So yesterday we learn of the sudden passing of Andrew Breitbart at the age of 43, from "natural causes".
There is a convention in polite society that you do not speak ill of the dead. Or at the very least, that you allow some time for the body to cool before you reflect — politely — on one's past. And I admire that convention. There is, after all, his wife and two children who are mourning today.
But Breitbart's wife and children are not likely to read this post. And what's more, Andrew Breitbart himself didn't adhere to that convention. From Michael Calderone at Politico, we see how Brietbart himself talked about Ted Kennedy:
Andrew Breitbart, a Washington Times columnist who oversees Breitbart.com and BigHollywood.com, tapped into the anti-Kennedy vein in the hours after the senator’s death was announced, posting a series of Twitter messages in which he called Kennedy a “villain,” a “duplicitous bastard” and a “prick.”
"I'm more than willing to go off decorum to ensure THIS MAN is not beatified,” Breitbart wrote. “Sorry, he destroyed lives. And he knew it."
He also tweeted, famously, "Why do you grant a BULLY special status upon his death?"
So in light of that, it seems fitting to give the late Breitbart the very same Brietbart treatment that he bestowed on Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson and others.
Let me be clear: I'm not reveling in his death. Right now, there are lots of conservative bloggers saying that liberals are absolutely giddy about Breitbart's death. I'm not, and I don't know anyone who is. We're not saddened either though. Most of us justd shake our head at the news and think "Karma's a bitch". And if there is any regret, it's that the man didn't live long enough to have an epiphany and come to regret the destruction he did.
He was a tremendous prick. Not so much for his far right politics, which many people hold, but because of his methods. Like McCarthy from decades ago, Breitbart engaged in the politics of personal destruction. And he did it with a zeal that — frightingly — many on the right celebrate. He was wrong (Shirley Sherrod) as often as he was right (Anthony Weiner). But he didn't seem to care either way. As long as somebody (on the left) was destroyed….
For me, the Shirley Sherrod matter sealed Breitbart's reputation as the ugly underbelly of conservative politics. Sherrod was forced to resign from her post as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture, after Breitbart posted a selectively edited video to his blog that made her look like a racist. Sherrod resigned in July 2010. Breitbart admitted that the video he presented showed Sherrod making statements out of context, but he never apologized and showed any sign of regret. (Ironically, the Sherrod video was debuted on Breitbart's main website, Big Journalism, a website that purports to lecture the mainstream media on journalistic ethics).
That's serious rat-fucking.[Sidenote: Sherrod shows herself to be classier than Brietbart ever could be]
There is much speculation on the right about Brietbart's death. Already the whisper campaign has begun — Obama did it. And that's the kind of people that Breitbart both inspired and exploited — the mouth-breathers who believe any piece of crap that he (and those like him) handed out. On the whole, it degraded respectable debate in this country. It lowered the level of political discourse. Why prove the strenghths of your ideas and policies when you can just destroy the lives of your enemies?
Which is why I can't disagree with the words of Matt Tiabbi, writing for Rolling Stone:
[H]e also had enough of a sense of humor to appreciate why someone like me shouldn’t bother to pretend I’m sad he’s dead. He wouldn’t, in my place. So to use one of his favorite words: Good riddance, cocksucker.* Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.