Andrew Breitbart, RIP

Remembering the conservative rabble-rouser, activist and Web publisher who died at 43.
6 stories

"Andrew Breitbart, the pugnacious, conservative Internet entrepreneur who took on the left and what he called the 'media bully cabal' with a series of exposes that were explosive and sometimes flawed, died early Thursday after collapsing near his home in Westwood," The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday. "He was 43." Breitbart was survived by a wife and four children.

Chris Beam offered the definitive profile. "In the past year Andrew Breitbart has gone from Internet famous—for years he served as Matt Drudge's second-in-command, then in 2005 he helped found the Huffington Post—to famous famous. Now, with a budding eponymous Internet empire of his own, he's using it to inflame the left, one bilious, apoplectic, vein-popping, pseudo-comedic rant at a time. The hard part is figuring out who the joke is on," he writes. "Since January 2009, Breitbart has launched three Web sites—Big Hollywood, Big Government, and Big Journalism—each a conservative critique of their respective industries."

Rebecca Mead's effort was published around the same time. "Breitbart’s biggest scoop thus far has been a series of videos made by a twenty-five-year-old activist named James O’Keefe, which was posted on Big Government last September. O’Keefe, along with Hannah Giles, then a student at Florida International University, travelled across the nation and entered several offices of Acorn, the community-organizing association, with a hidden camera; they posed as a pimp and a prostitute who were seeking housing and business help," she wrote.

Noah Shachtman explained how Breitbart hacked media. "When he isn’t on TV or drinking with rich guys, Andrew Breitbart spends most days combing through the thousands of tips he receives via email, instant message, and Twitter," he wrote. "He passes on the choicest of those to the editors of his three group blogs: Big Hollywood, which focuses on liberals’ hold on pop culture; Big Journalism, which calls out the press for lefty bias; and Big Government, which — take a guess. He also runs Breitbart.com, which essentially broadcasts headlines from wire services. His fifth site, Breitbart.tv, hosts political videos."

Jack Shafer expressed doubts about the impact of his work. "I liked the idea of Andrew Breitbart better than I liked any of his work at Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Peace, Breitbart or Breitbart.tv," he noted. "As I wrote in Slate in 2009, I admired the way he ignored journalistic convention and the usual ethical standards to pursue the stories that were important to him. I admired his entrepreneurial approach to journalism and his disdain for the credentialed, self-important press corps. I enjoyed his prankster sense of humor, which goes a long way toward explaining why news of his death, tweeted and retweeted this morning, was met with disbelief. He was just the sort of guy who would fake his death and cull the reactions to make a tendentious point at the expense of his enemies. But where did the punches land?"

And David Frum pointed out that he didn't always conduct himself honorably. "This is where it becomes difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous," he wrote. "When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career? Especially when that career was so representative of his times?"

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