The last time I had dinner with Andrew Breitbart we talked
about the 2012 elections. He had just forced Rep. Anthony Weiner, the liberal
congressmen caught tweeting pictures of his nether parts, from office in
disgrace. Brooklyn, for the first time since Calvin
Coolidge, had elected a Republican to replace Weiner. But Andrew wanted more.
He wanted Barack Obama–and I was going to help him do just that. There will be
more on this, of course–just as he promised at the Conservative Political
Action Conference last month–but Andrew wouldn’t want me to ruin the surprise.
Andrew was a showman who had something to show for himself.
He took on ACORN, corrupt congressmen of both parties, and Occupy Wall Street,
one tweet and one story at a time. He had only two speeds–“humor and righteous
indignation”–and I gladly got caught up in his vortex, writing for his sites
while still in college.
I first met Andrew three years ago at a bloggers convention,
where, as usual, he stayed long into the night. He shut down nearly every party
he went to, only to continue it online and especially on Twitter, which with
Andrew was alternately a playground, salon, and battlefield. On the internet,
he put into practice his beliefs–which were best articulated, he thought, in
the title and subtitle of his recent book, Righteous
Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World. Though he was an agnostic,
was raised by liberal Jews and lived in Brentwood on the west side of Los Angeles, he was the
best of missionaries for conservatism, working to save one soul at a time.
“Conservatives used to take it, and we’re not taking it anymore,” he said and
meant, at the height of Obama years.
The Internet was made for Andrew because it let him be
everywhere, all at once. He could simultaneously carry on a conversation with
you and his co-workers while tweeting, checking Facebook,
and calling Michele Bachmann or Ann Coulter on the phone. He hated that Facebook limited him to just 5,000 friends, because,
well, Andrew knew no limits. He seemed to live off the energy of social
interactions, especially those online and those of his enemies, which he knew
amplified his message.Everything about
his rented office space seemed impermanent, except him and his colleagues. In
the three years, I knew him, he had four different offices, but he was anchored
to something greater than the here and now. Andrew proudly said his
never-stop-running style was due to Attention Deficit Disorder–his “gift”
as he once called it–but I think it was something deeper–a conviction that he
was living the best life he knew how. He was always up late, tweeting,
emailing, calling, texting. Media was
After a stint as Matt Drudge’s assistant at the Drudge
Report, he struck out on his own, founding the Big Journalism, Big Government, Big
Hollywood and Big Peace websites as well as Breitbart.tv–all parts of what he
once promised me would be a “media skyscraper,” each floor dedicated to talking
on a shibboleth of the institutional left.The websites were his penance for having been involved with the
left-leaning Huffington Post, which he believed got Barack Obama elected
president. Andrew promised he would see him unelected.
He was also something of a godfather to the Tea Party. More
than a few Tea Party congressmen were backed by his supporters and therefore
owe their seats partly to Andrew. As luck would have it, I was in his office
when he unspun the false narrative that the Tea Party was racist. He offered a
$100,000 reward for proof that the N-word was hurled at black congressmen by a
Tea Party crowd on Capitol Hill. No one has ever come forward with any
evidence, though many cameras were present. He later deftly weakened the Occupy
Wall Street movement by pointing to its lawlessness and repeated cover-ups of
Andrew was inclusive. He knew that the Tea Party could
expand the conservative coalition, and he celebrated the rise of black, Jewish,
and gay conservatives. Breitbart and his wired, wifi-enabled disciples were
after souls as well as minds. The media movement he led knew that the main
thing stopping conservatives is the soulless complex of the “Bigs,” with their
stranglehold on education, journalism, and Hollywood. “I’m committed to the destruction
of the old media guard,” he said repeatedly. He added”and it’s a very good business model,” though
I think he cared nothing for money or controversy. Both were means to the end
of pursuing justice.
An adopted son and the loving father of four, he adopted so
many of us into his cause, especially students. He wasn’t at all ashamed to
have been a C student at L.A. prep schools and Tulane–he once told me that he
had read enough Marxist “gobbledygook,” like Herbert Marcuse and Saul Alinksy,
only to know that he was opposed to everything they were for. Besides, Andrew
added, he was too drunk for the indoctrination to take hold. Among young
students on the right, he was professorial and jovial, always teaching.
Knowing colleges’ power to indoctrinate, Andrew cared
nothing for Obama’s “birth certificate”; he was much more interested in his
college records. He planned a new website called “Big Education,” to take on
the professorial class, in much the same way his other “Bigs” took on the
media, union, and cultural establishments. To be sure, he made missteps–never
as grave as his critics contended–but he was courageous enough to take steps,
and often leaps of faith, that others were too timid to even consider. He
plunged into hostile crowds with joy, and once, at an anti-Koch brothers rally,
he did it wearing roller blades.
I know this personally. Everything I am, or will become, I
owe in no small part to Andrew. He defended me from some of my offended
professors at Claremont
after I exposed a faculty member there who endorsed terrorist organizations.
Thanks to his support, I won the awards that brought me to Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page last summer.
The only comfort I can take in his early death is that so
much of Andrew will live forever, online, in Facebook
posts, in tweets and videos. You have merely to Google him to know where he
stood on an impressive range of issues and controversies. He understood that
the Internet was a great democratizer–and that so long as you were truthful,
brave, and persistent, you could bring down a congressman, root out corruption,
and rout those who countenance it. I hope his widow Susan and their four young
children know how much he meant, to so many. I hope he rests in the peace he
was denied (and willingly sacrificed) in this life–fighting against Anthony
Weiner’s lies, while he was on his family vacation, for instance, but also that
they let him tweet in heaven, though I am not so sure his heaven would be all
different from the life he led.
At that evening dinner and as he drove me home, we discussed
God, which Andrew, for all his agnosticism thought about quite a bit.”Everything happens for a reason,” he quoted
his father-in-law, the actor Orson Bean. It is so hard to find the reason in
Andrew’s sudden death, so I choose to find the purpose in the life he loved
Charles C. Johnson was a Bartley fellow and a Breindel
fellow at the Wall Street Journal. He
writes for Big Government.com, a Breitbart website.