Sex, Drugs, And The Austrian School

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.

6 thoughts on “Sex, Drugs, And The Austrian School

  1. It is interesting how things have flipped. Remember Rollingstone magazine? I think it used to be edgy and counter-culture 40 years ago. Now it is just a mouth piece for the federal government. And yesterday, an old white guy wrote a nasty piece on Breitbart. Vicious, but that is because Breitbart didn’t toe the government line.

  2. Very shocked and sorry to hear of his death. It’s a sucker punch at a bad time.

    Breitbart’s genius was for two things: First, he understood the left intimately, and used its inevitable responses against it constantly. The left hated that. He got his best results by knowing how they would react, and exploiting that. His second genius was moving stories from the blogs to the mainstream. He was bold enough, his stories and stunts were big enough that that MSM couldn’t ignore him, even if it wanted to, and tried its damnedest to pretend he was just another nutcase.

  3. Many times you hear Conservatives complain about Obama being a Saul Alynsky accolite. Yesterday, Best of the Web had a eulogy for Breitbart and it made a very convincing case that it was Breitbart who mastered the Rules for Radicals. Due to the fact that the Left in this country is the establishment, he was the one who used the Left’s own conventions and standards against them.
    He saw that the Left, via their Democrat Party-Big Government-Media Industry Complex tried to control the message – “Government has All the Answers”, Business (other than the Media Business) is Evil”, “Oral Sex from Interns is not Sex”, etc. Breitbart (and Drudge and Arrrrrrrrriana) saw this outhouse for what it was and decided to burn it to the ground. Yet he also installed indoor plumbing which most Radicals don’t think about as they are lighting the Molotov cocktail.
    I’ve noticed Lefty’s have been celebrating his death by noting that he didn’t have their “standards” and “fact checkers”. Yeah, but as anyone who reads the NYT’s correction column will tell you – even with all the overhead they still get it wrong.

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