Blogger Andrew Brietbart has died at 43 of “natural causes”. Brietbart was, to put it succinctly, a bizarre Hunter S. Thompson mirror image created by the right wing media. (Apologies to Thompson, but the metaphor fits.) His words and actions outraged people everywhere; he loved to pick a fight as long as he didn’t have to stay for any messy conclusions; and truth was a relative concept that sometimes got in the way of a good story. His penchant for roller blades (allowing for a quick getaway) during his oft repeated confrontations with demonstrators and organizations on the left was his signature move. He usually had a wingman trolling along behind him armed with a video camera; catching lefties saying outrageous things on video, either through selective editing or provocation. It was the specialty of his house.
I encountered Brietbart briefly last year at a demonstration up near Palm Springs as he zoomed around on his blades outside a Koch family confab. Inside the fortified Country Club, America’s super-rich rightists gathered to plot strategy and pool their money to pay for whatever the next political assault on President Obama was going to be. Outside the compound several hundred activist types, ranging from senior citizens to Trotskyites waved signs, chanted slogans and hoped for mainstream media coverage that wasn’t forthcoming. From my story on the demonstration:
…it’s worth noting that the Koch family was nice enough to provide the people who came to demonstrate against their Bilderburg-type confab with a personal appearance by the right’s living tribute to Don Rickles, one Andrew Breitbart. The one-time sidekick for the Drudge Report has gone into business for himself, building a media empire based on the finest bile, half-truths and innuendo that money can buy. He’s known for calling the late Senator Ted Kennedy “a special pile of human excrement,” shortly after his death.
In any case, without giving this asshat too much publicity, he did appear at the Ranch Mirage rally, wearing roller-blades and armed with a video camera. Despite spending most of his time trying to incite individuals in the crowd to acts of violence—you gotta give him credit, he knows how to sling an insult—Breitbart ended the day braying at the crowd to no avail. His ability to flit back and forth behind police lines when the going got tough left no doubt that he was as much a part of the entertainment as was the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff who recited the various sections of the penal code to the crowd as the police attempted to clear Bob Hope Drive at the end of the afternoon.
There’s a little Brietbart in all of us who dare to use words instead of weapons to fight our ideological battles. His hungover rants (alcohol abuse was obviously a problem) and taunts reminded me of an earlier incarnation of myself, one where I tried to self-medicate out of depression, using the perfectly legal resources provided by a friendly physician and the oak casks of the Cruzan St. Croix distillery. Oh, the anger and the self-loathing of that Zoloft and Rum era made for some pretty ugly incidents, and I consider myself lucky to have survived. Some of us get lucky and have family and friends to help guide us back from that wilderness of pathos. For some, like Thompson, the pain becomes so great that life itself must be snuffed out.
Andrew Brietbart didn’t survive. Nor did he ever get the chance to make things right. I have no way of knowing if he had enough moral fiber to even want to make things right. So now he’ll be remembered for the small and cruel things that he did, like his infamous Twitter rants after Teddy Kennedy died. He may have been famous in some circles, but for his taskmasters, he was no more than a sideshow clown.
All my utterances here are not to say or imply that one side or the other in the great ideological divides that plague our national psyche are inherently better or worse. Ultimately, it’s not what you say so much as it is what you do. Andrew Brietbart was a mean-spirited human being who took public pleasure in causing others pain. That’s what he did. For the rest of us, the jury is still out.
We’ll be back with our regular roundup of news and events here at First Cuppa tomorrow, provided that the editor dude forgives me for mentioning Hunter S. Thompson in a story about Andrew Brietbart.