Thursday, March 1, 2012
Learning from Breitbart's Loss
And out of respect for his legacy, I'll be as blunt as he enjoyed being.
Andrew Breitbart enjoyed being pugnacious. He enjoyed being belligerent. He enjoyed being a firebrand. He even liked being disrespectful to dead people. Consider his vulgarity-laced diatribe against Edward Kennedy after the senator, who admittedly, I didn't like either, passed away.
On one of Breitbart's websites, an employee of his posted a eulogy today from Breitbart's own testimony, from his book, Righteous Indignation:
"I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and—famously—I enjoy making enemies.
"Three years ago, I was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy who linked to stuff on a very popular website. I always wondered what it would be like to enter the public realm to fight for what I believe in. I’ve lost friends, perhaps dozens. But I’ve gained hundreds, thousands—who knows?—of allies. At the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror, and I sleep very well at night."
Kindred spirits of Breitbart's in the Republican Party's neo-con wing likely affirm these sentiments, and proudly. What a great patriot and, as the eulogy further states, "happy warrior."
More's the pity.
If Breitbart's energies and drive had been devoted to championing eternal truth, perhaps his love of making enemies and losing friends could make some sense. After all, the Bible warns believers that standing for one's faith in Christ could cost us plenty in terms of comforts and relationships. But being so intransigent over something as ephemeral as politics?
Granted, not all of Breitbart's partisan energies were wasted. When he pushed the now-former New York representative Anthony Weiner to acknowledge his lies regarding his sexting, Breitbart arguably spared the City of New York from what likely would have been a brutal mayoral race, since Weiner, himself a loose canon among liberals, had already expressed interest in replacing Michael Bloomberg.
But Breitbart just couldn't let his victory in toppling Weiner speak for itself. At the end of Weiner's resignation press conference, Breitbart felt compelled to take to the podium and hold his own press conference. He claimed to want to clear his name from accusations he'd hacked Weiner's Twitter account, and that he'd only stumbled upon the press conference, but ten minutes later, he was still taking questions and making a spectacle of the situation.
More malicious was Breitbart's attack against Shirley Sherrod, the former Department of Agriculture employee. He intentionally edited and publicized a video of an old speech of hers to make it appear as though she was a bigot. But when the complete, unedited video hit the Internet, it was obvious she was not.
And then there was his bungled videotaping of ACORN employees which, yes, helped bring down an agency that was poorly managed and politically corrupt. However, again, Breitbart significantly edited videos to sensationalize his claims against ACORN, which severely undermined his credibility.
True, credibility from the general public and the media establishment was what Brietbart loathed anyway. While there's something to be said for the lack of objectivity on the part of many legacy news organizations, is countering one culture of incomplete news coverage with another, similarly incomplete form of news coverage, the best way of championing the facts? If that had been Breitbart's only fault, then perhaps his legacy wouldn't be so laden with darkness. But not only did Breitbart believe skewing news coverage towards Tea Party appetites provided a legitimate alternative to liberal news coverage, he did so with eager malice. He enjoyed destroying reputations. He said so himself.
And that's the fallacy of Andrew Breitbart.
With all due respect to the man on the day of his death, Breitbart sold his soul to something that, in the end, will prove to have been utterly worthless. Yet the danger is that what Breitbart did, and the enthusiasm with which he did it, is still shared by many evangelical Christian Republicans.
Politics as a career or personal interest, for which a believer invests their time in prayer and activism, is one thing. But to crow, as Breitbart did, that he could sleep at night despite his lack of love for other people should make us Christ-followers gasp.
Remember, class: what leads the listing of the Fruit of the Spirit? Of these three: faith, hope, and love; which is the most important?
Fighting a good fight means you pick a good, Biblical fight to begin with. Breitbart's brand of politics does not rank among the world's good, Biblical fights. Nowhere in scripture are believers called to hate political enemies. We are to hate what God hates, which includes policies designed to corrupt the life-giving, salvific doctrines of the Gospel of Christ. And even Christ had a righteous anger, but that anger was directed at peoples' sins, not people themselves.
Part of Breitbart's online eulogy this morning read: "Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love."
Living boldly is good, but we're to live boldly for Christ, not politics. Living freely and fully are indeed Biblical concepts, but Biblical freedom and fullness often look much different than political freedom and fullness. Loving liberty is right and good. But we're to love people more.
Mourn the loss of a political activist this day, but not because of all that he supposedly contributed to right-wing American conservatism. Mourn the loss of a political activist who set for us a prime example of misplaced love.
He confidently claimed to have rested well here on Earth. Unless he repented of his sins before his death this morning, that's all the rest he'll have for eternity. This is real truth.
Put as bluntly as Breitbart lived his life.