Thursday, March 01, 2012

Andrew Breitbart is dead [updated]

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Andrew Breitbart
Andrew Breitbart (1969–2012)

I find myself curiously unperturbed by the news that professional conservative muckraker Andrew Breitbart has passed away:

Andrew Breitbart, the rabble-rousing conservative activist, Web publisher, husband, and father of four, died in Los Angeles shortly after midnight Thursday, his Web site Big Government reported this morning in a short, mournful announcement. It offered up, as a sort of parting sentiment, an update Breitbart wrote for his most recent book. "I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and -- famously -- I enjoy making enemies," it states.

I think it says something rather revealing and unflattering about a person’s body of work when the first question raised by many (myself included) over the news of their demise is whether it’s just another hoax.

If the value of someone’s life can be measured by the legacy they leave behind, then Breitbart – whose name is mostly associated with lies, intolerance, and some of the most virulent ideological hackery imaginable – was measurably and objectively a negative influence in the world, at least when it came to the U.S. political scene. I hardly need to refresh anyone’s memories about the man’s ignominious track record (especially since so many others are currently doing so much more aptly – and, I suppose, impartially – than I probably could). Really, the only question left to ask about the man and his death is why it came about at such a relatively young age.

I will not celebrate his death. Biased as I may be, I am not quite at the level of dancing on anyone’s grave. But I will certainly not pretend to be saddened by the news, or frankly, that I’m anything other than relieved. Life is not sacred; as I said, its worth is determined by what one does in life, how they affect the people around them. And given that Breitbart’s primary influence has been one of serial dishonesty, endless fear- and conspiracy-mongering, repeated injustices and establishing a precedent for legendarily incompetent pseudo-journalism (James O’Keefe, anyone?) that all combine to drag the public discourse back for miles, his existence was one of a venomous reptile. I feel for his friends and family, especially his four young children, but that doesn’t change the fact that the rest of us are better off without him.

Good riddance, and farewell.

UPDATE: 03/01/12 6:10 PM ET —

Alex Pareene at Salon delivers an informative and trenchant tribute, summarizing thus:

It wasn’t actually about “politics” for Breitbart, really. He didn’t care what the top marginal tax rate was. He didn’t see any sort of contradiction in supporting gay rights and drug legalization while working for the election of Republicans. It was about fighting and bomb-throwing and arguing and winning a war against an enemy he built up in his Hollywood-inspired imagination to be massive and powerful. Because that enemy was in his imagination duplicitous and evil, he could justify all sorts of awful behavior on his own part.

He also hits on Breitbart’s lowly beginnings, rise to notoriety and even the “dangerous little liar” James O’Keefe. Do read the whole thing.