GOP Hitman Andrew Breitbart's Confessional Memoir: I Wouldn't Be a Foul, Raging Jerk If I Had Made It in Hollywood
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While a student at Tulane University in the late 1980s, Andrew Breitbart was known for two things: rollerblading around campus in derby shorts, and making proud shows of his lack of intellectual curiosity. A scene in Righteous Indignation , Breitbart’s new memoir-manifesto, finds him rolling up to a group of sorority girls and asking them to choose his major for him as the deadline approaches.
Not much has changed over the decades. Andrew Breitbart is still rollerblading. He’s also still pretty forthright about his general lack of interest in most of what makes up the day’s news. This is true even of the subjects on which he has staked his name.
“In June 2009,” he writes in the opening sentence to Righteous Indignation , “I didn’t know much about the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.” Although soon to enter conservative lore as a slayer of ACORN, Breitbart cops to only ever knowing the Fox News propaganda line on the organization. This consists largely of the lie, repeated here by Breitbart, that ACORN was “linked with severe voter fraud.”
No footnote is attached to this assertion for good reason. Later in the book, Breitbart has this to say about media appearances by Bertha Lewis -- then ACORN’s CEO -- in defense of her organization: “We knew that we were drawing blood when ACORN abandoned white spokesperson Scott Levenson in favor of the dashiki-clad African-American Bertha Lewis. Clearly, political correctness, the race card, and Alinksy were going to be their playbook -- a tried-and-true defense.”
As Breitbart makes repetitively clear in Righteous Indignation (Grand Central Publishing), he doesn’t really care about ACORN, economics, or anything much else. What he cares about are his commando raids against the Hollywood and media establishments. Breitbart recalls that after James O’Keefe said he planned to use the ACORN tapes to take down ACORN, Breitbart replied, “No. We’re going to take down the media.”
“I didn't want to react to the news at all, writes Breitbart. “I wanted to drive the news cycle." In the six years since helping to launch Huffington Post—more about that in a minute—he has succeeded. Breitbart has emerged as the leader of the new breed of rightwing media activist. His chain of “Big” sites and his promotion of undercover videos have earned him iconic status on the right and endless epitaphs from the left. Breitbart does not argue with charges of peddling slime. “We don’t fight fair; we fight righteous,” he writes. Breitbart insists that President Obama was elected by the mainstream media “through platitudes and misdirection” and says that it therefore never crossed my mind whether I should play fair” in releasing the ACORN tapes. “Fair loses."
Maybe. But it also keeps you out of court. In February, Shirley Sherrod served Breitbart papers over the doctored video he released that got her fired from the Department of Agriculture. Fighting fair also helps maintain a minimum of credibility, his store of which Breitbart has depleted in record time.
As political and media analysis, Righteous Indignation is thin gruel even by Conservative Book Club standards. Its prose is constructed of granite-slab clichés, mortared with the thin bile and rabid drool of a man whose two authorial modes are sycophant (he calls Matt Drudge and Roger Ailes “visionaries” by page four) and spoiled, hyperactive child (he tells his lawyer after seeing the ACORN videos, “I want it. I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it”).
As a window into the mind and soul of an ascendant and uniquely shameless force on the right, however, Righteous Indignation fascinates, and demands at least a fraction of the attention demanded by its man-child author. What emerges in these pages is a self-portrait of the post-intellectual rightwing activist-provocateur as overgrown Hollywood brat, so debilitated by ADHD he must take to an airplane to escape the Internet and find the peace of mind to construct a single complete English sentence.