Breitbart's Empty Box
Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe in happier times.
There's an interesting study in contrast between the deaths of Andrew Breitbart (who, ironically died the day after the end of Black History Month) and Christopher Hitchens, men who brushed elbows past each other while shuttling from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other. There are differences, to be sure. For one thing, hard as it may be to believe, the 61 year-old Hitchens was actually old enough to be the 43 year-old Breitbart's father, even though Hitchens looked younger. Then there's the matter of literary talent.
Hitchens was perhaps the most elegant writer of not just Vanity Fair but the entire English-speaking world. Breitbart was a blunt instrument for the right, turning his perspiring conspiracy theory mindset into a little media empire that enabled him to invest over $100,000 on fake posters that he was then to blame on the Obama administration. Think of Hitchens as a highly erudite botanist with a vast and lovely greenhouse and Breitbart as a potato farmer.
It's been said that Breitbart started out as a liberal and turned into a fire-breathing conservative while Hitchens started out as a liberal and unfortunately allied himself with the Bush administration's illegal oil grab in Iraq. It's hard to believe that a man with such a large and discriminating intellect, the world's foremost apologist for atheism, could possibly be hoodwinked for as long as he was into believing the Iraq War was a good thing for anybody but American-Anglo oil cartels and war profiteers but there we are.
It's even more inconceivable that a serial liar like Andrew Breitbart, the online P.T. Barnum of his day, could ascend to the level of prominence and success that he had simply by spouting conspiracy theories and sending out sneering, talentless goons like James O'Keefe to entrap a few low-level African American ACORN workers and himself ruining (through Fox "News'" help) the career of a low-level African American USDA official through heavily edited and misleading videos.
Yet the biggest difference between Hitchens and Breitbart is that Hitchens passionately believed in what he was saying and sought to bring the hypocrisy, charlatanry and chicanery of organized religion kicking and screaming into the disinfecting light of day. Breitbart, on the other hand, knew in his venomous hatred of liberals and minorities that he was full of shit and that neatly explains the edited, misleading videos because the truth was not only not enough, it would've underminined his demented hatred of and conspiracy theories about liberals and minorities. His usual targets were not coincidental but as telling as a serial killer's victim profile.
Andrew Breitbart made a handsome living at the expense of our constantly blunted and defeated sensibilities creating mountains out of molehills (Anthony Weiner, who Breitbart stalked and accosted during his own press conference) while pathetically trying to sweep under the rug his, O'Keefe's and the right wing's own mountainous misdeeds (Breitbart actually told me on Twitter that O'Keefe was never convicted of breaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu's office, which he not only most certainly was but had even pled guilty to it).
And, in a desperate attempt to keep his licentious and libelous legacy alive, Breitbart's acolytes made good on his threat to post Matt Taibbi's phone number online and to call him to threaten and harass him and his wife.
Toward the end of his life, Breitbart grew increasingly hysterical, paranoid and delusional, somehow, through a mysterious and miraculous dexterity, avoiding the men in the ice cream suits and butterfly nets. At his last public appearance at CPAC, he screamed again about non-existent rape (after remaining silent about KBR's rape and imprisonment of one of its employees, a lawsuit thrown out on a sleazy technicality), looking very much like a sloppy, over-the-hill professional wrestler gone to seed, desperately trying to seek former glory and relevance by transforming himself into the bad guy, a pint-sized Andre the Giant plainly past his shelf life both mentally and physically.
Christopher Hitchens left this world with some dignity, preferring to dwell not on his impending mortality but on the life and times of another brilliant writer, Charles Dickens. How each man left this vail of tears is as telling as how each man chose to live his life. Hitchens strove to educate us in his irrepressibly elegant way. Breitbart snarled at phantom rapists until minutes before his final stroll.
In summation, I cannot do service to Breitbart's legacy any better than to relate the following (paraphrased) and oft-told tale of the life of PT Barnum.
It was said that during his long career in carnival sideshows and circuses, Barnum would charge people to walk into a building that was a maze of dark hallways. They were told that when they got to their destination, a box awaited them and that the contents were the most wonderful thing they'd ever beheld. On navigating through the dark labyrinth of hallways, those uninitiated would get the box sitting alone in a dark room, open it and find it to be empty.
It was Barnum's ultimate joke and perhaps a slightly larcenous attempt to impart a lesson, that the journey, the sense of anticipation is actually all the entertainment that a person needs.
Breitbart's own Pandora's box contained not the ills and evils of liberalism but stale, bile-scented air, conspiracy theories of the left that, like all wingnuts, he loathed with a pathological hatred. But Breitbart's empty boxes taught us no lessons in the entertainment value of pure anticipation but one in which the journey is not important but finding the truth is. Leading his spittle-flecked mental Tom Thumbs down dark, conspiratorial pathways, Breitbart fooled them into thinking the box wasn't empty but filled with unimpeachable evidence of liberal rapine and racism. And that was his dubious genius, in revealing how utterly stupid and ignorant we are from the obscure right wing Twitter user to the MSM to the NAACP to the USDA to the White House even at this information-drenched stage of our evolution.