Interview: Andrew Breitbart: Walking Toward the Fire with Righteous Indignation
by R.J. Carter
Published: April 29, 2011
Re-published: March 1, 2012
Update: March 1, 2012. At the age of 43, Andrew Breitbart has passed away of natural causes, as yet to be determined. It was barely less than a year ago I had the opportunity to interview the man who fearlessly confronted and challenged corruption in the government and the media.
It is with a said heart that I update this interview with this information.
Working mostly behind the scenes, Andrew Breitbart has evolved into the face of New Media conservatism. With websites like BigGovernment and BigHollywood, and prepping a handful of other Big internet ventures, Breitbart rocketed to public attention when he rolled out James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles' video exposure of ACORN.
With a new book on the shelves, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World, Breitbart is facing the media head-on, tackling it where it lives. The-Trades spoke with the author and Internet raconteur to discuss some of the ideas presented in his book.
Regarding media collaboration, I understand the advantage to the politicians -- but what does the media itself get out of the deal? Cui bono?
Well, the ones who make a lot of money make a lot of money from it -- the ones who don't tend to be doing it for social justice and economic justice. They got into the trade of journalism knowing that it doesn't pay like being in the law, or being a doctor, because they wanted to move the political and the social agenda. They didn't get involved in this to become stenographers -- how boring would that be?
Most journalists associate themselves to two periods of time in journalism: one is Watergate, and one is the Civil Rights Era. In both cases, it's historically a point where they can reference their activism masked as journalism as having helped society. But now they claim to be neutral and objective on one hand, while at the same time feel that they're pushing the social/political yield to the left for the benefit of mythical minorities, mythical justice, mythical environment and mythical children. They so believe in their moral righteousness, they so believe that they're the good guys and that they're fighting against the bad guys, and that's why they do what they do.
One of the points you drive home in your book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me while I Save the World -- and you've said it before -- is that "Hollywood is more important than Washington." Can you expound on that?
The cliche that I trot out there in speeches is that politics is downstream from culture -- that once it gets down the the Eric Cantor / John Boehner level, come the election cycle -- "Help, save us! Help save us from the Left! -- we've already lost. When the entirety of the culture is dominated by left of center thought, when kids who start kindergarten are already being indoctrinated by way of teachers who have a sense of social justice and economic justice, and who believe that their time with the child is to try and raise them with the proper ideals and the proper values, and then those kids go through college where the professors have similar orientation -- and those kids watch MTV and movies. Those people who are ingesting pop culture and who are going through the cultural institutions become what I was growing up, and that was a "default liberal." I was a default liberal -- I didn't even know what conservatism was, because at no point are you ever confronted with a conservative idea until you, by mistake, turn on the AM dial.
And that's a big problem, because then you have Republican politicians out there trying to talk through the media, trying to break through the media. Then Cantor, Boehner, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin -- all those people are crushed by the weight of popular culture. The second they stick their necks out there to espouse what at least half of the country believes politically, they're crushed by the collective weight of the culture. The media makes fun of them. Hollywood makes fun of them. Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, they're always on the defensive, and that's because of the stranglehold the left has had on our culture.
What is the best way that you see for conservative candidates, particularly at the national level, to get their message and image across to the general public, particularly the independent voters? How do they get around or through a hostile press?
Well, that's what Ronald Reagan did, and he did so being a happy warrior. But the Democrat Media Complex -- which is what I call it, which is the natural alliance of the Democrat party, liberal interest groups, and the mainstream media -- it acts as a wall for conservative ideas. If there's a counter-narrative that disproves something that liberals believe, the mainstream media is not going to do anything to try and undo a narrative that benefits their side.
So Ronald Reagan, given that he was from Hollywood, it's no surprise that he was an effective communicator, because he understood how important Hollywood was. And he would talk around the media. He would talk over them. They would ask him a question, and he would talk to America. He didn't care what the premise of the question was -- he would talk to the American people. He didn't accept the premise that he was stupid, which they wanted to portray him as. He didn't accept the premise that he was evil, as many thought that he was. He talked to the American people, and they saw in that smile, in that wit, in that determination that he was not what the media said he was.
In this current environment right now, we have a bunch of candidates who are languishing at 2% and 3% in terms of popularity, and you have a person like Donald Trump coming out of nowhere and he's number two in the Republican field when he's not even really a Republican. It's because this guy knows how to weild popular culture. The reason why Sarah Palin was so popular for such a long period of time, and why the left has attacked her so mercilessly -- and even those on the right have attacked her so mercilessly, is because she understands popular culture, and she weilds it well, and many in the Beltway, including conservatives, are threatened by her.
The person who knows how to play the media, who knows how to talk over the media, that knows how to weild the media, is the one who's going to win. Barack Obama understood that perfectly well in 2008; that's how come he won.
You mentioned Trump, and he's obviously been heavily in the news these past few days regarding his position on President Obama's birth certificate status. Karl Rove has claimed the entire so-called "Birther" business was an Obama trap, and that Trump (and others) were stepping right into it. Rove believes Obama held back on releasing the full form Hawaiian birth certificate in order to paint those promoting the possibility of his ineligibility as a bunch of tinfoil-hat wearing (and vaguely racist) fringe members, and thus sway the independents. What's your take on these recent events now that the certificate has been released?
That's exactly what it's always been. That's why I told Joseph Farah to stop trying to inject the birther thing into the Tea Party. He wanted to toxify the Tea Party.
For the first time ever, the American middle class decided in its individual mindset -- families who were ordinarily out at Costco on the weekend or working in their yard or going to Little League games -- they started to get together and say, "Let's talk about fiscal responsibility. Let's talk about a return to the basics and the Constitution as our roadmap." And to try to inject the birther thing into it, to put in a question mark over the legitimacy of the President, which is a sideshow, was deeply problematic.
The proof that this was what Karl Rove said, a trap, is that they couldn't get anyone mainstream to talk about the birther thing. It took Robert Gibbs, the President's former spokesperson, to raise it pro-actively at a press conference, because they were so desperate to create something in order to lure people to that, so that they could drop that birth certificate in October (or near that period of time) of 2012. So I thank the strategist in Donald Trump for luring that very cynical ploy to be played out in April 2011, a year and a half in advance.
I watched your recent interview with Martin Bashir, and there was a dichotomy in presentation that struck me. As you were delivering your answer verbally to Bashir's questions, the fonting on the screen displayed "Former USDA Official Sues Breitbart & 2 Others," and "Breitbart & Two Others Face Libel Lawsuit." The implication of the text bringing this up at this juncture superimposed on you talking didn't even seem that subliminal, but almost an overt attempt to whisper to the viewers, "He's lying." Is that unusual, or is it par for the course in your experience?
well, they asked me about an email that I had heard of but didn't really know that much about. An email had been sent by a Republican in Orange County California that portrayed Obama as a chimpanzee. And they put that image up on the screen. If you've ever been in an airport where they have cable on and they don't have the sound on, all you could see was Andrew Breitbart and then the chimpanzee thing. It was a 'guilt by association thing.' I said, "What does that have to do with me? That email is deplorable. That email is reprehensible."
I'm kind of like Morgan Spurlock. What Morgan Spurlock was to McDonalds, or what Michael Moore was to General Electric or the NRA, I am to the mainstream media. It's a difficult business model, because the way that I get media is to go out there to be interviewed. And these guys take it personally that I'm playing Upton Sinclair to how the media sausage is made. It bothers them greatly. And so, given the fact that I weild the facts, given the fact that I have a successful track record of going against the media and pointing out their tactics, they have a vested interest in discrediting me.
The most effective tool the left has been able to use in its control of the media has been the race card. And I'm inviting that, because I'm not racist. Everybody knows I'm not racist. My entire trajectory from left wing to right wing was based upon the unfair treatment that the media gave a conservative black man. I've endorsed Herman Cain and Alan West -- or Alan West and Herman Cain -- as the perfect Tea Party weaponized candidacy. I was asked by Roy Innis, Civil Rights legend, to be the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King dinner at the Congress for Racial Equality back in January. And so my entire reason for being is to make it so that black conservatives not only have a right to exist out there without white liberal people calling them Uncle Toms, my goal is to diversify the conservative movement and take people out of the closet and make the Republican Party and the conservative movement a hell of a lot more diverse than it is. Republicans have been so fearful of being called racist that they won't even go into the black community and try to get their vote. I'm not afraid of it. I think that we can beat the Death Star of political correctness. The media uses the race card as a cudgel against conservatives, and people are sick and tired of it. I think that Martin Bashir did more for my cause than he possibly could imagine, because he showed how blatant the bias is, and how blatant the desire to destroy people is by using this cudgel of racism.
In your "Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Revolutionaries," you instruct readers "Don't be afraid to go into enemy territory." The Digg Patriots -- of which I'm a member -- were a group of users at the social news aggregator, Digg.com, who obtained some success at promoting conservative stories over liberal ones at Digg. The blowback to this success was vicious: the group was ridiculed, individual members vilified, the private Yahoo group was accessed when my email was hacked -- all to discredit the membership. Meanwhile, conservative sourced submissions to the site are routinely buried by conservaphobes with blanket statements like "Buried for Faux News" or even "Buried for Breitbart." So how do you suggest folks go into the enemy territory and succeed at it when the fight is that vicious?
Keep fighting. Recruit more people for the Digg Patriots. I'm going to the Bill Maher show [Friday] night. I went into the Martin Bashir place -- I guarantee you more people saw the Martin Bashir thing on YouTube, and it opened a lot of people's eyes on YouTube. I talked about it. It was found content. Of about fifty percent of the interviews I've been doing for my book, the Martin Bashir interview is the prime example of media bias. I think a lot of people had their eyes opened up because I went into enemy territory and I fought.
One of the times that I went and did the Bill Maher show and fought for what I believed in and and had the audience booing at me and the guest insinuating I'm a racist -- Professor Michael Eric Dyson, that's what he does for a living -- Bill Maher smirking at me... The next day I went to Starbucks, and the liberal barista said, "I tend to be liberal, but I applaud your courage for you to go there and I thought that you acquitted yourself well in that environment."
And I think we need to go into those environments, and plant the seeds of doubt in cultural liberals like I once was. The only way that I was able to realize that I was conservative was to be presented with conservative ideas. I guarantee you I wasn't looking for George Will. I wasn't looking for Charles Krauthammer. You need to actually go to the places where default liberals will be and hope that your arguments can plant the seed of doubt. That's why I say you should go into those places.
One of your more famous exploits was the rollout of the James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles tapes capturing malfeasance at ACORN. In your book, you state, "It was all a roller-coaster blur of travel, phone calls, e-mails, offers, pitches and threats." I can see all of that, but you leave us without any anecdote about that last bit. You received actual threats over this?
Oh yeah. I mean, check my Twitter feed. I've had people allude to wanting to get violent with me on Twitter -- and that's in the public realm. In the private realm... Of course I've had death threats. I've had people send me death threats in their actual own email accounts. I mean, are you kidding me? Why not just get a fake Hotmail account? People feel very comfortable in Barack Obama's America as liberals, threatening conservatives, trying to shut them down. I think that's why the Black Panther case resonates with so many people is that there isn't any equal justice under the law, and that many people think that President Obama and Eric Holder gave that mentality, and their alignment with the public sector unions -- which have been very blatant in their use of the threat of violence and sabotage and intimidation. This is what community organizing is. This is what it's always been. It's always been Saul Alinsky. And their fomenting their rage in their left wing base, that resembles something close to the incitement of a revolution. So they're pissed off, and they don't like that some of us fight back.
I'm given to understand that it's a very networked series of organizations; it's not just ACORN but various others like Citizens Action Coalition and the Hudson Bay Network. Are you looking into others?
One thing we just exposed in Missouri was the Labor Studies video from the University of Missouri's Kansas City and St. Louis campuses, where avowed Communist instructors and union organizers are teaching students, who appear to be sympatico with their revolutionary mindset, and talking openly about the use of violence, intimidation and sabotage as ploys to get corporatations to acquiesce to union demands.
Community organizing has been exposed. I think Barack Obama got elected based upon the perception that many naive Americans had, including myself, that he -- instead of going into corporate world and corporate law after Harvard -- became involved in community organizing, which people perceived to be an act of pure benevolence. Once you realize what community organizing is, and that it includes -- to be specific -- public sector unions taking school buses into the suburbs and going to the houses of bank executives and protesting on their front lawn while only a fourteen-year-old child is at home, chanting social justice slogans and economic justice slogans; and they feel justified in terrorizing people and intimidating people.
That's what community organizing is. It's been exposed to the light of day. The President of the United States is involved in organizing counter-protests against the Tea Party. His Organizing for America has coordinated with the SEIU -- which is acting in absence of ACORN since ACORN has gone down -- to create counter-rallies against Tea Parties: counter-rallies where people are chanting "Stop the Hate!" and using intimidating tactics in order to try and frame the Tea Party as something that it's not.
Can you imagine if George W. Bush organized counter anti-war rallies? That would be looked upon as being Nixonian! And that's what Barack Obama's been doing -- he's been using community organizing tactics to intimidate Americans, and he's been doing so in coordination with Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Andy Stern formerly of the SEIU. What you saw in Wisconsin was a desperate attempt to try and create the mother of all community organizing rallies, in order to rally the left wing base. The defeat of Kloppenburg was a defeat for community organizing.