Thursday, March 01, 2012

Breitbart's Passing

Most Englishmen and women won't have heard of Andrew Breitbart and the news of his death today aged 43 will mean nothing other than exemplifying the unfortunate circumstance of a relatively young man leaving his wife and four kids suddenly without their father and husband. But Breitbart's death has received substantial coverage in America, with the Republican presidential candidates lining up to praise his 'patriotism' and 'integrity', while amongst the tweeted comments are some that are undoubtedly celebratory.

A fairly recent arrival on the media scene, but a man who pushed forward the boundaries of new media, Breitbart was a controversial figure, always determined to stir things up from his place on the right. He called Ted Kennedy a 'special pile of human excrement' when news of Kennedy's death broke, fitted up a decent, black public servant in Georgia as a racist (she wasn't - he had selectively edited the video recording of a question and answer session she was involved in and released it on his blog) and used all manner of invective to engage with his many critics. If he has had any impact at all beyond the short term, it is probably in further poisoning the waters of public discourse, especially that conducted over social media. He fitted in well with the 'Fox World' of political broadcasting.

'Wired' has a sympathetic obit here, and an earlier profile gives a measure of the man, while it's left to Andrew Sullivan, no fan of Breitbart's views, to provide perspective here. It is, finally, a measure of Mitt Romney's political integrity that this candidate for whom Breitbart is likely to have held nothing but contempt (his websites regularly ran the accusation that Romney was not a 'proper conservative') still weeps crocodile twitter tears for his passing.

UPDATE: David Frum at the Daily Beast has a good piece on Breitbart, noting that it is difficult in his case to speak only good of the dead as "It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous."

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