor to the Express. "I can believe he raised some small amount of money from alumni, though I do not recall any talk of that at the time." Former managing editor Lisa Leff says that as a proud progressive she would have raised a stink if anyone had raised money from conservative alumni. "I think I would have wrestled with that if it were true," Leff says.

Kettmann's bigger beef is with Brock's description of the Journal as "neoconservative." Kettmann says that except for Brock, everyone at the Journal was a Democrat. He says the staff was "on the left without a doubt," although he concedes that staffers were "put off by the mannerisms of the student left at the time." Kettmann and Pete Danko, a senior editor at the Berkeley Journal, said they considered the authoritative, objective tone of The New York Times their news model. "We wanted to take stuff that was sexy, and make it nonsexy," Danko chuckles.

A review of the Berkeley Journal's thirteen issues show that the paper's ideology was more politically correct than neoconservative. The paper came out in favor of making ethnic studies a graduation requirement, and argued for paying female university employees the same as men doing comparable work. Perhaps the one exception was Brock's Journal cover story, "How Jeanne [sic] Kirkpatrick Haunts UC Berkeley: The Debate Over Free Speech Rages On" and an accompanying editorial urging tolerance for unpopular views on campus. (Brock was not responsible for the misspelled headline.) Brock's only other feature story for the Journal was a fashion puff piece in which he announced that long hair for men was making a comeback.

Kettmann recalls that Brock had a personal interest in adding a story on the Kirkpatrick fiasco to his personal clip file. "Brock did not write the Daily Cal story on the Kirkpatrick incident," Kettmann wrote in an e-mail. "That is one reason he wanted to do a big story on the topic for the Journal."

The next year, Brock authored a 3,000-word story for the neoconservative Policy Review on conservatives being shouted down on college campuses. The Policy Review article led to a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, which led to Brock's job at the Washington Times, which led to his job at the American Spectator, which led to the vast right-wing conspiracy, which led to the national debate about whether oral sex counts as sexual relations. You get the picture.


In a society where tell-all confessionals regularly reach the best-seller lists, Brock revealing unflattering facts about himself is hardly proof of his credibility. But it definitely is shrewd marketing. Bruce Bawer, a former American Spectator contributor, put it nicely in his Washington Post review of Brock's book: "He quotes the worst things critics said about him, and agrees with every word. In a strange way, it's both too much and, somehow, not enough."

Ever since his college days, Brock has displayed a knack for making stories ostensibly about someone else revolve around him. In his apology to President Clinton in Esquire, for instance, he boasts, "I made Paula Jones famous." An episode from the Daily Cal also fits into his Brock-centric view of the world.

After Brock's Grenada opinion piece, his Daily Cal critics plotted to have him recalled from his new post as university editor. But the embattled Brock survived, as he remembers, because the paper's bylaws didn't allow for the ousting of sitting editors. Brock wrote in his book that after he finished his term as university editor, the bylaws were amended so that sitting editors could henceforth be ousted, a change he describes in his book as "The Brock Amendment." Jose Novoa, a Brock foe at the time who later became editor-in-chief, said nobody ever used that term, but that it's indicative of Brock's general self-image. "Brock played pretty fast and loose with the truth," Novoa says. "He had this vision of himself as the center of the universe."

If Brock were really coming clean now, why would he lie again about something that happened almost twenty years ago? Somewhere along the line, maybe he started to believe that he'd played a greater role in the coverage of the event that helped send him on a right-wing trajectory.

"I think this became a turning point for David retrospectively," says Pete Danko, who worked with Brock at the Daily Cal and the Berkeley Journal. "It fits the story nicely of David's twists and turns through the years." Daily Cal and Berkeley Journal veteran Jack Robinson adds: "I think he was looking for a niche to sell himself. He was looking how to package himself in a way that was most attractive. I think it was pure opportunism on his part."

Many of Brock's old college pals view his recent conversion skeptically -- just as they viewed his crossover to conservatism skeptically two decades ago. "As for us as students, it was widely accepted as a given that if you were ambitious, you embraced conservative thought because it would be far easier to get a job in Washington, climb the ladder, et cetera," Kettmann recalls. "I do not remember who actually put it this way, but I recall telling Brock that an established intellectual or journalist had told me at that time, 'If I were a young intellectual on the make now, I would have to embrace neoconservatism.' "

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