Andrew Breitbart, dead suddenly at the age of 43, was not my cup of tea. He was too strident, too much the serial exaggerator, and was far too emotional to argue logically or in a reasoned manner.
And yet, I wrote this at American Thinker this morning:
Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air that Andrew Breitbart was “our Merry Prankster”:
He was willing to take risks and look foolish in order to make a point or win an argument, with more courage than most would muster. No one who saw it will ever forget how he seized the podium at Anthony Weiner’s press conference and demanded vindication from media outlets who had been disparaging him and defending Weiner when the former Congressman got caught literally with his pants down. Few men have had the kind of impact Andrew did in such a short time, and he leaves behind a media empire that is still gaining strength.
Breitbart had a zest for political combat. He reveled in being a polarizing figure. He had a genius for getting the goat of the opposition and never apologized for his swashbuckling style of journalism.
In the ancient world, opposing kings preparing for war would send out their champions to engage in single combat, sometimes to decide the outcome of the conflict, more often to indicate which side God was on. Andrew Breitbart was a conservative champion. But instead of riding out to meet a single warrior, he gladly sallied forth – sometimes alone – to combat the entire left. Along the way, he picked up many allies – and made many enemies. Win or lose, it seemed that most of the time, God was indeed on his side.
But if “A man’s greatness can be measured by his enemies,” so, too can it be judged by his friends. Don’t listen to the prattling left today. Simply remember a man, made for his time, unique in his abilities, who left us for a far, far better place.
Technically speaking, Mr. Breitbart was not a “journalist” in what we might think of as the “traditional” sense. That’s fine. The entire point of Mr. Breitbart’s existence was to destroy “traditional” journalism, rightly seeing much of it as biased, shallow, manipulative, and elitist. Like the milieu in which he chose to operate — the internet — Breitbart’s websites were hit or miss operations. He could be as manipulative of images and copy as any mainstream journalist (The NAACP video was discretely edited to make the DoA employee look like a racist when in fact, her remarks were taken wildly — and deceitfully — out of context.)
But these tactics had been used by the mainstream media against the right for decades. And this poses the question of just what kind of journalist Breitbart was?
In the grand tradition of Tom Paine, Philip Freneau, Horace Greely, Hunter Thompson, and Gore Vidal, Breitbart was a master polemicist. His goal was not so much to inform, as it was to chastise the wicked. His advocacy for conservatives and conservative causes was carried out with a zestfulness and razor sharp humor that is often lacking on the right. In an age when most activists from both sides are dour-faced, bitter partisans, Breitbart brought a smile with his snarl. He endeared himself to many on the right for his unflinching, giving-as-good-as-he-got attitude toward the opposition. In short, he gave movement conservatives heart to persevere in the face of withering and usually unfair criticism from their adversaries.
There was nothing gentle about Breitbart in the public arena. He saw politics as a street fight where there were few rules and just about everything and everyone was fair game. Mudslinging, innuendo, character assassination, and exaggerated controversies were his stock in trade — just as it is for most of the left. While many of us bemoan the loss of civility and comity in politics and government, Breitbart didn’t care. If this is the way the game was to be played, to hell with trying to change it, he would go them one better. The difference between Breitbart and his enemies is that Andrew never made any pretense that he was playing by the rules, or seeking accommodation, or even trying to persuade. His opponents piously, and hypocritically criticized him for using exactly the same tactics that they themselves employed with as much relish as Breitbart enjoyed.
He lived his life and plied his trade without apologies – despite there being times when one should have been forthcoming. That, too, was part of the game. There weren’t any apologies coming from his opponents when he got something right or broke an important story that liberals would largely ignore. By that standard, Breitbart didn’t need to feel sorry or express regret. If the left was going to play the game by their own set of rules, Andrew would enthusiastically accept that challenge — and beat them anyway.
Breitbart’s legacy will be a more democratized political conversation. This is not a perfect good. Few things are. But it’s a damn sight better than what the media moguls, the establishmentarian pundits, and the elitist snobs created and zealously maintained for decades; a clubbish, narrow-minded, and out of touch press that deliberately suppressed viewpoints and personalities that failed to meet its means-test for permissible dialogue. The riot of voices and opinions unleashed by Breitbart on his 5 websites — and currently being eagerly copied by others — have blasted the ancien regime and changed the media forever.
For one so young to have accomplished so much in so short a time is a rare and wonderful thing, indeed.