FLORIDA, May 4, 2012 — For a long while, it has been painfully obvious that the tone of many contemporary political commentators, from the airwaves of talk radio to the pages of alternative newsweeklies, is becoming nothing short of acidic.
It would take the untimely death of right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart, however, to illustrate just how low the American media have fallen.
Shortly after the Internet media mogul succumbed to a heart attack, which took place just over two months ago, Rolling Stone’s resident lefty gonzo journalist — or close equivalent — Matt Taibbi decided to commemorate this with a post on his blog. Titled “Death of a Douche”, it spared no detail of Breitbart’s highly unorthodox or even corrupt — everyone remembers the Shirley Sherrod affair, of course — methods of reporting political matters.
Before any of this, though, came the post’s opening salvo:
“So Andrew Breitbart is dead. Here’s what I have to say to that, and I’m sure Breitbart himself would have respected this reaction: Good! F– him. I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.”
Taibbi did go on to mention that he said this “in the nicest possible way” and “actually kind of liked….Breitbart”, though not “in the sense” that he “would ever have wanted to hang out with him, or even be caught within a hundred yards of him without a Haz-Mat suit on”, but nonetheless, genuine respect was had for the mogul’s “shamelessness”.
Such shamelessness entailed Breitbart’s role in the now infamous ACORN video scandal, which brought the community aid and development agency down for good, and most of all, securing former Representative Anthony Weiner’s political downfall.
This was done by circulating photos of the ambitious Queens-area politico exposing himself to various individuals via an online message system. As Weiner was about to hold a press conference to announce his resignation from Congress, the mogul morphed into an activist and claimed the podium so that he could answer questions from the droves of reporters seated in front of him.
According to Taibbi, for “that one, pief, shining moment….Breitbart could legitimately claim to have the biggest, hairiest balls on earth.”. I suppose some people might consider that to be a compliment of sorts. I call it vulgar and beneath the standards of any respectable news operation.
After reading Taibbi’s piece, I felt immense disappointment in Rolling Stone for allowing it go to publication. However, after a bit of time, I then considered what Breitbart himself had said. As Taibbi noted, this included the following: “I like to call someone a raving c– evert now and then, when it’s appropriate, for effect….‘You c–sucker.’ I love that kind of language.”
Oh, is that an understatement.
Choosing to write a eulogy for Ted Kennedy after his death in 2009, Breitbart started off by saying “Rest in Chappaquiddick”, then proceeding to release a torrent of pure bile, which included terms like “big a— motherf–er”, “duplicitous ba–rd”, “prick”, and most unforgivingly, the promise that he would “shut (his) mouth for Carter” but not for Kennedy as he “was a special pile of human excrement”.
Needless to say, when the press pressed Breitbart to crawl at least halfway up to rock bottom, there was a rationalization, and it went like this: “Look, this man was granted absolution for nothing. Class, life station played a part but PARTY was everything. GOP couldnt get away with it.” And this: “IF a GOP possesses 1/100 of human failings of T. Kennedy he/she is TOAST”. As well as this: “In this moment I cant but recognize absolute backwardness of media & society. Bush = EVIL. Ted Kennedy = SAINT. Im gonna keep fighin’ folks”.
The reason I opted to wait in writing this is because of the fact that in the days, if not weeks, following Breitbart’s demise, tensions were running too high on both the left and the right. Now, months later, hopefully the sad journalistic reality that has been created by Breitbart and Taibbi, along with their fellow travelers, can be objectively observed.
From my perspective, they both essentially fed off one another. The intense hatred harbored at each end of the political spectrum for those on the other has pought not merely the media, or even politics, but society as a whole to the pink of barbarianism.
As a writer, I found the choice of words Taibbi used throughout his send off to be reprehensible. As a Republican, I consider Breitbart’s postmortem derision of Kennedy to be sheer savagery. Most of all, however, as a human being, I am very nervous about where political discourse in this country is headed. It is a horrific though, but a few years down the line, exchanges such as those mentioned above might be thought of as commonplace. Once that low has been reached, how much farther can there possibly be to fall?
Now is the time for any politically active individual to realize that there are actual people on the ridiculously dreaded other side. By acknowledging them as dignified human beings, with lives, opinions, and rights all their own, we can unite to debate a given issue rather than shout over it and personally demonize our opponents. In the grander scheme of things, Taibbi and Breitbart should not be considered unseemly oddities in American public discourse, rather products of their respective environments.
Perhaps this is the worst thing of all, and that is really saying something.
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