Who is this Andrew Breitbart guy?

When I heard that Andrew Breitbart died, I knew I had him mentally slotted as a wingnut, but couldn’t remember exactly who he was. Yet people had such nice things to say about him! For example, Andrew Sullivan:

The incendiary media innovator and pop music lover is dead at 43 from natural causes. It’s a stunner. He was on Hugh Hewitt’s show yesterday in fine form. Sincere condolences to his family and friends and co-workers. The kind of high stakes in-the-arena 24/7 blogging lifestyle is not always easy on the body or soul. We were often at crossed swords online but tried not to make it personal. We spent the last time we were together sharing favorite pop music on our iPhones on an airplane. He sure seemed to be enjoying life at the time.

And FTB’s own Stephen Andrew:

I realize Breitbart ignited great passion on both sides of the aisle and there may be a rehash of those issues in the days ahead. I just want people to know that behind the scenes, Andrew had a wicked, irreverant sense of humor and boundless, infectious energy for his opponents, his friends, and this new medium he helped create. Let’s give the man his due, he made a difference and that’s a legacy anyone would want.

Hmmm… so why did I have him slotted as a wingnut? Unfortunately, the main thing I can find is a post by Ed about Breitbart fantasizing about armed conflict between conservatives and liberals. But hey, since my memory is fuzzy I don’t know for a fact that Breitbart was like that all the time. Maybe that was a momentary lapse from someone who was mostly not-insane, merely wrong a lot, or something.

But it occurs to me that “made a difference” is not, in fact, “a legacy anyone would want.” Many people say they’d like to make a difference, but what they really mean is “make a difference for the better.” And whether Breitbart did that is going to be controversial. Furthermore, if Breitbart really was such a great guy, why have I never seen any of the bloggers I read mention that before?

The only “don’t speak ill of the dead”-type argument I’ve ever found even halfway convincing is that we wouldn’t want to make things harder on the family of the deceased. But when someone really awful dies, I’m inclined to thing, “Yes, I’m sorry you had to be related to the bastard.” That’s definitely what I thought when Falwell died. And shouldn’t the families of public figures be used to hearing said family member criticized by the time they die?

UPDATE: In the comments, Alverant points out that Breitbart once dishonestly edited a video in a way that ended up getting a woman fired. Now I agree with Matt Yglesias: “world outlook is slightly improved.”

  • http://ms-daisy-cutter.dreamwidth.org/ Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform

    I think Glenn Greenwald got it right a few months ago.

  • Alverant

    If you can, google what he said about Ted Kennedy right after he died. Breitbart also edited footage of someone in the Obama administration so badly (and intentionally) that he made her out to be a racist and everyone believed it forcing her to step down and ruining her reputation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Oh! I remember the video-editing story. Okay, glad he’s dead.

  • http://www.nd.edu/~dhicks1 Dan Hicks

    Did you forget to check his Wikipedia page?

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Yes, I did in fact.

      In my defense, when I heard Breitbart was dead, my main thought was to try to figure out where I’d heard about him before. Which definitely wasn’t Wikipedia. Even though Wikipedia might have jogged my memory. Okay that’s not a very good defense.

  • Bruce Gorton

    The average journalist just got a whole lot more ethical – that said:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1tKm8rnLnQ

  • tom

    Breitbart was also responsible for the rise of James O’Keefe, a sort of right wing Michael Moore whose release of deceptively-edited undercover videos of ACORN workers led to congressional bills defunding the organization. Even after multiple independent investigations cleared ACORN of any wrongdoing and concluded that O’Keefe had deliberately misrepresented the facts, Breitbart, always completely indifferent to truth, continued to raise hell about the phony ‘scandal’.

    From David Frum’s comments after Breitbart’s death:

    “This indifference to detail suffused all of Breitbart’s work, and may indeed be his most important and lasting legacy. Breitbart sometimes got stories right (Anthony Weiner). More often he got them wrong (Sherrod). He did not much care either way. Just as all is fair in a shooting war, so manipulation and deception are legitimate tools in a culture war. Breitbart used those tools without qualm or regret, and he inspired a cohort of young conservative journalists to do likewise.

    … 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?”

  • tom

    Also: This essay on Breitbart from Ta-Nehisi Coates is excellent.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/on-making-yourself-right/253889/

  • michaeld

    Good riddance.