It’s always shocking when someone dies suddenly at a not-so-ripe-old age, and so it was with the ever-controversial conservative media figure Andrew Breitbart. Here’s a roundup of reactions, giving differing opinions.
Andrew Breitbart was an innovator and inventor, a man who as much as any shaped the media culture of the Internet age. He was present at the creation of the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, and of course his own popular sites.
Yet perhaps Breitbart’s most consequential innovation was his invention of a new kind of culture war. Until recently, the phrase “culture war” mainly described the political struggle over religion and sexuality. When Pat Buchanan declared a “culture war” from the rostrum of the Republican convention in 1992, he specifically cited abortion, gay rights, pornography, prayer in schools, and women in combat as the outstanding issues…
….in time, Andrew Breitbart might have aged into greater self-control and a higher concept of public service. Premature death deprived him of the chance at redemption often sought and sometimes found by people who have done wrong in their lives and work.
And this is where it becomes difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous. When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career?
Especially when that career was so representative of his times?
We live in a time of political and media demagoguery unparalleled since the 19th century. Many of our most important public figures have gained their influence and power by inciting and exploiting the ugliest of passions—by manipulating fears and prejudices—by serving up falsehoods as reported truth. In time these figures will one by one die. What are we to say of this cohort, this group, this generation? That their mothers loved them? That their families are bereaved? That their fans admired them and their employees treated generously by them? Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading.
—Glenn Reynolds has a large number of links from many conservative sites. Some of the comments from liberal sites:
Related: Twitter Hate: The Left’s Breitbart Memorial. Retweet all the nasty stuff they say — it’s what Andrew would have wanted. He liked to expose these people for who they were, rather than who they pretended to be. He continues to do that even in death.
And reader Jonathan Rubinstein writes: “The outpouring of ghoulish and sophmoric hatred at the death of Andrew Breitbart is a warning to us all that the remaking of America is not a conversation over coffee in the late afternoon. The real struggles that are ahead have hardly begun. Politics is ruthless and the failed political class will not go quietly. The disgusting comments are not a tribute to the decline not of civility — there has never been much in America — but the complete disintegration of self-respect. We will engage, we will remake America, we will miss Breitbart but there will be many more joining the struggle.”
I was … I am stunned to hear of the death of Andrew Breitbart. I don’t think there’s much of anything I agreed with him about, which is an understatement. My interactions with him were first friendly, then later heated and vexed, though maybe not unfriendly even then…
I noticed on my Facebook feed this morning this comment from my friend Hilary Rosen: “?#AndrewBreitbart RIP you big crazy rabble-rousing bundle of contradictions, loathsome actions and a giant heart. You have made your mark.” I don’t think I can say anything more fitting.
He left his mark.
Beneath all the layers of our public life, we’re sons, daughters; parents to sons and daughters: naked people at our most vulnerable, true moments. This is way, way too young to die, something I know palpably since Breitbart was only a week or so older than I am.
Others knew him better, can memorialize him better. But for myself I wish the very best to his wife and children in this moment of unbearable grief and send my condolences to all his friends, of whom there were many.
Andrew Breitbart was one of a kind. He was an ordinary man who, in his short 43 years on earth, did extraordinary things.
He was, first and foremost, a husband and a father. Andrew was also a warrior and, as many know, a general in a cultural and philosophical war for America’s future. His leadership in that war, his ability to get into the trenches (and under the skin of the Left), is how so many of us came to know and admire him.
Like those of us who have spent time on the dark side, Andrew understood the Left more than most and, more importantly, he was not afraid to confront the Left head on—and he did it with joyous zeal.
As a contributor at BigGovernment, Andrew knew who I was before we ever personally met.
My condolences to Andrew Breitbart’s family on the news of his unexpected and untimely death this morning. He devoted his life to making that of others a living hell, so I think he would expect some of the incredibly vile things being said about his death.
That being said, I won’t participate in the little schadenfreude fest, as I don’t like speaking ill of the deceased. Remember how you felt when conservatives rejoiced over the death of Ted Kennedy…although Breitbart was nowhere in the same universe as Ted Kennedy, he was still a pretty big icon to conservatives. Don’t get even, get moral.
On virtually every count our views were 100% polar opposite, but that makes him my political opponent, and I don’t wish harm or ill on my political opponents like he did his. I advise you to take a page out of Shirley Sherrod’s book of class, a woman who had every right to hate Mr. Breitbart.
I will say that I wish he’d had a chance to calm down and learn to live life less angrily than he did, but he made his choices and died seemingly doing what he loved the most: arguing. He seemed to have had his demons that haunted him on a daily basis.
—The Heritage Foundation has a batch of reactions. Here are two:
As we mourn the sudden passing of Andrew Breitbart we wanted to take time to reflect our thoughts and memories of him. Heritage’s Ed Feulner and Rob Bluey shared their thoughts and below are the memories of some Heritage staff members who had the opportunity to work with him to advance the conservative movement.
Ed Meese: The death of Andrew Breitbart marks a great loss to the nation and particularly the Conservative movement. He was a bright star and leader in communicating a critical message concerning the future of the country. We will miss him but we are grateful for all he accomplished in his shortened life.
Mike Gonzalez: To me one of the most powerful things Andrew did—and the reason he got under the skin of liberals so—was to invade the left’s space. Until he arrived, progressives had thought investigative journalism was their domain and social media their play thing. Andrew turned their world upside down, helping to bring down ACORN and other sacred cows of the left. He was also an intellectual prober—as when he rightly shined the spotlight on the Frankfurt school of Marxist academics who came here in mid-century with the express purpose of corrupting America from within. I had the honor of reviewing the book in which he exposed them, and hear him tell me about it months before, while he was conducting the research. And Andrew fought his crusades without forgetting who mattered most, his wife and his four children. He died just after putting his children to bed. His death saddens me and many others, but also fills me with conviction. His friend Greg Gutfeld best expressed it this morning when he said, “He leaves a powerful legacy. He’s gonna be a legend.”
Andrew was our warrior, our leader. Fearless, unapologetic, brilliant. I admire few, but Andrew was in a league of his own. His herculean contribution to the war is incalculable.
This is a profound loss.
—Andrew Sullivan on some of the liberal Tweets on Breitbart’s death:
Nonetheless, the content of some of those tweets reveal something quite rotten. A man has died at a painfully early age. He has family and friends and colleagues. They are in grief. Yes, he was a public figure, who doled it out relentlessly. But his family is human. We can too easily forget they exist.
It’s true that Breitbart’s life and career was full of public theatrics. His brash brand of conservatism and “call out culture” methods were responsible for both the firing of dedicated long time USDA employee Shirley Sherrod and the resignation of Congressman Anthony Weiner. Sherrod is currently suing Breitbart for defamation after he released a heavily edited video of her making it seem like she discriminated against white farmers. As a result, Sherrod was fired and later cleared of any wrongdoing when the full unedited tape was released.
Today Sherrod put her disagreements aside and said, “The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope through this very difficult time.”
That’s exactly the right response to this sudden death no matter what your feelings about Breitbart are. Despite the fact that he didn’t have as much class himself when Senator Ted Kennedy passed away, like Sherrod, we can do better than that.
When word broke this morning, it seemed so unbelievable, it must have been some giant hoax designed to expose how folks will report unverified rumors. Some giant prank gone all too cruel. But it isn’t.
He had four wonderful children, who I saw bouncing around on the National Review cruise in 2010. You would have wanted to watch a sitcom or reality series about that family – four little bundles of energy bouncing off the walls, with their father’s spirit of mischief and their mother’s good humor and good nature.
Awful, awful, awful news.
Fox News is reporting that someone saw him collapse during a walk last night. He was immediately taken to a hospital.
I don’t see any purpose in getting my jollies trashing the guy as he is dead and can no longer defend himself, and I really think that when you can’t wait to spit on someone’s grave, it doesn’t reflect badly on them. I’m a deeply flawed person myself- vulgar and profane, often times bitter, often too quick to judge, I don’t do enough for my fellow man, and many other flaws too numerous to count, but I do honestly try to be a better person. In my estimation, part of trying to be a better person is showing a basic level of decency that includes having the self-restraint to not trash the recently deceased. I know some of you don’t feel the same way, and I know for a fact Breitbart himself didn’t feel constrained by any similar notions of restraint or respect for others, but I’d like to try to be a better man.
..In my estimation, Breitbart was far more damaging to the causes he claimed to support than he was to “teh left.” He got a few scalps, but he was one of the ringleaders fueling the insanity in the current right-wing circus. He’s as much an architect of the tea party sickness infecting our body politic as anyone, so there really is no reason to trash the guy. His legacy does that by itself.
Matthew Yglesias on Andrew Breitbart’s death: “The world outlook is slightly improved.” Ouch. I’ll just say I mourn Davy Jones’ death more.
I can’t say that I knew Andrew well, but I knew him enough to know that we have lost a stalwart fighter. Andrew and I laughed together, debated together, occasionally disagreed together, and all of this passionately and memorably. Andrew could be many things, sometimes concurrently, but he could never be ignored.
In some ways, Andrew 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.
I’m stunned that such a relatively young man has been taken from us at what appeared to be the peak of his life. We will miss you, Andrew. I will miss you — your energy, your boldness, and your many unremarked kindnesses to fellow conservatives. Godspeed.
–Beltway Confidential has this collection of tweets seemingly celebrating Breitbart’s death.
This is shocking news: Andrew Breitbart passed away early this morning in Los Angeles.
We were friends once; that ended when I could no longer stomach the right wing extremism that Andrew chose instead to embrace. But I’m a bit sad that he won’t be ranting any more on Twitter about my “magic ponytail.” (Some of his other, more venomous insults I must confess I won’t miss at all.)
From all accounts, Andrew was a good family man who loved his wife and children, and I want to extend my sincere condolences for their loss.
A few years ago, I e-mailed Andrew Breitbart on Facebook to ask about writing for one of his sites. Rather than e-mail me back to discuss it, he gave me his number and asked me to call him. The man who helped create the Drudge Report and ran a news aggregation service and other sites and drove liberals crazy took time out of his schedule to talk to me.
Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but it meant a lot to me.
–Some people suggest (couldn’t you see this coming?) that Barack Obama murdered Breitbart. Americablog has an example in this post which also contains the following:
I predict this will never die, just like the “Clinton body count”. Martyrdom assured.
Meme 2 — Liberals should be ashamed of themselves for not honoring the dead. That’s your classic right-wing fog job. Breitbart had his way with Ted Kennedy’s still-warm corpse, but no one on the right shamed him. So why shame us?
That’s not a rhetorical question. There’s an answer. The goal in shaming us is to get us to shame each other. They win if we do (and they know it). And any one on the left who falls into that trap needs to be unconfused, quickly.
People get to feel however they want when anyone dies. And it’s not my job (or yours, or theirs) to shape someone else’s reaction to this beast having passed. Anyone on the left who shames others on the left is doing the work of the Right; it’s just that simple.
Despite my politics being much closer to Breitbart’s than Yglesias’, I was no fan of the former’s work. At the very least, he was less concerned with the truth than a good story–with “good” defined as damaging to Democrats and their cause. I can’t bring myself to shed a tear at the loss of more ginned up controversies. But, surely, we can mourn the sudden loss of a 43-year-old husband and father.
Many have defended their mean-spirited comments about Breitbart’s passing by noting that Breitbart himself was less than charitable on the passing of Teddy Kennedy. But that’s a petty excuse, indeed. Why would one simultaneously loathe an individual’s actions and adopt exactly those very same actions?
Breitbart, like Kennedy, was a public figure who actively sought the limelight. Dying doesn’t immunize them from criticism. But there’s a fine line between an honest reflection on the recently departed’s legacy and dancing on their grave. It’s one thing to condemn the way someone lived their life; it’s quite another to rejoice at their death. I tend to save the latter for the truly evil, not the merely annoying.
I was by no means a fan of Teddy Kennedy. But I nonetheless thought his diagnosis with a malignant brain tumor cause for sorrow and the mocking of same by conservative commentators like Michael Savage despicable. When Kennedy died more than a year later, I both remarked on the downplaying of the Chappaquiddick scandal in the newspaper obits and acknowledged that “Kennedy was obviously much more than his actions on the worst night of his life. While he could be incredibly partisan, even vitriolically so on some issues, he was almost universally acknowledged even by opponents as an honorable negotiating partner and an outstanding legislator.”
Michelle Malkin ? @michellemalkin
Oh, my God. It is true. Social media entrepreneur @andrewbreitbart has passed away. Prayers for his family. Devastating loss.
–Wall Street Journal video on Breitbart’s death:
Breitbart was hailed by the political right as a truth-teller who exposed bias and corruption, but derided by many on the left as a provocateur who played fast and loose with the facts to further his agenda.
So Andrew Breitbart is dead. Here’s what I have to say to that, and I’m sure Breitbart himself would have respected this reaction: Good! … I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.
I say this in the nicest possible way. I actually kind of liked Andrew Breitbart. Not in the sense that I would ever have wanted to hang out with him, or even be caught within a hundred yards of him without a Haz-Mat suit on, but I respected the shamelessness. Breitbart didn’t do anything by halves, and even his most ardent detractors had to admit that he had a highly developed, if not always funny, sense of humor.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.