The old media isn’t just an antiquated means of communicating stuck in an obsolete pattern of business. The old media is out to do harm, specifically to the turnstile-jumpers in the new media, and it is our job to make sure they lose.
That’s the premise of Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World [Grand Central Publishing, 2011, available now at Amazon.com and other book retailers], the new book from new media raconteur and conservative lightning rod Andrew Breitbart.
Righteous Indignation is part autobiography, the up-to-now life story of a founding father the new media revolution, a development in society Breitbart embraces as a “renaissance of investigative journalism and participatory democracy.” And it is part history, an accounting of one of the great heists in American media history pulled off by Breitbart and his crew, the reclamation from the old media of a crown it had righteously possessed, the right to control information.
Though Breitbart has been a working member of the new media since the late 1990s, it wasn’t until the premiere of his BigGoverment.com site that his full impact on politics was on full display.
The breaking of five undercover videos exposing corruption within the ACORN organization was a bombshell led to the defunding of the front group for progressive mobilization, a keystone in the Democrats’ urban strategy to win statewide and presidential elections.
But as Breitbart explains in the book, when the sting’s conceiver James O’Keefe presented him with the idea, he saw right past ACORN as the target of the trap. He wanted to snare the big game. He wanted to snare the old media, the same faction who, in a phone interview prior to book’s release, Breitbart pointed out had no problem “poking holes in the gas tanks of Ford trucks to make them explode,” if it meant moving forward their agenda.
Tripping the Colossus Breitbart refers to in the book as the “Democrat-Media complex” was not, however, a lifelong passion. In fact, though coming from a solid upper-middle class home in Southern California, with two Republican parents who provided him with a good life, the opening chapters of the book take you through the boomerang-like arc of his political awakening. Accounts of his wild time at renowned New Orleans party school Tulane University, when he was most infatuated with the simple and seductive illogic of left-wing attack politics, set the stage for a transformation in his post-college years.
It is during the springtime of his youth that Breitbart ditched a fascination with alcohol and debauchery in favor of an intense addiction to news and the Internet. In the book, he describes this compulsion to consume and synthesize information as a sweet curse, a devotion that feeds his calling. One gets the sense that Breitbart’s mind is engaging information 24/7, input and output occurring almost simultaneously not unlike the effortless picking of a master guitarist improvising a blistering solo. But even the great Jimi Hendrix (there is a nod to Jimi in the Righteous subtitle) was not blessed with something Breitbart benefits from – a genuine work ethic.
Breitbart writes about himself (not an easy task, as any writer can attest) brilliantly, fearless of his past even when admitting being ashamed by episodes within it. This kind of honesty is the true genius of Righteous, for as the book will undoubtedly inspire a legion of Breitbart acolytes who will participate in the media transformation that is soon to reach critical mass, it also may inspire a rethinking what it means to be conservative. If anyone can put conservatism on its head and reset the norms for what defines ‘acceptable’ conservatism, it is Andrew Breitbart.
Far from the mannered austerity of William F. Buckley – another great general in the conservative battle of ideas – Breitbart smashes the white stuffed shirt stereotype, an image for conservatives that has become dated and out-of-step with conservative rank-and-file and alienating to the younger generation. In Righteous, he forthrightly describes himself as a Gen X slacker who got his act together to make a life worthy of his own respect, as well as the respect of others.
From his experiences, Breitbart is a figure who makes life a learning experience by allowing it to happen and then heeds carefully the lessons it delivers. In his life, there is pain and joy; freedom and devotion. It is the kind of life many of us dream of.
Not to say that Righteous a ‘Barbara Walters’ moment for Breitbart. (Were he to ever sit down with Walters, it’s likely that Barbara, not he, would be the one shedding tears.) But it is an honest attempt by the author to trace the path he took to get where he is, and in the process of telling the story of his life it becomes possible to see something that isn’t always obvious – this is a man who has learned that humility is a source of great strength.
Not to waste a good platform, Righteous gives Breitbart an excellent stage to blast his enemies and he does so with the bold ferocity that is his trademark. But his economy of words and focus are in sharp contrast to the bombastic, attention-challenged tyrant that has become his branded image.
By writing Righteous, Breitbart is just doing a job he says he has been called to do, sounding the call to battle in a war many do not even know is being fought. My guess is that as more people read this entertaining and insightful book he’s going to have plenty of company on the battlefield.
[This article first appeared at RedCounty.com]