Let us sing the praises of great men, men who have passed on to the hallowed beyond.
On Wednesday we lost Davy Jones, one of the greatest singer/actors of all time, who made us laugh as one of the famed Monkees and…well…yeah, I guess that’s basically it. But damn do I love The Monkees.
But perhaps the most striking death for me and those of my ilk was yesterday’s shocking passing of “journalist”, “provocateur” and “human being” Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart collapsed outside his Los Angeles home and was rushed to UCLA’s Ronald Regan Hospital, a final act of mercy he surely would have appreciated had he not died of natural causes – at the ripe old age of 43 – on the ambulance ride over, causing a major crisis of faith for liberal atheists like myself.
Who was Andrew Breitbart? And why should we care that he is, as I write these words, beginning the long process of decomposing in the basement of a Los Angeles hospital?
Breitbart was raised in a sectarian liberal household. He claimed that he had an epiphany during the Clarence Thomas hearings (he was offended by the lack of evidence provided against Thomas, a stance that constitutes one of the greatest uses of comic irony in history) and changed his political leaning, becoming a Reagan conservative. Breitbart went to work at douche-y conservative website The Drudge Report for a while, where he met Arianna Huffington, then helped her found The Huffington Post. He was a columnist for The Washington Post and a regular commentator on Fox News, Real Time With Bill Mahr, and any other goddamned place he could get his face seen. He also owned and operated a series of websites – including Breitbart.com, BigHollywood.com and, most infamously, BigGovernment.com – which were the cause of much of his notoriety.
So why did I dance over my IHOP pancakes this morning when I heard Breitbart was dead? So far he doesn’t seem that bad, right? Am I just a ghoul? Am I so partisan that I rejoice when anyone of an opposing political opinion to mine keels over?
No, friends. Patience. I have only told you this vile corpse’s background story. Now let’s refresh ourselves on what Breitbart had been up to in the few years before he died…
Travel back with me to 2009. It was a simpler time. We were just starting to learn that Obama wasn’t going to turn out to be the president we all hoped he would be but knew in our hearts he wouldn’t. An unknown performance artist turned terrible singer was tearing up the charts with “Poker Face”, and two conservative heroes were dressing up like a pimp and a prostitute to make hidden-camera films with the intention of closing down a dangerous, radical institution that was using government funds to poison America from within. That institution was called ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and its dark, hideous agenda was, according to Wikipedia:
…a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocated for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues.
They helped black people vote! Clearly they needed to be struck down, and James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles were the ones to do it. The two went into multiple ACORN offices and filmed themselves asking advice on the best way to start a brothel featuring underage hookers. Then they edited the resulting footage to make it look like ACORN employees were all too glad to offer lots of helpful tips on the subject. Breitbart first released the doctored videos on his BigGovernment website, then gave O’Keefe a job as an editor. When MediaMatters began to question the journalistic integrity of the videos, Breitbart went on a rampage tour, defending O’Keefe and his tactics to anyone who would listen, then leading the fundraising charge when O’Keefe and Giles were sued for defamation. The videos caused an immediate knee-jerk reaction in Washington, where Congress voted to de-fund ACORN and remove all of its government contracts, including work for the US Census and the IRS. Even though investigations by the Attorneys General of New York and California, the Congressional Research Office and the GAO all concluded that the videos were highly deceptive, the employees in the videos were breaking no laws and ACORN had never once misused any of its government funding, the group was forced by the controversy to close down in April of 2010.
O’Keefe later went on to be arrested for attempting to tap a Democratic senator’s phone lines.
Breitbart was so impressed by this shameless rape of truth and journalism that he tried his hand at it just less than a year later when he took parts of a speech by Georgia State Director of Rural Development Shirley Sharrod completely out of context and edited the video of that speech to make Sharrod (who is black) sound like a whitey-hating racist. Once again someone who was advocating on the side of the lower- and middle-class was hung out to dry by a rich, conservative, white dickbag, and once again the knee-jerking was immediate. Sharrod was fired by the Department of Agriculture before the full video was even released. When it came to light, of course, there were a lot of red faces in Washington and Sharrod was made full apologies by the NAACP, the White House and Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, and was offered a new job with the DOA. The only comeuppance Breitbart received for his blatant deception was a lawsuit brought by Sharrod, which he cleverly avoided when his heart exploded yesterday.
And let’s not forget this gem, a perfect example of Breitbart’s facility for taking a talking point and blowing it so out of proportion that it’s suddenly the word of God handed down to an old man on a mountaintop from a flaming shrubbery, no matter how huge a load of bovine feces it actually is:
This is the crux of what it means to be – excuse me, to have been – Andrew Breitbart: capitalizing on the basest sensationalism to serve your ideology and make yourself famous at the same time. In the end, what is the journalistic legacy this man leaves behind? Fuck-all. Sincerely, all he can really claim is some opinion columns and forwarding the careers of people who are actively destroying journalistic integrity in the age of the internet. And for what? Did he really believe in the shitbrained causes he championed, or did he just want to make a buck, get his face on Fox News a few more times and raise the advertising rates on his third-rate conservative conspiracy blogs? My vote, friends, is for the latter.
Societal convention in America is for one to either praise the dead, or at least keep your mouth shut while others praise them. Fuck that convention, and fuck Andrew Breitbart. I’m not going to say I’m glad that he’s dead, but I am certainly going to say that I’m glad he’s not wasting our precious air with his poisonous, mendacious voice anymore. I’m glad that the cult of personality that was forming around him even while his continual lies were being exposed will now fall apart like the mob of mindless ideologues that they were. And I’m glad that he can do no more harm to this country through his cowardly, deceitful, hateful stunts. I’m sure even someone as fundamentally vile as Andrew Breitbart had friends and family who loved him, and I do have sympathy for them. Their loss is the world’s gain.
And if you think it’s inappropriate for me to spew such bile at a man who recently passed away, I would like to remind you of my other favorite Breitbart moment: his Twitter feed the day Ted Kennedy died. Here are a few choice examples:
Kennedy is my villain. He took me from left to right during the Thomas hearings. Really. Then read Joe McGuiness book & I wanted to puke.
I’ll shut my mouth for Carter. That’s just politics. Kennedy was a special pile of human excrement.
…and this classy number:
he was a f@#$er. a big ass motherf@#$er. this aint a 24-hour zone, baby. he was a bad, bad dude. & if mary jo were your kin youd be dancin’.
So no, I don’t feel bad at all expressing my feelings about this total waste of water and carbon on the day after he did the only productive thing of his life by ceasing to be a part of it. Andrew Breitbart was a class-A pile of shit, and the world is a better place without him. And if you are one of his many witless fans, I give you full permission to say as many terrible things about me when I die as you want. I’ll even start you off:
Andrew Nienaber was a real dickbag who had no compunction about talking a lot of shit about dead assholes.