Over the years, we have wrestled with the question of whether or not to honor right-wing troublemaker Andrew Breitbart as a Conservative Babylonian, and we always came to the same conclusion: We couldn’t, simply because Breitbart, who was a lot of things (none of them good), never struck us as a hypocrite — and hypocrisy is the number-one criterion for inclusion in ConBab. The one thing that really sends the ConBab Hypocrisy Meter into the red was missing: a sex scandal, especially involving an actively homophobic right-winger bleating about the “sanctity” of opposite-genital marriage, and then getting caught cheating on his or her spouse.
It turns out we were looking for the wrong thing.
And this is where it becomes difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous. When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness — when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas — how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career? …
Many of our most important public figures have gained their influence and power by inciting and exploiting the ugliest of passions — by manipulating fears and prejudices — by serving up falsehoods as reported truth. In time these figures will one by one die. What are we to say of this cohort, this group, this generation? That their mothers loved them? That their families are bereaved? That their fans admired them and their employees treated generously by them? Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading.
Oh, we would love to have seen Breitbart get caught literally with his pants down. But he never was. And, more strikingly, while he was certainly a racist (which still gives us a tiny glimmer of hope something will come out later to put him in the same wing of ConBab’s Hypocrisy Hall as Strom Thurmond), he wasn’t the worst homophobe on the planet (which is a little like saying Danny DeVito isn’t the shortest guy in the world).
Oh, Breitbart certainly used anti-gay rhetoric when it could be employed conveniently against liberals; e.g.: in his speech at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he threw such red meat to the anti-gay activists that make up CPAC as: “Hello, children at home. No, your dad’s not gay — that’s how your left rolls.” While using the “gay = bad” meme, his real target was The Left. That doesn’t excuse him a bit, but it is important to make the distinction: The Gay Issue was not one of his pet issues.
(“In fact,” writes David Frum, “it’s hard even to use the word ‘issues’ in connection with Andrew Breitbart. He may have used the words ‘left’ and ‘right,’ but it’s hard to imagine what he ever meant by those words. He waged a culture war minus the ‘culture,’ as a pure struggle between personalities. Hence his intense focus on President Obama: only by hating a particular political man could Breitbart bring any order to his fundamentally apolitical emotions.”)
Strangely, Breitbart was about as pro-gay as a rabid right-winger (especially one who tosses around the highly-charged phrase, “radical gay agenda”) gets. His “support” was, of course, highly conditional, restricted solely to gay conservatives, and as weak as water, apparently based on the notion that gays are such a small minority, they pose no threat to his beloved Republican Party — but it was nonetheless remarkable, considering the way the vast majority of attention-addicted, spittle-flicking rageaholics (and Breitbart was certainly an attention-addicted, spittle-flicking rageaholic) are also maniacal homophobes, obsessed with railing against gays at every opportunity, and making the War on Gays one of the most oft-used arrows in their quivers. There is no defense of Andrew Breitbart, but if one were to attempt one, it would have to be along the lines of: “Well, at least he didn’t claim all gays are child molesters, like most of the rest of his kind do.”
There is no homophobia at CPAC. Also, the earth is flat.
With that caveat, here’s a quote from Metro Weekly, from an unpublished 2011 interview with Breitbart; it’s supposed to be gay-positive (although it sounds less and less so with repeated readings, but we suppose this is the best he could muster):
“I’ve seen gay groups estimate the percentage of gay people in our country as high as 10 percent, and I’ve seen groups that aren’t amenable to gay rights or whatever say, ‘No, no, it’s closer to 2-3 percent.’ Well, when those people minimize the amount of people there are — two to three percent — what is their fear of that two to three percent coming into the Big Tent and disagreeing with you on three percent of the issues?” he said. “None of it makes sense to me.
“I just don’t get it. I go into middle America, and I don’t see people hating gay people as a part of their agenda. Are there anomalies? … Yes,” he continued. “The majority agrees on the humanity of gay people — and to treat gay people like you treat all people. It doesn’t make sense that the political polarities represent such a small percentage. It’s a two percent versus a two percent versus the rest of the 96 percent of the country that is living our lives integrated.”
Too, he allied himself with the anti-gay gays — GOProud, as big a bunch of hypocrites as you’ll ever find (and which we should really get around to profiling one of these days) — and then resigned from GOProud’s “advisory council” after taking heat from his gay-hating colleagues for his association with the group. He claimed to have resigned on principle, but if so, his reasoning was dead wrong — and extremely hypocritical: Breitbart spent his career smearing and ruining people he didn’t like (just for the thrill of it, it seems) through the use of innuendo, half-truths, and outright lies — and we’re supposed to believe his sensibilities were offended when GOProud (inadvertently or deliberately) told the truth by outing a gay right-winger? No sale.
“I found [the outing of recently deceased multi-millionaire Malcolm Forbes] to be such a horrifying act,” Breitbart said, thinking back to that time, when he was a “cultural liberal, a default liberal” living in Los Angeles. “[I remember thinking] this is an outrageous tactic, a dehumanizing tactic. It forces them out of their private realm and makes them public figures in order to enforce a political reality. I believed that in the United States of America, you have the right not only to be in the closet but you have the right be to be gay and believe in traditional marriage — not to coerce people, using language of hate.”
The irony is rich, and Breitbart rejects anyone pointing to examples of it like, oh, say, his calling Occupy protestors “filthy freaks”; or distorting the words of Agriculture Dept. official Shirley Sherrod to take her down and attack the president, inspiring a defamation lawsuit against him; or exposing Congressman Anthony Weiner for tweeting a lewd photo of himself — one of which Breitbart even showed a couple of radio hosts on his phone, though he was “mortified” it leaked out — and then hijacking Weiner’s press conference; or being part of an attempt to take down ACORN with undercover videos edited to mislead.
We suspect Breitbart’s outrage over the outing incident was just a convenient excuse to disentangle himself from a group whose association threatened to tarnish his status as a god among the homo-haters. It’s not lost on us that Breitbart resigned from GOProud’s “advisory council” just prior to the 2012 CPAC; CPAC, of course, had already banned GOProud from its annual hatefest (“Those familiar with CPAC and its culture,” wrote Andrew Belonsky — pointing out an image of bright-red bumper stickers reading “Real Men Marry Women” from the 2010 conference — “won’t be surprised by this news. And, honestly, GOProud shouldn’t be, either”), and GOProud’s perceived offense gave Breitbart an out.
Sure, he may have actually detested the idea of outing — as Mike Signorile notes, Breitbart even defended Larry Craig for voting anti-gay from within the closet (or within the water closet) — but we don’t put much stock in anything Breitbart ever said, especially concerning his own motives; he was a consummate liar and manipulator.
And we must wonder about Breitbart’s bizarre obsession with outing. Is it possible such a vile human being who delighted in destroying the lives of others for his own amusement could possibly care about anyone other than himself? It’s possible — but it’s far more likely Breitbart was trying to protect one or more high-profile closet cases from being outed. Or maybe he was trying to protect himself. We don’t know. And Breitbart has taken the truth to the grave.
In any case, it was only upon the occasion of Breitbart’s sudden death that it dawned on us just how big a hypocrite he really was. Quite honestly, we didn’t know 1/100th as much about him the day before he died; we had largely ignored him as one would a persistent mosquito. Now, since doing a lot of reading about him, we see what we didn’t see before.
He was putting himself out there as a real swell pal to the gays, while propping up the right-wing machine designed to destroy gays (of which GOProud is but a small cog), and while gleefully destroying the reputations, careers, and very lives of public figures whose missions were largely to help the disadvantaged (including gays).
That’s when we knew: Andrew Breitbart belongs here. His soul (on the generous assumption he had one) is no doubt already roasting merrily in The Pit, while his legacy of hatred, lies, and, most of all, his hypocrisy, has earned him eternal enshrinement as a Conservative Babylonian.
There is no racism at CPAC. Also, monkeys just flew out of my butt. (If you can’t endure the whole thing, go to about the 1:45 mark; the money shot is around 1:54.)
Now, now… Breitbart would have wanted it this way. He would have loved the attention (and he enjoyed making enemies) — and we doubt he would expect to have been accorded any more respect than he accorded Senator Edward M. Kennedy upon Teddy’s death. After all: “When a fellow conservative tweeted to Breitbart asking him not to treat Kennedy like they believe some on the left treated the passing of Tony Snow and Ronald Reagan, Breitbart responded ‘How dare you compare Snow & Reagan to Kennedy! Why do you grant a BULLY special status upon his death?’” (source)
Or didn’t you hear about that? In addition to several other epithets we won’t print here, Breitbart also called Senator Kennedy a “villain,” a “duplicitous bastard,” and “a special pile of human excrement.”
So, to anyone tempted to start tut-tutting about “speaking ill of the dead,” we will simply repeat Breitbart’s question:
And if you don’t think Breitbart was a bully of the first order, consider him here, in one of his last public appearances, screaming like a maniac at a protesters outside the 2012 CPAC; this is Andrew Breitbart’s legacy:
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