Conservative gadfly Andrew Breitbart has died unexpectedly at 43. Breitbart had a number of internet publications, and was instrumental in assisting Arianna Huffington in setting up Huffington Post making him a pioneer in online journalism. Between HuffPo and his early work for Matt Drudge, Breitbart helped shape almost everything we know about the model of online political publishing.
He was also central to the conservative movement’s journalistic obsession with hasty generalization, assisting noted idiot James O’Keefe in his efforts to entrap one liberal on film making an embarrassing comment and then reporting that it is representative of entire liberal organizations or posting heavily and disingenuously edited videos in order to slander government officials. He also told us about how Oprah was really running the White House (would this have been a bad thing?). I wonder if his site will still be releasing the infamous Obama college video he talked non-stop about a couple weeks ago? Whenever conservatives decry the “gotcha journalism” of the mainstream media this is pure psychoanalytic projection. For when conservatives whine they have just been asked a straightforward question about policy, while Breitbart celebrated misleading editing and ambush pranks.
Breitbart’s passing is tragic, coming as it did in the prime of his life, but we cannot let his death overshadow his life. Indeed, he wouldn’t have wanted us to, even if we disagree about what his life meant. His work over the last several years involved vile race-baiting and conspiracy theories. He led the charge that dismantled a massive public service non-profit that had assisted the underprivileged in over 100 cities based on the comments of a couple of staffers that were duped by a prankster. His journalism drove the audience away from actual policy and toward (often fake) scandal.
On the occasion of his death, we should all revisit his work with a critical eye and take this opportunity to stand against it and attempt to elevate the debate back to discussion of issues rather than sensationalism.