the Fall of the House of Breitbart
Andrew Breitbart learned from Matt Drudge and Ariana Huffington before he came to light as a master of the media, forging his own brand with his own name and a few days after his final speech in Michigan, he died. Shortly thereafter the opportunists, partisans, ideologues, and possibly friends that inherited stewardship of his brand accidentally set about the task of unintentionally destroying his brand.
Whether or not Breitbart.com and all the media attached to the company may truly die a financial death I find it safe to say that the for-profit news-and-opinion organization enjoys a rather diminished influence and arguably something divorced from the vision of his founder. It’s surely arrogant on my part to assume that all of the Breitbart network will face financial insolvency within the next year or even five years. If I knew about branding and spreading a message far and wide I’d have a staff and a travel budget, and a finished basement as well as a zipline and a climbing wall. Yet I don’t have those things and it’s quite possible the high lord commanders at the House of Breitbart don’t either. Yet if they do I probably shouldn’t write this.
Now the thing is I never was a serious reader of the Breitbart sites and am not now. Before the death of Andrew Breitbart I rarely ever visited his website and felt no pressure to do so. It was a conservative/Republican website and it posted articles. That’s not a draw. I wasn’t there for the stunts and videos of my former co-worker James O’Keefe and his temporary partner. The Weiner saga didn’t draw me in; he’s not my legislator. So I can never attest to what it was all like at its peak; I cannot say the quality diminished along its first post-Breitbart year nor can I faithfully say that as far as writing and presentation goes it’s been worse every year since.
I met Andrew Bretibart. I spoke with him in person. I encountered him a few times. I caught him on the radio. I’ve heard him speak. I’ve heard his friends and acquaintances speak of him. Andrew Breitbart would have no idea who the heck I am. We vaguely hung out one and half times. I can faithfully say that I never knew him personally. Simple point being: others can opine on the execution of his brand in media post-mortem better than I. Yet my impressions of his message and intent came from just him and as he spoke and his words were heard, not read. The fact is I always forgot how impressive he was until I heard him speak. Then he’s revealed to be intelligent, witty, and intense. Andrew Breitbart was brilliant.
The website was just a website. It’s good to have a place on the internet to exhibit thoughts, intelligence, insights, and intentions. It had no draw except for the man. The man shaped his brand. As it is now, the brand seemed to embrace the ideological purity-for-profit vein and then fell into the tank for Ted-Cruz-For-President and swiftly after that Donald-Trump-for-President. Whatever Breitbart intended, he didn’t want that. His intention was never to circle the wagons around a political Messiah figure. Recent events have heavily illustrated how much the company has beheld itself to the current Republican front-runner, for whatever reason. From that is a reminder of a Buzzfeed article from the tail-end of 2012 regarding the inheritors of the Breitbart legacy.
It’s possible and evident that the company has been in decline because of a lack of leadership and vision. The founder offered a clear mission and moral clarity to his company. Not only is it difficult to tell what Breitbart should be, it’s impossible to tell what Andrew Breitbart intended Breitbart to be and then what fidelity is owed to that intention by those currently living in the House that Andrew Breitbart built. The difficulty in discernment has led to some contradictory testimonials.
The staff reserves blame for Pollak and Bannon, who are viewed by some internally as opportunists parleying their position into personal prestige in Republican circles. Complained one staffer: “It has nothing to do with what Andrew stood for. I don’t think he would even read the site or like it. I think he would detest what it’s become.”… “Andrew wasn’t a flack. He wanted to take them all on,” said a former Breitbart employee, complaining that the site is now run by “partisan hacks.”… Pollak pushed back against the notion that he had turned the site into “a mouthpiece for the Romney campaign,” and cited numerous examples where they had published stories critical of Romney — particularly during the primaries, where they attacked him from the right. But managing editor Alex Marlow also defended their widely favorable coverage of the candidate, arguing that’s what Breitbart would have wanted… “It’s revisionist history to act as thought Andrew wouldn’t have wanted to fight for whoever the Republican nominee was,” he said, citing Breitbart’s CPAC speech earlier this year where he urged activists, “Ask not what the candidate can do for you, but ask what you can do for the candidate.”
The assertion that Andrew Breitbart saw his company as an agency against the Democrats and for the eventual Republican nominee certainly holds up in light of his final speech. So if Andrew Breitbart really was about beating up Obama and beating up the Democrat candidate for the President would he have championed Donald Trump for the Presidency or taken action against sitting Republican officeholders for an ideological impurity?
I admit I stole the title from Stephen England. He’s a writer. He’d murder me in a novel if I fail to properly attribute.
This really feels more like a blog entry than it does an article or an essay. I’m almost ashamed of this piece except it serves its one purpose, which was to refer to an old buzzfeed article I read over three years ago that I think still has meaning.
I wanted to maintain that point of reference from shortly after Andrew Breitbart’s death so a perspective could be charted from there to where we are now. People have been concerned for awhile now regarding the course and health of the legacy of Breitbart. The worst part, of course, is making a clear distinction in my writing between the man and his brand, his legacy, and his company.
I keep wanting to explore just this one element of the man and his ideas as he neared his end and I’ll do it later.
But there’s something further to note today.