March first marked the fifth anniversary of the death of my friend Andrew Breitbart. A Triple-A personality, he jump-started a media revolution then burned out at the absurdly young age of 43.
I think of him often. I suspect we all do — all of us mostly west coast conservative communicators who had nowhere to communicate our politics until he created the space. Ben Shapiro, Bill Whittle, Dana Loesch, Steve Crowder, Alfonzo Rachel, John Nolte, Jeremy Boreing (who directed The Arroyo and created and runs the Daily Wire) — just about every right winger with an entertainment bent: it’s not that he gave all of us our starts, it’s that he brought us together, introduced us to one another, gave us a sense of ourselves as a movement.
The point of that movement was to build — to begin to build — a grassroots communication industry that could counter the relentless left-wing bias of what Andrew called the Democrat-Media complex. The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC News: all Democrats, all for Democrats, all one-sided all the time. It isn’t that every story they write is false, it’s that every story is shaped by the same left-wing assumptions: capitalism is bad, government control is good, feminism is good, white men are bad, America is racist… on and on and on. Fake News, as we’ve learned to call it now.
What did Andrew want instead? He told Peter Robinson (whose brilliant interview show Uncommon Knowledge would surely be on PBS if the media’s left wing bias weren’t so egregious):
“I want a center right nation to fight for its soul — and its soul is represented in the arts, its soul is represented in a world in which media is everything… I want the right to enter the world of media to the extent, and invest in media in the way, the left has.”
“You want an NPR,” said Peter.
“I want everything.”
Andrew — an internet visionary who helped build both the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post — began to assemble his everything from the ground up, starting with the site Big Hollywood, then adding Big Government and Big Journalism, slowly building an online newspaper that ultimately would become the Breitbart News Network.
During the last election, I watched with misgiving as Steve Bannon transformed that site into a vehicle for supporting Donald Trump and, in his own words, “a platform for the alt-right.” To be fair to Steve, the phrase alt-right has become so vague as to be nearly meaningless and he has openly rejected its worst manifestations. But in its common usage, the definition of alt-right certainly covers a collection of white supremacist anti-semitic low-lifes whom I know with certainty Andrew would have despised.
What though would Breitbart have made of Donald Trump? And how would he have felt about his site supporting Trump’s candidacy the way it did? I’m neither a mind reader nor a medium, so obviously I can’t say. The Andrew of my imagination would have enjoyed Trump’s outrageous pugilism — it’s so much like his own — but would have recoiled when it soured into bullying or dishonesty, especially when turned against such conservative heroes as Ted Cruz.
But maybe, in the long run, Bannon’s Breitbart site expressed Andrew’s spirit more than I thought it did. Because if there is one thing I feel sure Andrew would have loved it is watching President Donald Trump wage such expert and relentless war against the fake news of the Democrat-Media Complex. Trump’s use of blunt language that the press has deemed unseemly, the brilliantly aggressive press conference at which he scattered the media’s corrupt and dishonest forces to the wind, this week’s terrific address before Congress in which he wrong-footed press expectations so that their cameras caught the Democrats in all their unpatriotic bitterness: I think Andrew would have enjoyed it all.
Does Trump know that the media won’t stop? The fake news won’t stop nor the fake scandals nor the fake outrage and cries for investigations. Does he know the media will continue to bury his accomplishments and magnify his gaffes no matter what he does, no matter how he tries to appease them, now matter how strong or free or rich the country becomes while he’s in office?
If he does know — if he keeps fighting them — if, always respectful of the First Amendment, he challenges their lies at every turn — than he might just begin the good work of clearing the way for a new, honest American journalism that tells both sides of every story.
And if he does that, then Bannon and the Breitbart site will have been right: the election of Donald Trump will have served Andrew’s spirit and been a major step in making his vision a reality.
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