Published February 17, 2012
David Brock, the founder of Media Matters for America, is not one of my patients. I have not interviewed him, and I would never hazard a diagnosis of him. He is, however, a public and influential person whose history of destructive behavior, admitted drug abuse and even reported psychosis, may be best seen through a psychological lens.
I would argue that the same is true for anyone in the public arena who is aggressively attempting to shape public policy and exercise power.
I would offer my thoughts and perspective were I asked to give my insights on an entertainer who was seeking the limelight and influencing young people and behaving in a way that needed psychological interpretation—and I have.
I would do no less were I asked to give my insights on a world leader whose thoughts or behavior provoked questions about his or her well-being—and I have.
I would do the same if I was asked to give my insights on an elected official, from any political party—and I have, including both Republicans and Democrats.
Now, onto David Brock.
First, it is important to note that Brock has a history of allying with whichever political group has shown him the most regard.
In a somewhat ominous and psychologically violent use of language, he described himself as a “right-wing hit man.”
Yet, when his book "The Seduction of Hillary Rodham" wasn’t embraced by politicians on the right, Brock grew bitter. He then recanted a great deal of what he had written about the Clintons, exposed one of his confidential sources (despite this being journalistically unethical) and began to cultivate a left-wing following.
A sailboat adrift, in danger of capsizing, looks for the strongest wind to keep it moving. Direction matters little or not at all when drowning is the other option. Brock would seem to be captaining such a ship-of-self.
Without stoking and tapping the hatred of one political group for another, without basking in the praise of elders who tell him he is worthwhile, his own self-loathing might be unbearably palpable.
Indeed, even as a young man, Brock was so needy of attention—so desperate for regard from an audience (and perhaps any audience)—that he admits, "I demonized my enemies on the staff..." at his college newspaper while he was a student at Berkeley.
There are many good and valid reasons people get attention, but a person who has little self-esteem needs attention. He needs to see himself in the envious eyes of others, to hear how clever he is in applause of others.
He must do whatever it takes to not experience the pain of believing himself unworthy, ineffective, powerless and, perhaps, unlovable.
For such a man, rising to the bully pulpit—if only as an editor at a college newspaper—can feel like scratching his way out of a grave of self-loathing, and well worth the effort to lie and besmirch others.
This is not just the story of David Brock (to any extent that it might be), it is also the story of despots and dictators and even cult leaders throughout time.
They, too, began life full of all the promise of childhood, and fully worthy of love, but it was withheld from them, in one traumatic way or another. And they came to believe they were deeply flawed, perhaps irreparably so, and fled from that core fear all the way to tapping into the projected self-hatred of others and perpetrating terrible destructiveness.
Fame and power are nothing more than intoxicants when they come from anything other than genuine self-regard and real beliefs.
So it is no surprise that Brock mentions illegal drug use in his book, "Blinded by the Right." An illegal drug would be as intoxicating to Brock as writing a couple best-selling books, books which just happen to take completely opposite political positions. Drugs would also be a way to distance Brock from any core worry he might harbor that he is forgettable and inconsequential.
Recruiting an army of sympathizers simply to have an army, obsequiously currying favor with them, counting your worth in numbers of books sold (nevermind the content), fancying yourself a righteous "hit man," taking drug-fueled flights from inner turmoil, are all forms of fakery.
So it is also no surprise that Brock suffered for a time with delusional thinking—fixed and false beliefs, such as paranoia. A man cannot live untethered from his soul forever, lest he float free of all tethers to reality.
Seen through this psychological lens, Brock’s reported obsession with arming himself and being protected by body guards and running from snipers on rooftops would be nothing more than fleeing from the overheated projections of his self-loathing.
A man who believes that he is unworthy or weak or unlovable and secretly despises himself can disown his self-destructive impulses and imagine that killers are everywhere.
I have no idea what may have led David Brock to such apparently fundamental self-doubt and possible self-hatred.
Any psychiatrist will tell you, however, that a person who holds two diametrically opposed views of the world, who speaks of himself as a hit man, who encourages a “war” on a group of journalists (in this case, Fox News), who has by his own admission been a drug user, who has been delusional and who reportedly is playing with guns and thinks there are assassins out to get him...needs some help.
I don’t hate David Brock. I don’t even know him.
As I have said, I have not interviewed him.
I feel badly for him and I feel badly for the people he has coaxed into hating others.
And I would advise him—since I am not his psychiatrist, but only here a journalist with psychological expertise—to take those steps necessary to uncover those demons from the past he has denied, for they are now quite visible to those of us who have the proper lens to see them, and they will not be denied forever.