It’s odd when someone like Andrew Breitbart dies. The day before, when news of the passing Davy Jones reached my desk, I knew precisely how to feel. I loved The Monkees. I was nine years old in 1986 when MTV began showing episodes of The Monkees, and I was entranced by the happy, jangling goofiness that show provided. I remember my mother telling me about how the walls of her childhood bedroom were plastered with pictures of Davy Jones, and I took pride in the thought that we shared a love for silly 60’s pop. The passing of Davy Jones is immensely sad, and he will be truly missed.
See how easy it is to write about people you like?
Dealing with the sudden death of a guy like Andrew Breitbart is infinitely more tricky. I abhorred his politics, his methods, and his complete lack of journalistic ethics. I wouldn’t even go as far as to say that I found him a worthy and admirable opponent, as he so often resorted to petty stunts and well positioned yet deliberately misleading factual distortions. Laypersons call this “lying.” I can claim neither professional respect or personal regard for Andrew Breitbart, and any attempt on my part to perpetrate otherwise would make me just as unscrupulous and dishonest as he was. I could go on, but today is not the day for that.
What do you even call Breitbart? A blogger? A journalist? A writer perhaps? It’s difficult to put your finger on. Those are several different ways to go about not describing what he was all about. I heard him called a “Firebrand” today. That’s probably closer. Andrew Breitbart was a trouble maker. His job was to find opportunities to humiliate the Left, even if he had to fabricate them. This was his true calling, and he was spectacular at it.
This is the challenge on a day like today. It is sad when anyone dies. This is so critical to the make up of the North American Free Range Liberal that it could easily be our intellectual creed. Mr. Breitbart had a wife and four children. He had close friends and associates. There are people who are in heaving convulsive hysterics today, gasping through the first few stages of trying to process an idea as large as the death of a father, or a husband, or a dear friend.
Ultimately, this makes no difference in my life one way or another. Yesterday Andrew Breitbart was out there, trying to defile everything I stand for. Today he isn’t. Tomorrow someone else will be doing that job. The last thing his family needs is to have some snarky old queen like myself making this even harder for them. What I can say is that he was undoubtedly loved by many, despised by many, and was by all accounts a hard worker and a dedicated agent for his cause. He was good at what he did, even though what he did was despicable. It’s a little like being the Mozart of ambulance chasers. It is important to respect great skill, even if it is at a universally deplorable task.
I wish I could be as classy as Shirley Sherrod, a woman who’s life Breitbart tried to destroy. She said in a statement:
“The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning,” she said. “My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope through this very difficult time.”
Damn. That is so good. This man got her fired from the White House using a doctored video and some misleading reporting, and she could still find it within herself to strike a elegant and graceful tone. Her defamation lawsuit against him is likely to continue, which is fantastic, but even with all that acrimony she kept it classy. Media Matters was good too:
“We’ve disagreed more than we’ve found common ground, but there was never any question of Andrew’s passion for and commitment to what he believed.”
See? Isn’t that charitable? If only Andrew Breitbart could have been so dignified. I read this in the Associated Press obituary.
After Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts died in 2009, Breitbart tweeted, “Rest in Chappaquiddick” and called him “a special pile of human excrement.” When critics questioned his tone, he tweeted they “missed my best ones!”
That does a good job of summing up the life’s work of Andrew Breitbart. Politics always threatens to devolve into an ugly, brutal, bare knuckled boxing match, and Breitbart was an enthusiastic thug for the Right. His love was not of the nobility and dignity of our democratic process, but of the razor blade in the glove.
I remember when the whole Anthony Weiner thing was happening. Breitbart had been gleefully dismantling his prey for days, and the world was at that moment waiting for a statement from Representative Weiner, who was about to fess up. Weiner was beaten (yeah, I know), and though he didn’t resign for another 10 days, it was obviously the end of his political career. Breitbart had won. It was over. So what did Andrew do? He crashed Weiner’s press conference, demanded an apology from him, the Media and pretty much everyone else, kicked around Weiner a little more, then took off. It was so awful, and so arrogant, and in such bad taste that it was truly funny, even to a life long liberal like myself. That was classic Breitbart. Obnoxious to the point of being almost punk rock.
It is for this reason that I don’t mind kicking Andrew Breitbart around a little today. He was a world class asshole, and I feel like he would be a little disappointed if I didn’t. If he had a legacy, it would be that. Don’t be afraid to play dirty, and if you have to cheat to win, then by all means do. Not that I endorse that legacy. I don’t. It’s an awful, awful way to behave. It is sad when people die though, and there are people that will miss him greatly, even though I’m not one of them. Be nice to those people. They are having a rough time, and this is as bad as it gets. I have real empathy for what they are going through. I take no joy in his death, if for no other reason than that I fear what might come along to replace him.
Benjamin Phillips is a Humor Writer, Web Developer, Civics Nerd, and all around crank that spends entirely too much time shouting with deep exasperation at the television, especially whenever cable news is on. He lives in St. Louis, MO and spends most of his time staring at various LCD screens, occasionally taking walks in the park whenever his boyfriend becomes sufficiently convinced that Benjamin is becoming a reclusive hermit person. He is available for children’s parties, provided that those children are entertained by hearing a complete windbag talk for two hours about the importance of science education, or worse yet, poorly researched anecdotes PROVING that James Buchanan was totally gay. If civilization were to collapse due to zombie hoards or nuclear holocaust, Benjamin would be among the first to die as he has no useful skills of any kind. The post-apocalyptic hellscape has no real need for homosexual computer programmers who can name all the presidents in order, as well as the actors who have played all eleven incarnations of Doctor Who.
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