A Critical Look at a Right-Wing Hatchet Man

Andrew Breitbart in full cry

If you haven't been following this man's career but would like to know more, a quick reading of the FAIR blog will bring you up to speed; or just read down on this page. A disclaimer: For any who feel I come off like some leftwing kook on a vendetta when I talk about this individual, the comments following FAIR's Breitbart article may prove enlightening. The Web offers plentiful video of the man in action -- I found his ungenerous comments on Ted Kennedy's death particularly revealing, though they may cause your blood pressure to shoot up several points.

A Partial List of Breitbart's Victims
  • Van Jones, Obama Admin. Green Jobs Guru - hounded from office for allegedly calling House Republicans assholes
  • Shirley Sherrod, Department of Agriculture official - fired for alleged reverse racism
  • ACORN - stung in the pimp-wanting-to-open-a-brothel on public money scam; funding withdrawn, agency folded
  • NPR - Director resigned, other officials fired for alleged pro-liberal bias
  • N.Y. Sen. Anthony Weiner, resigned after Breitbart outed sexual text messages
  • Planned Parenthood - Andy had his knife out for this favorite Republican target when his own heart failed him

This is what Breitbart said on hearing of Sen. Edward Kennedy's demise:

"Good riddance, cocksucker. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

As JFK would have said, no class. In the opinion of this writer, this nasty comment might serve as a fitting epitaph for Breitbart himself. For in venting his unseemly contempt for Kennedy after he was gone, Breitbart in some measure forfeited his own claim to the respect customarily accorded the dead.

Senator Edward Kennedy late in lifeCall it a personality flaw, but I have a hard time warming up to a man who is so vulgar and mean-spirited toward his defeated or departed opponents. My apologies to any who are offended by my comments slashing Breitbart; but in the light of the man's own character, I would invite consideration of my comments in context. He was an infuriating partisan, and specialized in being provocative, as seen in the video of him at Occupy Wall Street. I feel it would be almost disrespecting Breitbart to mute one's criticism. He never tried to mollify his own critics, instead going all out to bait them.

And you have to hand it to him. Breitbart had chutzpah. And never more so than the time when -- at a news conference called by Anthony Weiner, who Breitbart was then in the process of destroying -- when Weiner was late, Breitbart hopped to the stage, took the microphone, and proceeded to take questions from the media as though it were his own event. He trashed Weiner up one side and down the other -- right at his own event. No shrinking violet our Andrew.

Josef Goebbels speakingBreitbart was no friend to truth. Like the great
totalitarian propagandists of the 1930s, he found truth a very secondary commodity, useful only when it supported his predetermined narrative: that America is being subverted by a liberal conspiracy bent on destroying 'freedom' by intruding 'socialist' big government into every facet of society. Merely to write this scenario out is to expose how laughable it is. But with frequent repetition, this right-wing mantra has achieved, if not universal acceptance, at least currency. Historically minded readers will note the close correspondence between this myth and the scare tactics of the McCarthyists during the Cold War (Russian spies have honeycombed our government and military!), and indeed with the scapegoating of German Jews by Hitler and his flunkies in the Third Reich. Equally ludicrous arguments are now crowding the stage in America's media circus, inviting, nay demanding serious consideration: Social Security is a Ponzi scheme; you'll never collect. Iran has nuclear weapons. All Muslims are terrorists; their religion is based on hate. 'Illegal' immigrants are stealing our jobs. Global warming is a liberal myth. Women who use birth control are all sluts. All of these specious arguments have something in common: They deliver a visceral punch to the gut, triggered by fear and jealousy. The gut reaction in turn fuels anger and shuts down critical thinking. No need to soberly assess the statements or pick apart the phony premises when you can enjoy a gratifying jolt of adrenaline and go sic the target conveniently identified by your plausible Fox News trainer.

If you look at our national consensus 30 years ago, in 1982, none of these positions would have had credibility. They may not be majority opinion today, but they are emphasized again and again by the corporate media, and have gained enough acceptance that the minority party can claim a mandate to enact much looney-tunes legislation that is not in the national interest. Legislation that mandates far more intrusive right-wing government than ever before. As Rachel Maddow says, IOKIYAR - it's a terrible sin if you're a Democrat or a leftie, but IT'S OK IF YOU'RE A REPUBLICAN. Amazingly, the irony and the sheer hypocrisy seem lost on the perpetrators; quick to point the finger of blame, they are in denial when it comes to their own flaws.

Marshall McLuhan said that "the medium is the message," and that goes double for Breitbart's brickbats tossed at the cathedral windows of liberal democracy. If truth in content was secondary to him, the medium was primary. In his autobiography titled Righteous Indignation, he wrote:
ďThe biggest point I wanted to make was one Iím still making: Hollywood is more important than Washington. It canít be overstated how important this message is: the pop culture matters.Ē
Breitbart was a practiced manipulator of the levers of pop culture, the Web, the blogosphere, the cable talk media. He deserves credit for bringing political spin to a new level. Unfortunately, it is a new level of mendacity that is most unhealthy for the body politic.

The Bible and Torah read, in part, "They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind." [Hosea 8:7] Considering Breitbart's extreme views -- considering how he embraced a great burden of anger and intolerance toward all who held contrary views -- it is not surprising that he died young (43), apparently of a heart attack. It seems likely that his well-known love of the bottle and greasy junk food contributed to his untimely demise, but we cannot rule out the festering effects of the great ball of hatred burning away in his soul year after year.

Cartoon of right-wing lemmings stampeding over a cliff, Eric Cantor in the lead shouting 'Drill, baby, drill!'Right-wing activists are already making a martyr of Breitbart, claiming he was assassinated by the foul progressive conspirators who are ruining and undermining America at every turn. Some people will believe anything. ANYthing. The truth be damned. And damn anyone who dares to assert the truth. They're not interested in truth, just power. Raw, brass-knuckled power. And they can never get enough.

Breitbart shared with his forerunners, the German Nazis and the Italian fascists, a worship of power, an unseemly obsessiveness, and a willful denial of reality. These imperatives were so all-consuming they mandated near-complete blindness to common decency and the public interest. Masquerading as great patriots, Breitbart and his colleagues in fact have pointed the country down the path of discord and paralysis.

Gleefully up-ending good government and stomping on grass-roots democracy, the far-right blowhards have nothing to offer in its place but greed and kleptomania dressed up as "freedom." I submit privatized prisons as Exhibit 1 and privatized public schools as Exhibit 2. Look at what's happening to the schools in Chicago under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. These privatized operations represent a willful abandonment of the covenant between government and citizens, and the de facto creation of a two-tier system of services, delivering greatly inferior -- indeed, inadequate -- services to lower-income populations and Cadillac services to wealthy enclaves of privilege. There is also a correlation between inadequate education for the poor or unfortunate and the growth of prisons to accommodate drop-outs when they cannot find an honest job: this constitutes the deliberate creation and perpetuation of an under-class, and economic exploitation of its members by the prison-industrial complex. This is one of the true meanings of the Republican rhetoric about freedom and responsible choices.

Then there's the issue of birth control and unwanted pregnancies, so popular in the debates of late, which we'll examine as Exhibit 3. The ultra-conservatives' concern about breeding 'responsibility' in poor women who get pregnant, and protecting human rights for their unborn children, evaporates without a trace the moment those unborns have passed down the birth canal. What chance do they stand if born into a life of stultifying poverty, in a society that only pretends to educate them and outright refuses to give them the healthcare they need and deserve? The unspoken agenda behind the moralistic hypocrisy of the abortion-bashers is to keep the poor down, and especially to keep low-income women down: Women who have been denied sex education by right-wing school boards, who can't afford abortion or find a service nearby, who are overwhelmed by the struggle to rear many children with inadequate income and sketchy social services. So, let me get this straight ... women should be forced to have unwanted children, even products of rape or molestation, and then they're on their own? Teenage mothers? Drug addicts? And then when they run into problems it's all their fault, so they should be made to suffer -- and their dead-beat offspring should be made to suffer? That REALLY sounds like responsible government policy. Good way to build a stable, well-adjusted society; lock 'em all up and make jobs for prison guards; incarcerate them for $35,000 a year per prisoner and charge it off to the taxpayer. That's tight-fisted Republican management for you. How much was it going to cost to send them to school instead?

These are but a few examples of the practical side of "reform" as proposed in America today. The other applications are no prettier -- variations on a theme in fact -- unless you happen to be a shareholder in the companies that transmute human misery into record profits.

If by choice or by default we march further down this path, it surely will lead us to utter ruination. The hard-right vision of our future, as propounded by Andrew Breitbart and Scott Walker, poses an imminent threat to national security, indeed national survival. Please, fellow Americans, let's not go there!

Page copyright © 2012 by Larry Neilson.

Breitbart as the Cowardly Lion

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