You see, these are the moments when we’ll miss Andrew the most. The Washington Post offers a longish obituary on Breitbart after his passing, but includes this rather laughable assertion about halfway through:
Mr. Breitbart’s political adversaries are speaking kindly about a man they often vilified.
“There’s no point in engaging in political debate today,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters for America, a liberal media-criticism group that once branded Mr. Breitbart “an ideological liar.” “My sympathy is with his wife and children.”
Arianna Huffington, founder of the liberal-leaning Huffington Post, said in a statement: “I was asked many times this morning for my thoughts on what Andrew meant to the political world, but all I can think of at the moment is what Andrew meant to me as a friend, starting from when we worked together — his passion, his exuberance, his fearlessness.” Mr. Breitbart helped Huffington start her Web site in 2005.
Later in the piece, though, the Post admitted that the response they got was less than “kind”:
News of Mr. Breitbart’s death sparked such hostile responses from some readers that The Washington Post had to pre-moderate the comments section on its Web site.
WaPo blogger Jennifer Rubin howls at this assertion:
Charlie Spiering and others have gone to the trouble of collecting the hate-filled tweets that celebrated his death. It’s not simply stray wackos but the supposed cream of the liberal crop that could not contain itself. Suggesting a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church in his honor?Sure. Rolling Stone obscenity? You betcha.
Even the Daily Beast’s David Frum (a largely fallen conservative who often tangled with Breitbart) opined: “Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading.” (To be clear, Frum did not rheotorically dance on Breitbart’s grave.)
For a newspaper that supposedly wanted to report on the subject — their article certainly opined on it — the Post couldn’t even muster the curiosity to Google the reaction. Twitter is a reliably volatile forum and collecting reactions there wouldn’t be a fair representation of the reaction among Breitbart opponents, but Slate’s Matt Yglesias isn’t just some guy on Twitter, either, and he tweeted that “The world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBrietbart dead.” Some of his opponents did handle the news in a professional and classy manner, including Media Matters for America, which gave a surprisingly humane response, much to their credit. However, that was hardly the norm yesterday, as the Post would have its readers believe — and the fact that they had to premoderate comments gave them a big clue as to what the actual reaction was.
Jen notes the irony of her newspaper’s spin:
The irony here is that “Breitbart’s enemies are being civil!” is preceisely the sort of cant that Breitbart raged against. He (recall the left’s reaction to the Arizona massacre) decried and debunked the pretense that the left was so much more genteel and dignified than the right. He delighted in re-tweeting the vicious tweets about him so that the veneer of civility would be stripped away. And it is largely to Breitbart’s pioneering spirit that there are a flock of New Media outlets to, in his absence, immediately take up the task of balancing, prodding and debunking what used to be a mainstream media monopoly.
Indeed. That just makes it even more incumbent upon us to take up where Andrew left off.
Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus replies to Frum’s article:
David Frum could not have known Breitbart. At least that’s the most charitable reason I can think of for why he picked the occasion of Breitbart’s sudden death to promote the cheap, bogus meme that Andrew had a “giddy disdain for truth and fairness” as long as a story helped his side. ”Just as all is fair in a shooting war, so manipulation and deception are legitimate tools in a culture war,” writes Frum.
I’ve known right-wingers who were like that (‘See, we attack Kerry with this, and by the time he answers we’ve moved on to the next charge!’) Breitbart wasn’t one of them. Yes, he had a jaundiced view of the left, and a pugilistic–I might say, Frum-esque–view of the Middle East. But he said what he though was true, even when that hurt his side or put his own career at risk.
Exhibit A: At the height of “Weinergate,” the moment of Breitbart’s greatest triumph, he began to have doubts about the key source, one “Dan Wolfe,” who had caught Rep. Anthony Weiner’s off-color tweet. Instead of burying these doubts, Breitbart went public with them, something that threatened to badly complicate his side’s narrative. (“Is there a real ‘Dan Wolfe’ … or has someone for months elaborately pretended to be?”) He got a lot of grief from some conservatives for this.**
Exhibit B: Breitbart was a powerful speaker, and in the early days of the Tea Party he opened for Glenn Beck at rallies. But in his view the Tea Party was a success because it was a big tent focusing on cutting the size of government, not on social issues (where Breitbart, as pretty much of a ‘South Park Republican,’ often agreed with the left). Beck’s turn to vague religiosity annoyed him, and he said it. He knew this wasn’t going to get him in good with Beck, and it didn’t.
I would go so far as to say that Breitbart had an instinctive honesty–pretty much the opposite of what Frum charges. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Shirley Sherrod mess, in which Breitbart posted a video the end of which had been lopped off before he saw it. But I guarantee you Breitbart posted it because he felt it truthfully made a legit point (and he wasn’t aware what the rest of it would show). I also know that there were plenty of stories presented by the “cohort of young conservative journalists” that he refused to publish because he wasn’t certain they’d hold up. He didn’t pretend to have the institutional standards of, say, CBS and Dan Rather. But he had a commitment to truth, independent of ideology, that (as Frum notes) many on left and right lack.
Be sure to read it all.
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