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Big Windbag – An Analysis of Andrew Breitbart | A Defense of The Liberal [Section of] Hollywood

2010 June 15


| Twitter: @WithAPassion

And Andrew, to you, great use of gibberish:

As a media junkie, I make it my interest to follow the news about the media. Your “Newsweek on the Brink” stories, your “Bill Simmons To Flee ESPN?” nonstories, and, in the last months, your “Andrew Breitbart, Puppetmaster” features. If you knew the name Andrew Breitbart before the recent profiles in Wired and The New Yorker, and you’re not a news junkie, it could be my fault. Breitbart is an odd fascination of mine, but in my own defense: with his history as lackey to Matt Drudge and co-birther of The Huffington Post, Breitbart is custom made for progressive-minded media junkies to whittle down to bone and grey hair.

Breitbart’s public raison d’être is to use his network of websites, often featuring articles by has-been and/or never-were actors who often argue they are persecuted and jobless for their politics and not their spot at the bottom of talent pool, to fight against the Hollywood he sees as using a liberal bent to ruin the country. His public visibility skyrocketed in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama, which he would likely argue was the last straw, that this endgame of a decades-long plot to bring a Marxist to the White House brought him out of the shadows to fight the evil that we’re too blind to see.

The above tweet of his (1) still humors me, because I shouldn’t be on his radar, but we’ll get to that later. He was a replying to a tweet I wrote, writing to @Combat_Jack, aka Reggie Osse, that “everything on that fuckwit (2) Breitbart’s site is just not worth the time or agita.” Osse had linked to a piece on one of Breitbart’s websites written by an actor from the original 1978 Battlestar Galatica tv show, who played antihero Starbuck. Now, the actor, long since forgotten, lost in what must be painful obscurity, was losing his cool over the fact that the show’s 2004 iteration was different, in ways that scare him of a Politically Correct invasion. That his character was now a woman, is his biggest source of grief, and to that, he wrote “Frak! Gonads Gone!”, which is the height of intellect in the piece.

That, in short, is Breitbart’s fight; against American culture having any sort of progressive argument. Breitbart and a vocal minority of the country are fighting against this every day, like fish against the tide, and Arizonans against non-White Faces in murals. What Breitbart doesn’t realize is that this is not at all new, and it’s far from destructive. Rather, progressive idealism on the pop culture stage traces back to the origins of film, and while it is still present today, it has to be much more covert than Breitbart claims.

*

[Breitbart] seems a familiar bicoastal type until he starts explaining his conviction that President Barack Obama’s election was the culmination of a plot, set in place in the nineteen-thirties by émigré members of the Frankfurt School, to take over Hollywood, the media, the academy, and the government, with the aim of imposing socialism. “He’s a Marxist,” Breitbart says of Obama. “His life work, his life experience, his life writings, and now his legislative legacy speak to his ideological point of view.”

The New Yorker

Making myself an easy enough target for Breitbart, the first film I’m going to cite is the 1927 German film, Metropolis (dir. Fritz Lang).  It may not be from Spooky Evil Liberal Hollywood, but it was made right around the start of Breitbart’s conspiracy theory timeline, and contains the kinds of moments and messages that would raise his ire.

Metropolis (now playing nationally) regards the manipulation of the lower class who live a mole people’s existence, underground beneath the skyscrapers that they built, which belong to the upper class. When the film’s protagonist, Freder, son of Joh Fredersen – the autocrat who runs the city – discovers the terrible conditions of the workers underground, he confronts his father. Joh doesn’t seem to care, and why would he, the machinery Joh has the poor working, the M-Machine, just exploded and kills dozens. That’s not the problem of an employer, not at all. An employer’s problem is a strong political figure in the underground area, Maria, rallying the working class to think and protect themselves. Joh calls in a favor from an old mad scientist friend who adapts a robot to take the form of Maria and lead the lowly mole people on a path against their own best interests.

When the machine exploded, killing the poor, while the rich barely noticed, everything felt very familiar. I pondered if Breitbart even knew what the film. If he had known 1920’s German cinema had predicted the political machine’s creation of Sarah Palin, she of the mindless call to “Drill, Baby, Drill!”, and was aware of the detachment that rich energy barons have from their workers, he’d lose his mind more than he already has.

Palin is one of Breitbart’s favorites, something he shares with the likes of Rich Lowry of The National Review, and he’s fond of obsessing over the Quitta from Wassila. Quoting the New Yorker article:

“I’ve never met Sarah Palin before,” he told the National Tea Party Convention. “I always imagined I’d eventually meet her. A man can have his fantasies.”

It’s no secret that Palin’s power during the run up to Election Day 2008 came not just from the bloodthirsty base, but from the PUMAs who were still furious over Hillary Clinton having not won the nomination, claiming Hillary’s destiny was stolen by the DNC for Obama. The Robo-Maria is to Palin what the actual Maria was to Hillary (not that HRC was in basements with the poor rallying them against the rich). And, as the machine instructed the people to destroy the machine and not think at all, so Palin instructs her loyal followers at the podium:

Ultimately, what Metropolis reminded me of is the disaster in the Gulf, which inspired the following tweet from Miss Drill Baby Drill 2008: “Extreme Greenies:see now why we push”drill,baby,drill”of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?”

Much like Breitbart, Palin favors fervor over facts. She left the whole “defining” ANWR problem to the followers, as it would be a complete shot in her argumentative foot which, incidentally, now looks like downtown Guatamala. ANWR is “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” so let’s just ask ourselves, what if we listened to Breitbart’s Fantasy First Lady? We’d be destroying the lives of the animals in her backyard instead of those in the Gulf. There must be a screw loose in the robot, though, because that would take her favorite hobby away from her.

Going back to Metropolis, the scene I can’t shake is deep into the film. The underground city is being flooded and all of the children have to turn to Freder and the actual Maria to save them. Joh is in his ivory tower, and barely shifts a finger. The robot Maria is partying with the rich. Doesn’t this sound familiar? I can’t place the left in this, but it’s clear that Breitbart’s silence over the tragedy in the Gulf places him closer to the upper class Joh than anyone else.

Andrew has about enough time for the poor as he does for intellectualism, which his complete distaste for is apparent in the New Yorker piece:

Breitbart also began to reconsider the education that he had received in Tulane’s American Studies department, where, in his off-hours from partying, he had been exposed to critical theory. “I wanted to read Mark Twain and Emerson and Thoreau,” he says. “And I remember moments in class where I thought my head was going to explode, going, What the fuck are these people talking about? I don’t understand what this deconstructive semiotic bullshit is. Who the fuck is Michel Foucault?”

So when Breitbart found a home in the nonthinking right, with people like Drudge and Limbaugh (whose reputation he defended when he went on Bill Maher, going so far as to argue that playing the “Barack The Magic Negro” while laughing in glee means absolutely nothing), it’s not that surprising. He even has a strong affinity for Ann Coulter, the pundit with a heart not even a mother could love.

Whether or not Coulter has any affinity for Breitbart is unclear, as he’s playing the freshman trying to hang out with the seniors in this situation. In need of his own lackey, he found James O’Keeffe, who he has now brought out of hiding to expose some false claims about the Census, preying on the fear of a black president who will place poor white people who don’t vote for him into concentration camps (Michelle Bachmann is an excellent secondary Robot Maria in this case). He’s bringing these fake arguments to the forefront because he has nothing to say to defend the right’s stance on offshore drilling. The shifting of the subject during serious times to farcical hyperbole was a standard tradition of the Bush years, when Rove used wedge issues to win at the polls, and is a political narrative device still in place today.

If Breitbart and Palin have their way, we’ll be drowning in oil while we’re fighting over phony arguments, with Orly Taitz prioritizing frivolous lawsuits over rationing out supplies.

*

Fastfoward about forty years to Gregory Peck’s blisteringly calm performance in the film adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird,who  as Atticus Finch,  taught a very young Henry Casey some of the evils of racism, and how deranged the country truly can get. During the early days of his campaign, Obama reminded me of the character Peck portrayed because of his preternatural calm in the face of lunacy. A lunacy, in fact, that the right wing media bathes its customers in.

Depending on where you search the name “Ashley Todd,” you’ll either receive more search results than you could process, or absolutely Zero Breitbart results. Comparing the story of Ashley Todd with Mockingbird, you’ll understand why Breitbart and company are whitewashing it from the internet history.

Zip, Zero.

vs

4,3000,000

Mockingbird revolves around a court case where the mostly white town is placing black man Tom Robinson on trial for the alleged rape of local white girl Mayella Ewell, the daughter of town drunk Bob Ewell. The Ashley Todd story revolves around Ms. Todd, a Texan McCain supporter, who claimed a black man had carved a backwards-B, for Barack of course, into her forehead. In both the fiction and the reality, the stories of the accusers fell apart faster than Jim DeMint can shout “YOU LIE!”

In Mockingbird, Atticus makes an amazing effort for naught, because while audiences can tell Tom is innocent,the  jury finds Robinson guilty. With Todd, her story disolved into the right wing news ether within two days, when she was brought to a lie detector test, and admitted the whole story was poppycock, saying, and I quote, that “there was no 6’4″ black male attacker.”

While we judge Breitbart for scrubbing Todd from the record books, we must train our eyes even harder on the man he learned his tricks from, Matt Drudge. Drudge – who earns his ad revenue whipping the nutters into a frenzy with his practically trademarked Drudge Sirens and thinly veiled racist doublespeak –played a big role as a booster for this story. The Drudge Report, lazy as they are, doesn’t write stories, only posts links, so I have to cite Drudge’s coverage via a MediaBistro article:

The black eye was also faked, but if I were dumb enough to think people would believe me about the backwards B, I'd want to punch myself, too. IMAGE CREDIT: Media Bistro/Fish Bowl LA

Both the film and the news story shows how eager some of White America is to believe utter lies when they are about black men attacking “helpless” white women. Drudge and Breitbart are both political animals, ready to do anything to score political points, even when it’s promoting completely baseless stories. These stories always float in the right wing digital ether, since their readership will believe anything, even fictious bullshit, purely for the sake of racial bias.

Ashley Todd, who acted alone, had to have done what she did in a desperate bid to sway the national election. With the Ewells, the film and book do a good job of establishing, within Atticus’ court room heroics, that not only is their story completely a falsehood, but it was a coverup of Bob Ewell’s abusive behavior towards his daughter. When he beat her, and possibly raped her, and needed someone to blame for her scars, he decided that the local black man was a good enough target. That he would get away with it, he assumed correctly, because of the public’s passive bigotry.

Bob Ewell’s goal was to save himself, as the right’s was to save their failed election campaign, from as far down as Todd to as high up as FOX News’ John Moody, who pondered, hopefully, in a blog post:

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha [D-PA]), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

The stance that voters that would change their mind about Barack Obama because of an isolated incident wherein a black man who supported Obama attacked a white woman who was supporting McCain, and that this wouldn’t be race based is absurd. Arguably, stupidity can just be stupidity, but to judge a politician based on one of their supporters would be insane. I don’t think Sarah Palin is absurd because Glenn Bleck is always in hysterics, I know Sarah Palin is absurd because for more than a year now, I’ve heard her talk and talk without anything actually being said. Mockingbird taught that even if you argue the truth with exacting logic and evidence, the jury may not be willing to believe that something goes against their biases. With Todd, the Right was willing to believe her until she caved and admitted her lies were nothing more than that.

*

Aside from the disturbing amount of press Breitbart has recieved, this article was mostly inspired by having seen the recent summer blockbuster Iron Man 2. If this were the back cover of Highlights for Children, you wouldn’t be mistaken for circling this paragraph, as it definitely falls under the heading of “one of these things is not like the other.” Clearly, a cinematic interpretation of a graphic novel which at times errs towards The Fourth Of July Fireworks territory shouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell in being here. At the same time, though, it has a smart message inside of it, albeit deep inside and clouded by the rest of the film’s content or lackthereof.

For the most part, the film, one of the biggest of the summer, has little to no liberal leanings. Sure, Scarlett Johannson played a Russian who fights alongside American forces, a sign that we’ve moved on from the Rocky movies. But with one step forward, you have one step backward in Mickey Rourke donning the fake Russian accent, and playing a capitalist hating bad guy. The film’s other bad guy, though, is a favorite target for liberals: Sam Rockwell’s war profiteer. This would be a big deal, a boon for the left, if not for the fact that underneath the alcoholism and the skirt-chasing and the whole Being-Robert-Downey-Jr. thing, Tony Stark is also profiting from his war machines.

The difference between them, though, is that after Stark learns the lesson (or at least the audience does) that some degree of cooperation with the government is a good thing. That left on his own, he will not be able to do everything, and possibly spiral out of control, so he cooperates. When Rockwell is captured, he does no such thing, and vows revenge. The government has a real role for good in America, they oh so subtly say. That with cooperation of public and private sectors, we will improve.

This, of course, is a message lost on newly born Libertarians (or as they christened themselves, The Tea Party, or as I call them, The Tea Baggers). They will go see this movie, because all Americans love robots that blow shit up, and walk out thinking AMERICA FUCK YEAH! Why shouldn’t they? The film is 95% about the rebirth of the concept that Americans build things, which in this economy, is what people want to hear.

The state of Hollywood today, when the top grossing film, Avatar, is not only racist, but a complete slap in the face of the environmental movement (see: scientists who are naive as hell, and a capitalist military/energy industrial complex that plays by the books), is not made for the liberal mindset. When a progressive message is in a film, it’s not front and center, and usually shifts towards messages of incremental change, patience, and compromise.

Metropolis ends with Freder getting the workers to work with Joh to fix things, with an all caps message, literally:

THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE MIND AND THE HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!

This is no Marxist revolutionary message. Sure the film has strong warnings about the upper class’s control of the working class, but it isn’t calling for a storming of the gates either. I know Breitbart is paranoid about how media is pushing the country leftward, but aside from messages of tolerance, which he’ll be laughed out of the world trying to argue against, the progressive messages in culture aren’t venemous at all, especially when compared to the rhetoric of the right. When called upon for evidence of the PCification of the nation, we get moments such as this, when Breitbart is featured in a Daily Show segment in which Jon Stewart runs through clips of the right freaking out about nothing.

[vodpod id=Video.1505394&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Mockingbird‘s ending features the saddest of all moments in any of these films, as Tom Robinson is shot dead trying to escape. Atticus is obviously angered by these events, but he doesn’t let it show to his family or the Ewells. Obama has to struggle with a similar conflict, when the media screams for Obama to get angry instead of keeping composed. Which, in fact, may be what Breitbart & Company are afraid of: that liberals will prove that they’re not as crazy as the right wants to claim they are.

Footnote:

(1) To fully explain the lunacy of his reply to me, realize that if I had used “@AndrewBreitbart” instead of just “Breitbart,” it would have appeared to his account no matter what. But instead I had just used his name, proving that he actually had an active twitter search up for his own name.

The New Yorker profile on him, which is unsurprisingly much more well plotted and thought out than it’s Wired counterpart, has sections detailing his life as internet junkie. I’m afflicted with similar data-fiending tendencies, but to get to the point of sheer paranoia and self absorption that you have a running search of your own last name so that you can snark at strangers isa sign of profoundly superhuman levels of delusion.

The Wired article is rather subservient in its retelling of how Breitbart crony James O’Keeffe used trick photography and a spineless Congress to shutter ACORN, one of the last NGOs that worked to defend the low-income worker. Wired’s article, though it came many months after the mainstream media lined up to kiss the faux-pimp ring, wasn’t the only piece that can be red-flagged for not thinking twice when re-shouting this story (Jon Stewart, really, I expected this from FOX, but not from you) Rachel Maddow was the sole, I repeat SOLE, voice in the mainstream media that effectively proved that the O’Keeffe footage was falsified.

(2) A word choice I stand behind to this day, and would only substitute with “fuckhalfwit” if it were in anyway commonplace.

One Response
  1. Andrea Greco permalink
    June 19, 2010

    It is kinda funny that Breitbart feels a need to see every mention of himself on Twitter, but I’m glad you are on his radar. You write thoughtful analysis and he seems to be of “he who yells the loudest wins” ilk. If he picked up that little tweet, I’ll bet he’s seen this article, in which case it makes sense that he didn’t respond this time — his “marxist socialist godzilla obama” schtick is pretty hard to defend in any rational way. The trouble inherent in anti-intellectualism is that there’s no reasoned argument to back it up. I mean, I love Mark Twain as much as anybody, but if you think his work has a place in modern critical theory, you’ve got some seriously low standards.

    Hollywood is a bit of a liberal haven, but the mass audience for culture/films does not find muscular progressivism palatable. Violence is only ok when it serves the status quo (feeding workers to the Machine, feeding black men to the criminal justice system). I’m glad you made this point, because the “liberal media” narrative so often goes unchallenged by anyone but Stewart. I think you’re totally right that “When a progressive message is in a film, it’s not front and center, and usually shifts towards messages of incremental change, patience, and compromise.”

    Anyway, great article, Henry — really well-paced, and I liked the use of multimedia throughout. That publishing job of yours seems to have given you an eye for pacing on the page/screen. Also, re: the use of “agita”: my italian grandma would also be impressed.

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