Breitbart Passing No Tragedy

Since when is cruelty a political principle?

I’ve had several people ask me why I haven’t written about the death of conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. “What do you think,” they ask? Actually, Nicholas Kamm of Rolling Stone already said what I think: that Breitbart was a “douche” whose passing no one should mourn. I wouldn’t have used that word, but the sentiment is in the right (and Breitbart would have had it in no other direction) quadrant. I mourn his death with exactly the same level of sadness I felt when Lee Atwater (1991), Richard Nixon (1994), and Jerry Falwell (2007) died: none. I will preemptively say that I will collectively shed zero tears when the following shuffle off this mortal coil: Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and Bill O’Reilly. (That’s just the short list.)

I don’t loathe these individuals because of their politics, but because they have none. Each, like Breitbart, uses ideology and faux principles as an excuse to be mean-spirited, vicious, and selfish. Since when did creepiness become a synonym for credo? Prevarication for politics? These self-appointed guardians of “truth” worship no god but themselves, care about no one’s economic health but their own, hold few civic ideals, and love the United States only insofar as it pads their bank accounts and assuages their oversized egos. I get the fact that none of these folks invented sensationalism; they are not responsible for a culture in which cathartic anger is easier than contemplative reasoning, nostrums masquerade as policy, and cheap thrills have supplanted compassion. They didn’t invent it, but the Nuremberg defense can’t save them from the damage they’ve done.

If it were only a matter of bad behavior, one could dismiss the Breitbarts of the world for what they were/are: boorish, despicable, and sleazy. Alas, there is too often an actively malevolent side to them. Take the moment that made Breitbart famous: his “exposé” of ACORN. That, as in his video of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod’s alleged anti-white speech, turned out to be a lie. Breitbart faked the data; his video revelations were the equivalent of doctored photographs. Most of what passed for evidence was actually either invented, or was a publicity-seeking selective reading of out-of-context factoids. It was, in short, the sort of hack job that would get a graduate student unceremoniously booted from a university. Alas, there were no professors double-checking Breitbart’s blog and the story, though false, was so juicy that salivating ideologues rushed to the table to slice ACORN to ribbons. As a result, one of the nation’s finest community-empowerment organizations was driven to extinction. Breitbart and his followers did their jobs so well that much of the public believes the lie, not ACORN's 30-year-record of providing needed social services. The sad reality is that thousands of low-income citizens have been deprived of ACORN advocacy for everything from housing advice to voter registration.

Some of Breitbart’s supporters in Congress­–a group no one should confuse with a distinguished college faculty–bemoaned his death, had words of comfort for his family, and called him a “crusader” against fraud. Poppycock! He was the biggest fraud of all. Few shed tears for Nazis condemned at Nuremberg, and I have none for latter-day enemies of justice. Breitbart’s passing won’t improve the world–there are plenty of demagogues (on both the right and the left) remaining–but at least it may slow the damage.

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