RIP Andrew Breitbart
If I had to parse what makes me such a marvelous blogger, a blogger whose world view far extends his mere 23 years on God’s green Earth, it would probably be my openness to ideas antithetical to my own. It’s been a strange guilty pleasure, one that’s caused me shame and made me question my liberal bonafides. From a young age I’ve enjoyed watching Fox News, reading the National Review Online, and, most of all, visiting the Drudge Report. I feel that doing this gives me a better perspective on the conservative opinion of the day rather than merely thinking of conservatives as boogeymen. In his porkpie hat, Matt Drudge, in particular, gives a good feeling for the conservative zeitgeist of the day; he sets the debate of the day and he’s always quick to link to an unflattering article about liberals no matter how innocuous it may seem.
While Drudge has always eschewed the public eye, his crony and prodigy Andrew Breitbart seemed to take particular pleasure when appearing on television. He loved to play provocateur to the liberals he appeared with. With his wild hair and confrontational style, he played the part of conservative iconoclast well. Today comes the sad news that he is dead at the age of 43 of an apparent heart attack.
Breitbart was never shy about controversy. In his galaxy of websites, Breitbart loved to play gotcha politics. A master of orchestrating scandal out of thin air, and shoving his way into the public eye. He was a horrible bully, and he did it with aplomb. He hosted and financed the video that tried to take down the group ACORN, and subsequently hosted several other such efforts. His crowning political moment may have been his role in exposing the Anthony Weiner controversy. Breitbart was the man on the case when Weiner first tweeted his underwear picture, and Breitbart didn’t let the story die in the face of Weiner’s denials. It was a clash of the titans, both Weiner and Breitbart were television regulars, and Breitbart played conquering conservative hero. He was the subject of a great deal of controversy. He got Shirley Sherrod, a USDA higher up, fired from her job when he misleadingly edited and hosted a video that made it seem as if Ms. Sherrod was racist. Recently, outside of the CPAC conference, he screamed at some Occupy protesters “stop raping people.” In his television appearances defending the incident, he looked disheveled, unshaven. I thought it was just an illustration of his unorthodox style, but perhaps it suggests something darker.
Breitbart was the latest to play upon the archetype of liberal turned conservative. As a convert, he seemed well equipped to undercut liberal arguments, and he was a talented TV debater. Breitbart had a seemingly huge future, the voice of the Tea Party and the king of conservative new media. Today, that future is snuffed out at the young age of 43. Breitbart won’t get to see the 2012 election, one in which he undoubtedly would’ve played a fairly large role.
While Breitbart’s politics were horrible and his flamboyant personal style often made him seem like a jerk, I always held a small bit of admiration for the man. As an Internet commentator myself, I have to admire his unfailing ability to break big story, generate a buzz, indefatigably Twitter, set the debate, and transcend the medium. I have a distinct memory of watching Breitbart on Real Time with Bill Maher, and while he came across as a tremendous jackass, me and all my friends had to admit that he had “swag”. That’s 2012 for you, your substance doesn’t seem to matter if you have the style, and Breitbart had the style in spades.
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