Elspeth Reeve at the Atlantic – not necessarily a Breitbart-friendly mag – t on the late conservative alt-media impresario:
To understand Andrew Breitbart’s legacy, you first need to understand what he set out to do. If you happened to encounter him in Los Angeles during the middle of the last decade, when he was transitioning from Matt Drudge’s anonymous No. 2 to building his own web empire, he would happily tell you, in a long, not easy to follow monologue, about the terrible creeping forces of “cultural Marxism.” (To get a taste, here he is talking on the subject at the University of Redlands last September.) As he saw the world, there was still a grand battle raging between capitalism and communism, and the left — the heirs to the Frankfurt School as he constantly reminded people — had manage to twist the entire culture against capitalism. “The left is smart enough to understand that the way to change a political system is through its cultural systems,” he told The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead in 2010. “So you look at the conservative movement — working the levers of power, creating think tanks, and trying to get people elected in different places — while the left is taking over Hollywood, the music industry, the churches.”
His project was to take that cultural space back for free market conservatives. ƒTo make his brand of economic freedom cool.
“Cool” – with its hipster-turned-marketing overtones – is the wrong term. Breitbart wanted the forces of freedom – libertarian-conservatives, free-marketeers, dissenters from the big government norm – to stop scoffing at the culture war, and start fighting and winning it.
Greg “Redeye” Gutfeld, writing last summer at Breitbart’s BigHollywood, called Tea Party conservatism the “new punk rock”, a joyous boiling down of whatever you need to boil down – rock and roll or conservative principle – to its very basics; shrink government and Keith Emerson organ solos; free markets and fewer 20 minute drum solos; three-minute songs and cut taxes; build independence, cut dependence.
And like Joe Strummer, David Johannson and Johnny Rotten, Breitbart had his squibs; anyone who’s breaking new ground (or exhuming old ground) will. Combat Rock and Buster Poindexter and the ’78 US Tour and some of James O’Keefe’s stretchier pieces were all diversions and footnotes to much, much bigger achievements; in Breitbart’s case, the first large, coherent conservative alt-media attempt to engage in popular culture.
The opening lines of his CPAC speech are a brand of conservativism you’re unlikely to see at the Republican National Convention. They sound like rock song lyrics: “Everything has changed, everything has changed in the last few years, conservatives used to take it and we’re not taking it anymore.” He sounded like angry kids railing against oppressive suburban culture. But he also acknowledged that he didn’t quite fit in with the conservative movement and a party that shows no signs of edging closer to his right-wing punk aesthetic.”Two hundred of us went out to the Occupy people to stand toe-to-toe with them to say, ‘We are here and we are not going to take your [artful hand gesture].’ I didn’t say it, I’m on TV right now, I’m a respectful conservative and my mom is watching.”
And it’s that – confronting the poisonous and hateful, calling out the totalitarian, while still engaging in the larger culture that we all, ideally, share – is the great lesson of Breitbart.
And it’s one of the reasons I always loved all his efforts. Like his former boss Matt Drudge, he didn’t come to the alt-media with a pedigree of working within the journalistic system. He came not to suck up to the liberal establishment in Hollywood, Journalism, education, “public service” and so many other areas of our culture; he came to criticize, satirize, mock and chasten it.
Which is, of course, why all of us unwashed peasants in the conservative blogosphere got into the game.