In a sprawling profile at Wired, ex-Clinton staffer Noah Shachtman spotlights conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart. Shachtman gained "unprecedented access" to the provocateur and made full use of it. The piece calls into question Breitbart's business partners, journalistic standards and perception of elitism. It also marvels at his ability to frame public debates (a skill he demonstrated at the Atlantic Wire earlier this week).
Predictably, Breitbart's detractors are using the piece to further assail him. Less predictably, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart's own Web site Big Journalism is calling the profile "largely fair." Does Breitbart know about this? These are a few of the parts he might find unflattering about Shachtman's profile:
“It’s not just the nightly news,” he says. “You’re also getting television shows that reflect the same worldview, where Republicans are always the bad guys. Al Qaeda’s never the bad guy. The Republican is always the bad guy.”
From anyone else, this would be just talk — or talking points. (No terrorist bad guys on TV? Really?) But Breitbart is one of the people who rams those points into the popular consciousness.
He is, depending on whom you ask, either the “leading figure in this right-wing creation of a parallel universe of lies and idiotic conspiracy theories” (that was liberal critic Eric Boehlert of Media Matters for America) or “the most dangerous man on the right today” (from Michael Goldfarb, Republican consultant and former campaign aide to John McCain).
Breitbart's Journalistic Standards:
Despite his conservative views, Breitbart sees himself in some ways as an heir to 1960s radicals like the Yippies and Merry Pranksters, turning the absurd into political points...
The stories don’t even have to be true to be useful. In December, Big Government’s Michael Walsh put together a list of the top stories the mainstream media missed in 2009 [Breitbart owns this site]. Number four: Sarah Palin’s claim that the health care bill included a “death panel” that would decide the fate of the infirm and disabled. Of course, Palin’s claim — thoroughly discredited — was one of the most widely covered stories of the year. But for Walsh, none of that mattered.
Breitbart's Idea of Elitism
They’re an elitist pestilence,” he says of his celebrity targets. “They tell us we can’t have SUVs. They try to impose a one-child-per-family policy. But they can do whatever the hell they want because they’re gallivanting around in the name of the greater good.” He pauses while I try to figure out the “one-child” comment. “God, I fucking hate them.”
...Then they meet up with Felix Dennis, the high-flying founder of Maxim magazine, and spend the rest of the evening at a midtown club drinking Cristal.
Breitbart's Business Partners
To build an alternative media empire, Breitbart had to find alternative sources of money and talent. That has led to ties with some pretty sketchy characters... [He] became a champion of Pat Dollard, a former Hollywood agent turned gonzo war documentarian. Then it came to light that Dollard had doled out liquid Valium to marines in Iraq and robbed a pharmacy there while dressed in US military fatigues... For Breitbart, though, Dollard fit right in with his self-image.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.