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How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Paperback – November 6, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Conservatives aren't born--they evolve. And for Wall Street Journal ethics columnist Harry Stein--once vilified in The Village Voice as "a well-known asshole"--that evolution began with the birth of his daughter. But Stein's memoir on transforming from bleeding-heart liberal to someone who gets junk mail from Patrick Buchanan isn't a sappy tale of fatherhood; it's a witty, intelligent account of how one man began to think for himself. "I remember when I was called a fascist for the first time," Stein writes about a dinner conversation in which he sided with Dan Quayle over the Murphy Brown/single-motherhood controversy. While alienating his left-leaning friends, Stein takes to task The New York Times, AIDS hysteria, men-hating feminists, and Bill Clinton, just to mention a few bastions of liberalism that contributed to his social makeover. As if to prove he didn't start out this way, Stein spends a great deal of time trying to convince the reader of his liberal roots. His wife, a former story editor for a major motion picture company, once belonged to a group called Women Against Right-Wing Scum. His sexual escapades as a single man (including a trip to a New York "swap" club) make up a whole chapter. He also writes of his admiration for Tennessee Williams (whom he once interviewed) as if to say, "See, I am not a homophobe."

Contrary to another conservative stereotype, Stein manages to keep a sense of humor throughout the book, writing in a conversational, amused style. His quips and lists read more like naughty office e-mail than diatribes from an angry right-winger: No. 3 in the 12 Ways to Tell If You've Joined the Right-Wing Conspiracy: "You sit all the way through Dead Man Walking and at the end you STILL want the guy to be executed." Longtime conservatives and converts like Stein will find themselves nodding their heads in agreement. Others will simply get a good laugh. --Jodi Mailander Farrell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (November 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060936975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060936976
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,696,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Journalist and former radical liberal, Harry Stein, puts together a fine account of how life experiences changed his views and turned him into a conservative. Mr. Stein presents his beliefs with compelling evidence that would be difficult to argue against regardless of which side of the political spectrum you are on. Below is a brief list of topics he touches on:
1. Honor: Why has this become meaningless? Why do so many liberals view a man that cheats on his wife as someone who is just, "trying to find himself?"
2. The Media: How did it become so biased toward the left? Insider, Harry Stein, will tell you.
3. "Blame the Victim": A phrase directed at conservatives by liberals. But in certain instances, such as sexual promiscuity leading to STD's, are all "victims" 100% innocent? What about personal responsibility?
4. Sexgate: The Clinton scandal. Initially most liberals were outraged. But soon the liberal press made statements such as, "it's just between Hillary and Bill," or "let's just censure the guy and move on," and even "everybody does it." Do we no longer expect our President to set moral standards?
5. Feminism: Who doesn't support equal opportunity, a level playing field, and equal pay for equal work? But did the pendulum swing too far?
6. Higher Education: What ever happened to our colleges and universities mission to preserve and defend the essential truths of the past while providing a safe haven for open debate? How can we have open debate when we must be politically correct? Why do we now have "speech codes" designed to mute talk deemed insensitive?
7. Minority Conservatives: Why are these people so viciously attacked?
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Format: Hardcover
Most of my reading this summer has been in preparation for a new course on Political Correctness in American Society. The amount of material out there is staggering. A recent search on the phrase "political correctness" had over 50,000 hits. The phrase is all over the culture in skirmishes left and right. I am enjoying this research, but it is professional, not pleasure, reading. Thus it was with great interest and anticipation that I ordered How I Accidentally Joined the Vast-Right Wing Conspiracy (And Found Inner Peace). I was not disappointed.
Harry Stein is my senior by almost a decade, but the ideological journey and cultural landmarks he chronicles look familiar to me. Stein is a writer and journalist with 6 books and credits at the New York Times, GQ, Esquire and TV Guide. He is currently an ethics columnist for the Wall Street Journal. His account of his journey is breezy, funny, well-researched, open and honest. It has the distinct advantage, in my view, of being simultaneously pleasurable, professional AND subversive in the cause of freedom. Hard to beat that combination.
Stein's journey from 60's radical student activist to 90's conservative begins with paternity and family life circa 1980 (there's that decade difference again) That's probably not a big surprise. But the Manhattan media and literary world and upper middle class Hastings-on-Hudson suburban neighborhood that Stein and his family inhabit might well be the most politically correct environment known in modern America, other than a university campus that is.
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Format: Hardcover
Considering the left bent of most of today's media (I work for a major metropolitan newspaper, so I know what I'm talking about here), along with his own leftist leanings in the 60s and 70s, Stein has stepped out on a limb here. But it's a risk he's willing to take. Taking a phrase from the AIDS movement; no one should be cowed into silence. He has as much right to the moral high ground as any left- or right-winger does, and his arguments are well reasoned.
If you reside on the Left side of any of the issues Stein skewers in "Right-Wing Conspiracy," you'll hate this book. You'll probably hate it if you're on the extreme Right as well. But, if like most people, you're in the middle of the road, trying to make sense of what has happened to America since the 1960s, then you'll probably get a kick out of it. It should make for some interesting discussion at your next party when a liberal confronts you on your political views.
I rate this at four stars because I think there are some parts that could have done with some judicious editing. Not on the content, but on some of the long-winded-ness of some of the chapters.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read something by Harry Stein back in college, when a friend gave me a copy of Ethics and Other Liabilities, a collection of his early columns on the subject in Esquire Magazine. While for the most part I found it interesting and insightful, it did display a discomfiting tendency towards self-righteousness, and an underlying tone that was very "p.c." (although this being the early 1980's, that particular term hadn't been coined yet, much less beaten to death). Just One of the Guys, his memoir of a few years later about what it means to be male in America suffered from similiar weaknesses, as well as conveying the sense (very prevalent among baby-boomers I find) that simply 'fessing up to rotten behaviour in and of itself absolves one of it.
So, it's very interesting to see where Stein is at now, lo these many years later. Basically, the book relates the story of how over the years Stein has "evolved" (or "devolved" depending on one's point of view) from young sixties Movement radical to middle-aged neoconservative.
Needless to say, he's hardly breaking new ground here. However, for the most part Stein manages to avoid the crippling self-seriousness, anguished mea culpas, and grim score settling that has often dragged down other works which mine this particular vein (are you listening David Horowitz?).
Though there is much in the book that is serious, Stein's primary intent is to entertain and amuse, at his own expense as often as not. He usually succeeds (I say "usually" only because some of his targets are a little obvious - shooting fish in a barrel as it were).
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