Chris Beam brilliantly profiles Andrew Breitbart:
Breitbart likes to think of himself as the big-picture guy. Sure, he can be the doofus who rubs his nipples and snorts red wine powder. But when it comes to substance, every discussion is panoramic. He talks culture as much as politics. Change the way people think, goes his argument, and you'll change the policies they support. "I'm trying to shift the focus of conservative movement from the narrowthe policyto a much higher elevation, granting them a greater perspective." He's all about unified theory. That's why he can transition naturally from Obama ("a joyless PC freak") to ACORN to Bill Clinton to Clarence Thomas to Hollywood to political correctness to the New York Times before finally settling on why Sarah Palin should skip the presidency and just become "red-state Oprah." It's the upside of Breitbart's ADD.
Chait adds his two cents. I've never met Breitbart but we throw each other emails every now and again. I found the following part of the piece the most revealing:
"You wanna meet downer Andrew?" he said. He was picking at a fruit salad. Every few minutes, a piece of cantaloupe would slide down his fork and fall off. He would reskewer it until it fell off again. "It's a fundamental flaw in my psyche. I don't do well with death."
Breitbart's father, now in failing health himself, once tried to explain death to him. It was 1979, Breitbart was 10, and the Yankees catcher Thurman Munson had just died. "I asked my dad what happened. He said he died. I didn't understand, but he didn't have a way to explain the finality." Later, he said, he remembers being crushed by the death of his dogs. When Breitbart was 24, his best friend was killed in a robbery. Breitbart never really dealt with it. "I think I've created a horrific buttress of protections because I was so devastated by the permanence of death as a child," he said later. "My ability to be emotive and cry … I think I'm so fearful of tapping that that I won't know how to turn it off."
Breitbart, like Drudge, gets the web. He understands its subversive and rhetorical power: the sheer thrill of the direct access to millions, the fuel that ideology brings to everything, the traffic that anger summons like a dog whistle to the alienated. This is an angry time, and the web helps tap our anger, monetize it, leverage it in intoxicating ways. I don't begrudge him one bit his fury at some liberals' smugness, or the p.c. nonsense of the 1990s, or the cant of a lot of academia. I never came from liberalism, so I never felt I had to shuck it off.
But Drudge has kept himself sealed off as a human being for a reason, I suspect. He's public only as an avatar. It is because this transparent, raging, brutal world is too destructive to the soul and the psyche to remain so exposed in such a raw fashion for so long without serious damage. Drudge is smart. Andrew, I suspect, will realize how smart eventually.
Yep, death happens because the Internet has replaced life for some but it hasn't abolished the real thing. And Breitbart's vulnerable moment in the piece shows how even the enraged and always offensive are sad and defensive at times, vulnerable often. The web has not banished these truths. Ideology is false. Labels obscure. Rage eventually undoes the enraged, even if the anger is merited. And no, media isn't everything. The battle isn't everything.
Something else remains.