Beware of Los Angeles bus stops this week: Breitbart California launched on Monday with a series of awful ads including Nancy Pelosi on all fours and Mark Zuckerberg with exposed female breasts. The posters seem like they're going for fresh and DIY and edgy, but instead they're tired sexist jokes that reek of desperation for controversy.
The new West Coast venture of Breitbart News' expanding conservative blogging empire takes aim the Democratic political elite — notably Pelosi and California Gov. Jerry Brown — and Silicon Valley. But the controversial rollout of Breitbart’s California operation is another attempt to push the counterintuitive idea that being conservative is an act of rebellion. The site's late founder Andrew Breitbart — seen in the least offensive ad wearing ripped jeans and a sleeve tattoo, ecstatic in the throes of getting air on a skateboard — was an agent provocateur, and a believer in turning the culture of the right into something cool and punk in the face of the clutched pearls of conservatives. "I like to call someone a raving cunt every now and then, when it’s appropriate, for effect,” Breitbart told The New Yorker. “'You cocksucker.' I love that kind of language." And in a 2010 interview with The Wire, Breitbart said, "I want to preface everything by saying I grew up on troublemakers. I liked journalists who were honest about where they were coming from even if they were bizarre, inebriated or larger-than-life characters." Clearly, Breitbart News wants to hold on to this sensibility.
But the new ads don't seem dangerous and new; instead they play on old sexist tropes. There's Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House, on her hands and knees in a possible homage to Miley Cyrus, head back and a limp tongue hanging out of her mouth. Mark Zuckerburg’s head is placed onto a topless woman with the nonsensical tagline, “Silicon Valley Girls. Covering Cali-Sized IQs and Cup Sizes.” Get it? Because the worst insult you can throw at a man is to call him a woman.
There's also Gov. Jerry Brown as a ripped body builder (a likely nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Piers Morgan literally hopping a fence, representing the new outfit's "Border to Border Coverage." Since Morgan is a little less famous, the ad shows him wearing a helpful "Hello My Name Is Piers Morgan" tag.
These posters are, of course, the deft work of Photoshop by the artist Sabo, who also gave the world the cannot-unsee-it-image of a topless Ted Cruz with neck tattoos. Sabo is also a firm believer in punk conservatism: “My aim as an artist is to be as dirty, ground level, and mean as any Liberal artist out there, more so if I can. Use their tactics, their methods, appeal to their audience, the young, urban , street urchins with a message they never hear in a style they own,” he writes on his website. But the very act of trying to be so cool proves that Breitbart California have no idea at all what that actually means, and instead went full-blown sexist.
Conservative blogger Justin Higgins is not impressed. "Imagine, for a moment, how sites like mine and Breitbart would react if Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or Cathy McMorris-Rogers was photoshopped into a similar pose. We would respond, righteously, with indignation and outrage. Just because we have massive disagreements with Pelosi on policy doesn’t mean we can ignore the obvious double standard."
Understandably, the reaction on Twitter is that of mild outrage.
The people at Breitbart appear to have gone insane http://t.co/MLKGwoKItS— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) April 7, 2014
But some on the right were also readily prepared for backlash on the left.