Harry Stein had a pretty nice life. He was a cheerful, content liberal married to a cheerful, content liberal living in New York and making an honest living as an author and columnist. We should all have it so good. Then came the baby. Seeing life through the new prism of parenthood, much of what Stein ∧ Co. had assumed to be the gospel began over time to seem quite wrong. The wall of their doctrinaire liberalism started to crumble over the issue of day care, as their like-minded friends couldn't fathom that the Steins even entertained thoughts of raising children themselves, without the benefit of paid-for help. The reproach of this group of friends sent them on a journey of intellectual discovery which Priscilla Stein summed up well: It's funny . . . I saw myself as a fighter against right-wing scum. [After this experience] I was well on my way to being right-wing scum. And that, essentially, is the story of How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace). As he examines and challenges the prevailing belief system of the left, Stein finds something much more disturbing than the fact that he has come to disagree with so much of what he once held dear that among those who share the conventional liberal wisdom, there is no room for debate or disagreement. In fact, according to Stein, diversity of thought is simply not allowed.

We read of examples throughout our culture and politics, including affirmative action, media bias, gay rights, Murphy Brown, and so on. Stein saves his most delicious vitriol for feminism, with tale after cautionary tale about the sacrifice of critical thought before the altar of a particular code of beliefs. Most telling is an excerpt from an interview with Gloria Steinem on the subject of female firefighters: Asked at one point . . . whether it was really prudent for fire departments to lower their strength standards to accommodate women meaning that it's now within regulations in some municipalities to drag someone down the stairs of a burning building rather than carry them America's preeminent feminist actually replied that, well, Ôthere's less smoke close to the ground.' How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is both lively and insightful, free of the turgidity characteristic of many political/cultural books. One can scarcely imagine reading it without learning something and enjoying it as well. ¦ Mark Rembert writes from Nashville.

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