Via Breitbart TV, which is posting eulogies of him as they become available. He’s one of the few people in media whom I regret not having met, partly because experiencing Hurricane Breitbart firsthand must have been a trip and partly because the blog friends we have in common obviously adored him. His public persona was of a guy who enjoyed a good bar brawl so much that he might throw a chair to start one; the private portraits are of someone who’d buy everyone rounds afterward and entertain them for hours. My impression of Hitchens, another famous media warrior-raconteur, was similar even though their respective styles were different. Both had a larger-than-life Falstaffian charm and so their deaths carry an unusual sting. It’s not just the shock of being gone too soon, it’s the palpable sense of life force being lost. It’s like a power outage.
More than that, I regret missing a chance to meet a new-media pioneer in person. Amid all the Weinergate and ACORN stuff of the last few years, I think Breitbart’s importance as a Drudge/HuffPo/Big ‘Net visionary has been obscured. Nick Gillespie does too:
His legacy has nothing to do with whether the Republican party picked up Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat or whether ACORN has been able to renew its funding. It has to do with the ways in which he created new places and spaces to talk about whatever any of us want to talk about. He told Reason in 2004 that after feeling ignored by existing outlets, “We decided to go out and create our media.”
It doesn’t matter who we is, kemo sabe. It’s the conservatives at Drudge, the liberals at HuffPo, the leftists at DailyKos, the libertarians at Reason. It’s all of us and Breitbart helped create and grow a series of do-it-yourself demonstration projects through which we can all speak more loudly and more fully.
Breitbart is dead, but the conversation pits he built will live on for a long, long time. A lot of people theorize about democratizing the public square and bringing new voices and sources into conversations about politics and culture. Breitbart actually did it.
He did. Without him and Drudge, who knows where blogs and the rest of the online media multiverse would be right now? Thanks for making it possible, AB. Rest in peace.
Update: The Hollywood Reporter talks to someone who found himself sitting next to Breitbart at a bar in Brentwood hours before his death.
“He was friendly and engaging,” Sando recalls. “I said, ‘You can’t be very happy with the slate of Republican candidates’ and he said, ‘Why would you say that?’ I said, ‘Well, they’re talking about contraception,’ and he said, ‘The conversation is being framed by the liberal media.’ I said, ‘Well, the media isn’t writing Rick Santorum’s speeches for him.’ We had a back-and-forth for awhile until we said we weren’t going to agree on some things.”
The friendly debate continued in the bar as Breitbart sipped red wine, says Sando. “We just hit it off, he was delightful. There were other people who sat down and joined the conversation.”…
“There were no signs that anything was wrong,” says Sando. “It’s very sad.”
Sando says they parted at around 11:30 p.m.; Breitbart was pronounced dead 49 minutes later.