Horrible horrible horrible news.
With a terrible feeling of pain and loss we announce the passing of Andrew Breitbart.
Andrew passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles.
We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior.
Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love.
Say a prayer for Mr. Breitbart's wife and four children. Undoubtedly, they are in terrible pain and grief. We can only hope that in the midst of their mourning they can find some solace in the bosom of their faith and their extended family.
I first read the news over at The Conservatory. After my initial shock--Wait? What? Only 43 years old? How?--I started to look around and see what his friends and allies had to say.
He may have been the greatest genius I’ve ever met, with a keen, intuitive mind. Although he had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder — he had a freewheeling quality about him, and his schedule was quite improvisational – Breitbart was also capable of a laser-like focus on whatever subject captured his interest. There were times you’d be talking to him and, if that spark of passionate interest hit, his luminous blue eyes would glow with an intensity that was almost frightening.
You can read elsewhere all about Andrew's remarkable impact on public communications in this country, helping found Huffington Post and the Drudge Report and then his own developing online empire of Big sites. He was often controversial because his opponents often couldn't answer his stories online, so they went after the messenger.
Andrew loved it. He was one of the few people you encounter in life who bite at every experience, good and bad. Where does that energy come from? You'd get a late-night call with Andrew excitedly talking up a whole package he was about to post. Might as well listen because you weren't going to get a word in.
In person he'd get so excited in an argument that he'd be shouting inches away. You'd raise a hand as if 'OK, Andrew, I'm right here.' He'd laugh at himself and lower the volume. Andrew couldn't stand hypocrisy and lying and hiding.
He also couldn't stand passivity. Friends would describe some awful thing happening and instead of a hug he'd shake them out of wallowing with, "So?" And you'd stop and think, 'Yeh, right. So what am I going to do about it to take control back?'
He was the spiritual leader of the modern conservative, libertarian cause. He was immersed in pop culture and wished to drag the right into the modern world - knowing this is how America speaks to the world. He was the heart of the matter. The fighter. Losing him is like a fiery planet going dark.
Few people are indispensable to a cause, but Andrew Breitbart was. There is no one else like him around. A good number of commentators have been saying that we should honor him by carrying on his fight using the methods he developed, and they are correct: we must not let his life’s work be in vain because his life’s work was to defeat the malignant forces of the Left and see America restored to the ways of The Founders. However, we have some mighty big shoes to fill, so it will not be easy.
At this crucial juncture in our history, we have been deprived of one of best generals. The long slog just got tougher.
He was an unapologetic conservative, but one who defied the media's template; pro-civil rights, pro-drug legalization, pro-gay rights, to the point of boycotting CPAC when it barred the gay conservative group GOProud. Other than his mainstream pro-life views (he was, after all, adopted) you would be hard pressed to characterize him as a right winger on social issues...
Plenty will be written about Andrew Breitbart in the next few days, some flattering, some not. As for me, I will drink two beers in his honor tonight, and remember him the way he was last December in Venice - a big, lovable, random, generous, fearless, patriotic grinning goofball surrounded by his family, basking in the coolness of it all.
What was truly charismatic about Breitbart was his never-ending enthusiasm and energy. He spoke fast because he thought fast. He changed topics quickly because he had six or seven plans in mind at any one time.
He actually did things. He was instinctual. Athletes cannot afford the deliberation of thought. They move by instinct and training and muscle memory. They act.
Why did Breitbart sign a lease for a pricey townhouse in DC? Because, he said, "it feels mischievous." It felt mischievous to establish an Embassy of citizen empowerment in the capital of statist overreach.
He had ten plans a month. He accomplished five of them a month. He acted.
He took over the Weiner press conference because it felt like something he ought to do.
He was brazen. He was bold. The right had no more enthusiastic champion and the left had no more implacable foe.
...I was privileged to sit a mere five rows back from Andrew when he addressed the delegates at Presidency 5 this September. He was mesmerizing from the moment he gamboled out to the podium. What a treat that was and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world in normal circumstances. Who could ever have imagined this day six months later, when dealing with a force of nature like Breitbart?
I can’t. I still can’t.
Like the conspiratorial "dog whistle" of our statist adversaries' nightmares, Breitbart's passing was a call-to-arms for the freedom fighters to ratchet up our defense of the Shining City.
What Andrew understood and embraced as a conservative media activist was that, when his name was in the headlines, it was because he was battling for what he most believed in. He also knew that his enemies, the headline writers in many ways, were engaged - and he was fighting. Andrew, like so many of us, lived for that fight. He understood how necessary it was for the right to engage it.
It's significant that Andrew picked his battlefields as a brave and fearless man. When you are fighting what many conservatives believe to be a biased media in their headlines, you are fighting them on their turf, not retreating, surrendering, or simply musing off in your own little protected, right-leaning corner of the media world.
Andrew Breitbart gave his opponents every advantage by engaging them as he did. And he often beat them.
Amen to all of that.
Read the rest of every one of those pieces. You'll become angry, you'll get sad, you'll laugh and be inspired all at once.
Beyond the shock of Andrew Breitbart's passing, one of the most overwhelming things I take away is the flattening finality of it. I was a fan of his 'Big' websites. "Righteous Indignation" is one of the best political memoirs of the 21st century. His twitter-feed was a long hilarious practical joke on the American socialist movement. Breitbart was like a rolling partisan kegger where the Right could rock out and the Left could buzz off. It seemed like nothing could stop him or his merry-making ways.
Maybe its the suddenness of it that makes this so tough to take. Breitbart wasn't supposed to go this way. He was supposed to be our gleeful prankster for decades to come. The roastmaster general wasn't supposed to be taken seemingly in the blink of an eye.
Breitbart's time in the spotlight might've been tragically cut short but it was certainly not poorly spent. In a way, his career trajectory is reminiscent of a Hall of Fame baseball star. The Major Leagues typically elect two kinds of players into their most hallowed pantheon. The first type is the guy who play for many years. He may not be an overwhelming presence in the sport, but he does well enough and last long enough to have fairly large statistics by the time he retires. The second type is the man who doesn't play for very long, but makes up for it by his sheer overwhelming dominance. Andrew Breitbart has become the Right's supernova, their short-lived hot-burning star.
Gaze in wonder at the innumerable enemies that Breitbart cultivated over the years. In life, they couldn't stop giving him ammunition. In death, he has given the Left a glorious opportunity to beclown themselves. Breitbart probably would've had a great laugh over the irony.
For every liberal who commented on Breitbart's passing with dignity, there were many many more who took the low road. Matt Taibbi, Matt Yglesias and a vast horde of internet lefties all happily danced on Breitbart's casket. While it's hard to read so much bile, the hate on the progressive side is a reminder that their constant calls for ratcheting down political rhetoric is just a cheap ploy to censor their ideological foes on the Right.
The fact that Andrew Breitbart made such strident classless enemies is amazing. What is even more astounding is how Breitbart used the hate thrown at him as fuel for his fights. Many people will tell you that they enjoy being targeted by the Progressive Church of Latter-Day Stalinists. Often, that brave sentiment will melt in the face of a full-frontal assault from liberal media. Not since William F. Buckley have we seen a man who not only sought out spectacular clashes with the Left, but who did it with such joy. All he did was laugh at the multitudes of angry liberals and their constant raaaaacist!/sexist!/homophobe! bleats, then turn the hate back on them.
Which is what we on the Right should always do. For too long, many conservatives played the media's game by their rules. This meant a lot of mewling when a liberal accused them of bigotry or greed or some other doubleplusungood thoughtcrime. Breitbart thought that kind of defensiveness was absurd and would always lead to defeat. Instead, he realized that conservatives had to take back the culture before the Right would ever achieve lasting political victories.
That is the greatest lesson we can learn from Andrew Breitbart's boisterous inspiring life. Breitbart was a warrior in the best sense of the term. His patriotic fervor and unabashed love of the great American experiment was something to behold. The best way we can honor his memory is to remain focused on changing our culture back to one that respects individual liberty in general and the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in particular. It was his life's work and it should be ours as well.
RIP Andrew Breitbart.
Gone far too soon.