10 years after his death, America still misses Breitbart

Ten years ago, March 1, 43-year-old Andrew Breitbart dropped dead on a Los Angeles Street, ostensibly – and likely – due to an enlarged heart. So came to an end a public life that lasted for only about three years, but that was more consequential than that of a half-century of Peggy Noonans, George Wills and other such media fossils.

Breitbart used the phrase “new media” to describe the world he pioneered. I prefer “samizdat,” the Russian term for the underground media, new or old, that defied Soviet orthodoxy.

No one defied mainstream media orthodoxy more effectively or cleverly than Breitbart. A child of Hollywood and a recovering liberal, Breitbart had a preternatural grasp of the way the media worked.

Crazily audacious at times, he was one of the very few high-visibility people to defend my thesis that Bill Ayers was involved in the writing of Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father.”

For his troubles, Breitbart was slammed on air for racism, both by HBO’s Bill Maher and MSNBC’s Martin Bashir. I had the good fortune of running into Breitbart at CPAC shortly afterward and was able to thank him for his support. He did not have long to live.

In 2009, Breitbart scored his single greatest strike against the empire through his young protégé, James O’Keefe, and O’Keefe’s partner-in-mischief, Hannah Giles.

Their work, with Breitbart’s guidance, led quickly and directly to the complete collapse of the appallingly corrupt, 500,000-member, 1,200-chapter Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN.

ACORN’s corruption had been allowed to metastasize for nearly 40 years for one obvious reason: Many journalists never bothered with actual journalism.

If the subject matter touched on race in an unhelpful way, journalists, left and right, ducked and covered. With no one paying much attention, the largely minority ACORN offices had grown careless. O’Keefe and Giles quickly discovered just how careless when they visited these offices in the guise of a pimp and his prostitute.

Full of youthful moxie, the conspirators asked the friendly ACORN workers to help them arrange housing for a stable of underage sex workers the pair hoped to import illegally into the country. In every case except one, the office staff happily obliged.

O’Keefe and Giles recorded their interactions on hidden cameras. Despite the subject matter, the videos they produced were funny and playful, but ultimately devastating.

Knowing how the media worked, Breitbart convinced O’Keefe and Giles to release just one video at a time. “You know they are going to say it was one rogue employee,” he told O’Keefe.

On Sept. 10, 2009, Breitbart launched the offensive. He began by posting a video shot at ACORN’s Baltimore office on his new BigGovernment.com site. As expected, the samizdat ran with this visually irresistible story, as did Fox News.

On Sept. 11, just as Breitbart predicted, ACORN execs dismissed the Baltimore video as a fluke. “This is not how we behave,” said the ACORN execs.

They claimed O’Keefe and Giles had gone to at least five other ACORN Housing offices “where they were turned away or where ACORN Housing employees responded by calling the police.”

After letting the media vent for a day, Breitbart posted the video from O’Keefe and Giles’ Washington, D.C., sting. This video was at least as damning as Baltimore’s.

Undeterred by the media’s racial smears, O’Keefe and Breitbart posted one video after another, each shot in a different ACORN office – Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn, San Bernardino, San Diego.

Despite the media’s defensive efforts, President Obama was reeling. Defending this level of lawlessness was not easy, not even for him. These videos were hard to explain away.

While they were still being released, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate each passed the “Defund ACORN Act” with substantial majorities. Cornered, Obama signed the act into law three weeks after the Baltimore video was posted. Washington rarely moves that quickly. Breitbart had struck a nerve.

Almost uniquely on the right, Breitbart was not afraid to take on those who dealt the race card from the bottom of the deck, including the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

On March 20, 2010, Rep. Andre Carson and Rep. John Lewis showily walked through a crowd of Obamacare protesters from the Cannon Office Building to the Capitol.

Once there, Carson told reporters that he and Lewis were “walking down the steps” of Cannon when they “heard ‘n-word, n-word,’ at least 15 times, hundreds of people.”

True or not, this was exactly the story the media needed to prove the Tea Party’s racism, evidence of which had eluded them to this point.

If the media chose to believe Carson, Breitbart did not buy this improbable nonsense for a second. He also understood that cellphone cameras, no longer a novelty, could confirm his suspicions.

In an effective bit of gamesmanship, Breitbart offered $100,000 to anyone who could produce video showing a single person shouting a racial epithet at any member of the CBC.

“What [the Democrats] did not expect was that new media would successfully challenge the propaganda of the old media and the congressmen’s racial smear,” wrote Breitbart.

During the brief span of his public career, Breitbart made media fun. A born showman, he mixed old school journalism – e.g., his exposé of the $4 billion Pigford settlement – with performance art – e.g., his one-man takedown of then-Congressman Anthony Weiner.

As it happens, Breitbart died just four days after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot. If anyone could have derailed the decade of racial mania unleashed by Martin’s death, it would have been Andrew Breitbart. Too bad for America that he never got the chance.

For more information, please see www.cashill.com.


This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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