How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace)

How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace)

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by Harry Stein

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As a journalist in an industry populated by liberals, Harry Stein carried the left-wing banner in his life and work. Then he became a father, and suddenly the Right sounded right. Even worse, the Left was starting to sound -- and look -- wrong.

Stein cuts through the distortions on both sides and fearlessly tackles such provocative topics as feminism,

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As a journalist in an industry populated by liberals, Harry Stein carried the left-wing banner in his life and work. Then he became a father, and suddenly the Right sounded right. Even worse, the Left was starting to sound -- and look -- wrong.

Stein cuts through the distortions on both sides and fearlessly tackles such provocative topics as feminism, affirmative action, PC education, gay rights, and sexual McCarthyism, and shows how liberating it is to no longer have to pass as a correct thinker. Daring, brilliantly argued, and savagely funny, How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy will resonate with many who have witnessed the social revolution of the past thirty years and questioned its outcome -- even if only secretly.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The journey from liberal to conservative chronicled here by Stein is a journey already described by others such as Norman Podhoretz and David Horiwitz. Though thus predictable, Stein's account is nevertheless amusing. He relates personal anecdotes about growing up, raising children and relating to friends and colleagues, but also touches on current events, culminating in the sexual transgressions of Bill Clinton. The light tone and humorous prose eventually wear thin, however, and Stein sets up a straw man in his attacks on the Left. Essentially, Stein paints himself in his liberal days as a man with ideological blinders firmly in place, and he skewers liberals in general as if they all wore the same blinders. For example, in claiming that liberal psychology undermines personal responsibility by abjuring everyone from fault for everything, he presents an extremist position. Stein himself states at one point that extremists on both ends of the ideological spectrum deny "a fair hearing to alternative views on complex social issues"-yet he is guilty of the same error. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
A right-of-center, funny, seriously iconoclastic memoir aimed at the prevailing progressivism. Journalist and novelist Stein (Infinity's Child, 1996, etc.) was raised a traditional liberal and still dislikes Pat Buchanan. Yet, after reaching fatherhood, he broke with the Hillaryism that would have consigned his offspring to an infancy of day-care followed by a multicultural curriculum bereft of dead white men's objective values—and soon found himself damned by liberal friends and their thought police as a conservative. Most of Stein's rightward shift was influenced by family life. He and his wife Priscilla didn't divorce (even though their therapist deemed it better for self-fulfillment), and Priscilla actually quit her job to raise their children. Despite all the feminist gender-bending, Stein found himself relieved to see that his children played at traditional sex roles. Stein was an early supporter of racial integration, and he takes pride in the fact that his children have black friends. He regrets that a moral giant like Dr. King (despised by radicals nowadays, along with Clarence Thomas, as an Uncle Tom) was replaced by "race hustlers," and among his satirical creations is an application for college admissions and jobs wherein one can surrender one's space for affirmative-action minorities. Stein sees the multicultural dumbing-down extending beyond curricula, to the extent that the leftist New York Times treats gangsta rap like high culture. The author's reading pile has shifted too, and he surveys the newsstand for centrist conservative values, xenophobic rightist trash, and the self-righteous leftists whose "group-think tends to promotefierceobjection to heretics." Progressive intolerance is a major theme here, as seen in Nat Hentoff's excommunication for opposing abortion and in the general attack on Tipper Gore's objection to obscene rock lyrics. All but the most humorless progressive Ayatollahs should enjoy and take some moral correction from Stein.

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Harry Stein
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It's all my wife's fault.

I realize this may sound petty and, even worse, smacks of that cardinal sin of the age, a refusal to take personal responsibility.

But—what can I tell you?—she's the one who introduced me to the universe of kids.

And for me, as for so many others, that was the beginning of the  end.

The beginning of the beginning was almost two years before: the spring evening in 1979 I first spotted her outside a movie screening—heart-stoppingly beautiful in a blue dress, head tilted back in laughter. At that moment, I was utterly at peace with my world. Impeccable liberal credentials in order. The old certitudes unquestioned. Lots of people who mattered in my business thought of me as a good guy, and my career was booming.

A mere couple of Super Bowls later, under her influence, I was writing stuff that was not only eliciting hate mail from strangers but alienating old friends.

How'd she do it? How'd she turn me into someone destined to be  reviled in The Village Voice as "a well-known asshole"—and, even more pathetic, actually reduced to finding solace in the words "well-known"?

As a couple, we started out conventionally enough. When Priscilla arrived at an Indian restaurant on New York's Upper West Side for our first date, minus makeup and in sweater and jeans, she looked so different from the evening we'd met I was momentarily disappointed. But by the time the tandoori chicken was on the table, I was already impressed by her quirky humor and fierce critical intelligence. We were both grizzled veterans of the dating wars and before the evening's end confessed how sick we were of having to produce an entertaining version of our checkered past for each new romantic prospect, agreeing that, for all our supposed liberation, love had surely been much more blessedly simple, and probably more thrilling, in our grandparents' day.

Yet it was a moment on our second date that left an even more enduring impression. I remember I was following Priscilla up the stairs to her apartment, and while studying the view I was telling her how many of my closest friends were women, going on about how I'd always found them easier to talk to than men because they're so much more open with their feelings, when she suddenly wheeled, flashing bemused incredulity. "That old line? Come on!"

I hesitated, momentarily defensive, then cracked up.

It's not precisely that what I was saying was untrue—I did have close women friends, and did find them easy to talk to—just that it also was a line, though I'd never thought of it in precisely those terms; one I'd slipped into conversations with new women lots of times before, always with satisfactory results.

But here was this woman ready to argue the point.

I probably should have ended it right there. This kind of contrarianism wasn't going to do me a damn bit of good—not in my circle.

Not that any of this is meant to suggest that she, any more than I, was ready yet to step off the deep end politically. A Berkeley grad, she'd done her fair share of protesting during the glory years. When we met, she had a gay male roommate, and so was much involved in the particulars of that revolution, getting regular firsthand, blow-by-blow reports from the front. ("Actually," she notes, stopping in my office, "usually it was 'blow job by blow job.'")

And, yes, much as she was even then given to mocking feminism's more ludicrous claims and intense self-seriousness—I recall her laughing over the sisterhood's veneration of Ruffian, "the gallant little filly" who had to be destroyed after injuring herself in a match race against the despised colt Foolish Pleasure—she very much saw herself as a feminist. She was, after all, a career woman, having moved from a consulting firm to a prestigious-sounding position in the movie business—East Coast story editor for Columbia Pictures, charged with scouting out new books and plays as potential films. Far more, she was a veteran of the sexual revolution, with all the battle scars to prove it.

As, God knows, was I.

In fact, before we go any further, let's pause for what the weasels in the press like to call "full disclosure."

My wife says I include this chapter—dwelling as it does on my sexual past—only as a means of bragging. As such, she says, it registers as "pathetic."

I have considered this carefully. There is some merit in her view. I include it anyway because, as I've informed her, there is a larger point to be made, even if at my own expense: that this notion that those of us who've moved right are prudes is malicious bunk.

We loved sex in the sixties and seventies, we love it now. In fact—listening, Priscilla?—sometimes we love it even more because it's been with the same person for so long.

In any case, what follows are excerpts from the transcript of my testimony had I ever been called to appear before an independent prosecutor's grand jury.

Question: Mr. Stein, we'll begin by turning to something that  has come to our attention relating to certain events that occurred in  1969.

Answer: Nineteen sixty-nine?! I was in college!

Question: Exactly. And would it be accurate to say you had a girlfriend at that time? A Ms. Jane Mallory?

Answer: I'm sorry, you would have to define the term "girlfriend."

Question: For our purposes, we will accept the definition as set forth and enumerated during your deposition. That is, one of the opposite sex whom you saw on an average of at least once weekly with the intent to arouse or gratify. (Mr. Stein consults briefly with his attorney.)

Answer: Would kissing be covered by this? And, if so, how would you define it?

Question: Mr. Stein, was it not your understanding with Ms. Mallory that yours was to be an exclusive relationship?

Answer: I have no specific recollection of that.

Question: And do you not recall meeting a certain Ms. Barbara Schoenfeld on the New York subway during Christmas break, and do you not recall accompanying her to her parents' apartment where you could be alone? Do you doubt that your girlfriend would have regarded what you did there as "cheating"?

Answer: What is your definition of "alone"?

Question: I'd like to move on if we might to the time you spent in Paris. Do you recall that period?

Answer: Paris, Texas?

Question: France, covering most of 1976 through 1978. According to testimony and documentary evidence, you were working on an English-language newspaper there.

Answer: That could be, I have no specific recollection.

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