01 March 2012

Big Shock: In Memoriam of Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)--Information Entrepreneur

Andrew Breitbart at CPAC 2012  /photo: Brian Matt
Andrew Breitbart, the internet entrepreneur and conservative activist, died of natural causes at the age of 43.

Breitbart graduated from Tulane University in 1991 with what he termed “no sense of [his] future whatsoever.”  After trying some stints with film production and cable television, Breitbart became acquainted with the nascent Drudge Report in 1995, when it was still an email newsletter.  Breitbart thought Matt Drudge’s news aggregation site was “...by far the coolest thing on the internet” so he sought to be “Matt Drudge’s bitch” by selecting and posting newslinks to the site.  Breitbart also assisted Arriana Huffington when she sported moderate Republic guise to set up the Huffington Post. Later, Breitbart set up his own internet media empire, including: Breitbart.com, Breitbart.tv, BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, BigJournalism.com, BigPeace.com.  As conservative media commentator Monica Crowley put it: "Andrew was doing the job that the Main Streem Media won't do."

Although Breitbart worked in journalism, he had no illusion about the ersatz objectivity of reporters. In his autobiography Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World (2011), Breitbart saw himself as a volunteer in the New Media army who served in the front lines fighting against the Democrat-Media Complex in the war to gain control of the American narrative.

Breitbart evolved from maintaining news aggregation sites to doing investigative journalism when Breitbart broke the ACORN abuse.  Investigative activists James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles visited various ACORN offices with a hidden camera posing as a pimp and an under-aged prostitute who wanted ACORN’s assistance.  ACORN routinely turned a blind eye to the purported illegal activities. Breitbart used this investigative journalism to launch his website BigGovernment. But Breitbart also counseled O’Keefe to release the damning videos in dribs and drabs to sustain the story and effectuate change, rather than a media feeding frenzy that is quickly dismissed as “yesterday’s news”.   The Big Government expose on ACORN influenced Congress to federally defund the community fundraising organization, although it has reconstituted itself under other auspices.

Although the ACORN incident showed how Breitbart knew to sustain a news story by strategic publishing, Breitbart also knew how to seize the day.  This was especially true with Weiner-Gate.  Breitbart was in the forefront of publishing the explicit materials of himself that former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9th) shared on social media.  But when Weiner finally decided to personally address the situation, Weiner tried to manipulate the press cycle to put his best foot foreword.  Weiner was supposed to give a presser at 4 p.m. but he waited over an hour to start the event as he thought that he could control the narrative so that time pressed TV newscasts would either give him unfiltered live coverage or force a spoon fed summation without analysis or contradiction.  Breitbart was on the seen of the Weiner press conference.  As the delay continued, Breitbart walked right up to the podium to defend himself over his journalism.  Weiner had successfully stonewalled the scandal until then, but he lost control of the narrative and soon after had to resign.

Breitbart knew the importance of putting a picture to a story.  The ACORN undercover videos had a greater resonance than a text news story.  The same is true with the scantily closed Twitter photos of Anthony Weiner in his Congressional office.  In 2004, before the advent of YouTube, Breitbart was able to get his hands on video of Teresa Heinz Kerry screaming at a reporter.  Breitbart posted in on the Drudge Report and it got more than a million hits in a day. When Agriculture office Shirley Sherrod gave an incendiary speech before the NAACP, BigGovernment posted video which showed Sherrod given what was tantamount to racial discrimination to a white farmer, which led her to be fired from her job.  During the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Breitbart gave a barnburner of a speech in which he alluded to having damning videos of Barack Obama in his youth, but withheld them for the right time.

After news of Breitbart’s death broke, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg observed on FoxNews that: “[Breitbart] was the modern conservative iteration of a 1960s radical... When I say he was the most fearless guy I ever knew, it really is true. I mean, he truly loved the fight.”

Breitbart (center) at CPAC 2012 / photo: Brian Matt
The night that he passed away, Breitbart gave a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt which indicated that Breitbart was relishing for a legal battle with David Schuster over the libeling of James O’Keefe.  Breitbart also enjoyed confronting Occupy protestors. Breitbart was in the process of finalizing a film to be released in conjunction with Citizens United “Occupy Unmasked”, which would document the well funded, co-ordinated anarchism with the so-called “99%-ers”.  Breitbart was in the process of finalizing a film to be released in conjunction with Citizens United “Occupy Unmasked”, which would document the well funded, co-ordinated anarchism with the so-called “99%-ers”.

Liberally oriented social media erupted in hate at the news of Breitbart’s death.  This is somewhat ironic, considering how far Breitbart stuck his neck out for conservatives to embrace right minded homosexuals.  But to paraphrase Winston Churchill, having enemies shows that you stood up for something.  And as Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI 11th) reminisced: "There was no stopping Andrew Breitbart from fighting the good fight with every fiber of his soul."

Liberals may lament Breitbart’s brash and pugnacious style.  But Breitbart deserves kudos for being an information entrepreneur.  He recognized that the Internet could intensify the news cycle and could circumvent the Democrat-Media Complex.  Instead of settling to be a successful news aggregator, Breitbart delved into investigative journalism to do stories that the Lamestream Media would shun because it did not fit into their progressive rose colored glasses.  Breitbart knew how to leverage a news cycle.  Although some questioned showing snippets of provocative video, Breitbart was also renowned for including extended video clips so motivated viewers could decide for themselves. Moreover, Breitbart instinctively appreciated the importance of linking images to stories to put information over the top of public indifference.

May Andrew Breitbart rest in peace with some consolation to his young family.  And may Breitbart’s legacy and example loom large for the New Media on the battlefield for control of the American narrative.

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