Saturday, March 03, 2012

What Would Hans Christian Andersen Say? Fisking Matt Taibi's Update on His Andrew Breitbart Obituary

"…what I did was exactly the same as what Breitbart had done"
Matt Taibbi
Matt Taibbi has run an update to his I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead "obit" of Andrew Breitbart on the Rolling Stone website (thanks to Instapundit and… thanks again), in which he portrays, quite convincingly one must admit, people on the right as using double standards. He almost had me convinced — almost but not quite — until I thought the matter through, and saw the inconsistencies even more clearly. But — read for yourselves:
UPDATE: Well done, Breitbart fans, well done! In less than 24 hours you’ve hacked into my Wiki page, published my telephone number on Twitter, called the Rolling Stone offices pretending to be outraged “advertisers” [and] spent all night calling and texting my phone with various threats and insults, many of them directed at my family. “Better grow eyes in the back of your head,” was one; “I’m going to take a shit on your mother’s grave,” was another; a third called my wife a “piece of shit like you,” and many others called me a “pile of human excrement.”

Those last ones to me were the most interesting because that quote is lifted directly from Breitbart’s own obit of Ted Kennedy, which like me Breitbart ran just hours after his subject died. So that means the writers of these letters knew that what I did was exactly the same as what Breitbart had done, and yet they still found a way to be unironically outraged on Breitbart’s behalf. I thought: “These people don’t even get their own jokes.”

Strangely enough, when I first read Matt Taibbi's obituary, I did see that somehow, from a liberal perspective, he "was sort of trying to be nice to Breitbart – the obit [being] at least half an homage." However…

Assuming all the details that Matt Taibbi writes about his harassment are true and as terrible as they seem — and we all know from experience to what extent liberals like exaggerating (not least thanks to… Andrew Breitbart), but for the sake of argument, let us assume they are true — and assuming it is correct to lump all "Breitbart fans" together with the few people whose actions are described above (wouldn't Breitbart himself have voiced strong condemnation against such a generalization?), there are several facts that show very real and very basic differences between the two obits or, rather, simply between the two men.

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy was in power, he was part of the power, he was one of the rich and famous, he was royalty. Kennedy was royalty from day 1, from the day of his birth, and a very rich royal at that, both in dollar terms and in what life offered him, on a platter. Kennedy was the government, or part of the government. And he had influence on our lives, fiscal and otherwise, whether we wanted that or not. And he was one of the leftists treated like what the French call L'Homme Providentiel, the providential man, a Savior of the Masses (see also Barack Obama, FDR, Allende, Che Guevara, etc, etc, etc).

Yes, things were made extra easy for Ted Kennedy by his being fêted — throughout his life — by one journalist after the other in the mainstream media (unlike, say, either of the Koch brothers), with the other side of the coin being naturally the MSM savaging Ted Kennedy's opponents. And once Kennedy passed a small hurdle, relatively speaking for a member of his clan, to get into the Senate, the mainstream media made it easy for "The Liberal Lion" for the rest of his career (that was only one part of "what life offered him on a platter") — even into death, when one glowering obit after another filled the dailies and the airwaves, the most memorable of which was perhaps the one ending with the thought that had Mary Jo Kopechne known the glorious career of Ted Kennedy, she would doubtlessly have given her life, willingly, for the "Lion of the Senate" to succeed.

It is in this perspective, and in this perspective alone, that the language in Andrew Breitbart’s of Ted Kennedy should be understood.

Anger with the royalty, coupled with anger towards the myriads of minions in the mainstream media who are not doing their job and who had not been doing so for years, for decades — or who did so/who do so only in the double standard format, one way reserved for Democrats and/or liberals, the other reserved for Republicans and/or conservatives. Lionizing the Democrat while savaging the Republicans.

And while the MSM had started speaking of "Kennedy's memory" and of reminiscing, effusively of course, about their idol's life, Andrew Breitbart decided — quite naturally — that a number of unpalatable facts concerning the idol needed to be brought to the surface, and that without delay.

As a journalist of the mainstream media famously said (but you wonder today whether he really meant it for everyone, Democrats and Republicans, and at an equal level), you don't kick people when they are down, you kick them when they are up.

Andrew Breitbart was willing to kick people — and idols — when they were up.

Likewise, in Matt Taibbi's final paragraph, when what he describes grandiosely as Breitbart "hack[ing] into private web sites, tell[ing] lies in an attempt to get his enemies fired, and incit[ing] readers to threats against his targets and their families," he again leaves out one fundamental detail: Matt Taibbi omits to say that what he describes as poor innocent victims (these "private" individuals, "his targets," and "his enemies") are part of the élite — the élite protected by the mainstream media not doing their job but, rather, savaging their opponents.

This brings us directly to… Andrew Breitbart himself, or rather to Matt Taibbi's obit for the man.

Andrew Breitbart

For starters, of course, Breitbart was neither royalty nor fêted by the mainstream media. By contrast with Ted Kennedy, he was never in government, he had no authority, fiscal or other, over people like me, like Matt Taibbi, or like anybody else.

Besides, Breitbart never had an easy path in front of him.

It is true that Breitbart — eventually — became known, that eventually he also achieved a measure of fame (royalty, in a sense, at least to one segment of the population), but this was only from standing up to the authorities, standing up to the rich and famous, it was from what he did, i.e., it was in the display of courage and that against the well-to-be and the well-connected.

As for the élites; as for the mainstream media; and as for all the rubes who believe what the MSM reports, Kennedy was (is) lionized for being royalty, Breitbart was (is) demonized for standing up to royalty.

So, to paraphrase from a Danish fairy tale, one obit, Andrew's, was disparaging of the emperor (a rare voice willing to tell unpalatable truths), while the other obit, Matt's (the voice of one of untold followers of the emperor), was disparaging of the simple boy who had dared stand up and describe the emperor's new clothes or, rather, the absence altogether thereof — as were all the hateful comments that appeared from one end of the internet to the other.

Hans Christian Andersen ends his tale with the people seeing the truth and breaking into laughter as they mock the emperor; maybe the Danish author should have ended it not with the emperor but with the courageous — yes, the courageous — boy being the object of derision, ridicule, and scorn, along with unreserved hatred for the rest of his life.

Update: While speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Ann Coulter also mentions the Mary Jo Kopechne example, adding that "a little pushback" was hardly uncalled for when the "Liberal Lion" passed away…

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