Andrew Breitbart just released his new book, "Righteous Indignation," that opens a window into his innermost impulses and ambitions. It reveals the complex circuitry of his character that succeeds in being both self-loathing and Narcissistic. Breitbart takes us on his journey from unrequited Hollywood wannabe to Tea Party overlord and along the way establishes that his book might better have been titled "Noxious Irritation." If anything, his indignation is aimed at a community that he desperately wanted to be a part of, but which wanted nothing to do with him.
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Growing up in the Tinseltown suburb of Brentwood, Breitbart developed an early obsession with show business and celebrity. He writes with a palpable glee of having had the same tennis instructor as Farrah Fawcett and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The most trivial association with stardom sent him twirling, as when his family, "once rented out our motor home to John Ritter from Three's Company. I bragged about it in school for weeks." But despite his glamorous aspirations, the first forty pages of the book describe a young man seething with self-hatred. And judging from his own account it was deserved. He paints a picture of himself as an ignorant, alcoholic, loser.
After high school, Breitbart left Los Angeles to attend Tulane University in New Orleans where he spent four years boozing and tripping and otherwise neglecting his education. His selection of the land of Mardi Gras to pursue his studies cannot be dismissed lightly. It allowed him to concentrate on partying and to avoid what he later disparaged as Marxist academia. He now believes that his boorish immaturity was a blessing in that it prevented him from being co-opted by what he called the "cultural fascisti." He may not have graduated at all but for his pleading with a professor for mercy:
"I need to graduate. I have family and friends coming in from out of town tomorrow. We have reservations at Commander's Palace."
That was only partly true. His parents did come to celebrate but they dined at Bayona where he says that his "academic career was toasted." And from the sound of it, so was he. Breitbart got his passing grade of C-minus, graduated with just above a 2.0 average, and returned to L.A. to resume his aimlessness.
Upon his return home, Breitbart held a number of low-skill jobs until a friend got him a runner position at "a low-budget movie production company in Santa Monica."
"For a year I delivered scripts around town, entering every single Hollywood office of note, including Michael Ovitz's, Jeffrey Katzenberg's, and Michael Eisner's. It wasn't long before I saw clearly what made Hollywood run."
For such a poor student, it's impressive that he could figure out Hollywood by merely dropping off scripts with receptionists. Nevertheless, in his retelling this was all the experience he required to impress his employer (whom he explicitly declined to identify) enough to reward him with a plum assignment.
"So while the producer was incentivizing me to become production staff - he even gave me control over a project, Valley Girl 2..."
The Valley Girl sequel was a project acquired by Brad Krevoy’s Motion Picture Corporation of America. It was slated for production in April of 1992, but was never completed. According to Mr. Krevoy, Breitbart was nothing more than an intern and that he never had "control" of Valley Girl or any other project.
Furthermore, Anita Rosenberg, who was to be the film's writer and director, told me that she had only a vague recollection of young Breitbart. Her impression was that Breitbart was a kid hired by the producer and if he stated that he was in control of the project he was "stretching it." She recalled Breitbart as someone she regarded as an assistant who had not earned his place and didn't know the business. He most certainly was not in a position of control.
This was one of several examples of gross exaggeration in the book. Another was his introduction of artist Patrick Courrielche, whose betrayal of former associates, and alliance with Breitbart and Glenn Beck, helped shorten the career of Yosi Sergant at the National Endowment for the Arts. In an attempt to steal some hipster cred, Breitbart wrote that his pal Courrielche was the former partner of Obama poster artist Shepard Fairey. However, Fairey's spokesperson told me that they were neither partners nor friends.
Another adventure in exaggeration was Breitbart’s assertion that he "created" The Huffington Post. That is something Breitbart has been claiming for years without support. Arianna Huffington has said that the site was originally brainstormed at a meeting after the 2004 elections and that Breitbart was not there. Others who attended the meeting corroborate Huffington's account. Breitbart came aboard later to do research and some tech support, but was gone in six months.
In the book, Breitbart's grandiose declarations as to his role in the aborning HuffPo get even more surreal. He portrays himself as being an ideological "double agent" who was secretly setting up the lefty media by building a trap wherein they would be wedded to their "crazy ideas." He says he only associated with the pinkos at HuffPo as a form of undercover sabotage.
"...what if we can get them all to put their names next to their crazy ideas? What if we can make it a one-stop shop for exposing liberals for who they are, and forcing them to stand by their positions?"
In 2005 there was no shortage of liberals using their real names and taking strong positions on the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, the economy, and more. And if Breitbart is troubled by anonymity maybe he'd like to tell us who Plubius or Skadi or Ace of Spades, or Chuck W or Mr. Wolf or (my favorite) Mr. Wrestling IV, are. They are all presently blogging anonymously on Breitbart's BigGovernment.com. What's more, Breitbart's insistence that HuffPo would be a festival of liberalism is belied by the fact that in the first few weeks of operation it featured such notable conservatives as Dennis Prager, David Frum, John Fund, Joe Scarborough, Greg Gutfeld, James Pinkerton, Michael O'Hanlon, Byron York, and Tony Blankley.
Breitbart is asking us to believe that his participation at HuffPo was all part of a devious plot to crush his liberal Hollywood acquaintances. How would he do this? By constructing a web platform that would promote progressive issues, elevate liberal spokespersons, advance the Democratic agenda, and make millions for its proprietor. Really? It would be downright insidious if it weren't so reminiscent of Pee Wee Herman falling off his fancy bicycle and defiantly claiming, "I meant to do that."
Perhaps the only success Breitbart had in the film world was in wooing the daughter of a famous movie star. This led him to rejoice that "Not only was I working in Hollywood, I was dating the daughter of Orson Bean." Sure, it aint Sean Connery, but for a guy who previously got goose bumps by sharing a celebrity tennis pro, Susie Bean must have seemed like Grace Kelly. And to top it all off, it was Orson who introduced Breitbart to the Rush Limbaugh radio program. Other than that, his Movieville escapades were a bust.
Breitbart quickly turned on his former idols, developing a deep bitterness that was all consuming. In seeking excuses for having flunked out he decided that "Hollywood is a leftist colony," and whined that, "Leftists without credentials in Hollywood made it because they were leftists." The entirety of his justification for having failed was that his politics were unpopular, not him.
The pain of having been rejected by his hometown industry must have been intolerable. It takes a mighty wound to produce the sort of malice that was eating through his psyche like rust on crack. His animosity spiraled downward to absurd and vulgar depths. In one passage he fumes that Hollywood and the media are more brutal, more evil than Osama Bin Laden and the forces of jihad.
"I was realizing that the most brutal, evil force I could imagine wasn't Al Qaeda or radical Islam (at least you knew where they're coming from, the brutality of their mission and their anti-Western anticlassical, liberal hatred), but the Complex surrounding me 24/7 in the form of attractive people making millions of dollars whose moral relativism and historical revisionism and collective cultural nihilism were putting them in the same boat as the martyrs of radical Islam rather than red-state Americans."
That's right. Susan Sarandon and Chris Matthews are really no different than Mohammed Atta and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Breitbart has turned what were once philosophical disagreements into a holy war. And while he complains that it's the left who are filled with rage and drained of ethics, he exposes his own preference for ends over means. On two separate occasions he summarily discards civility admitting that "it never crossed my mind whether I should play fair. Fair loses." About thirty pages later he reiterates the point saying, "We don't fight fair, we fight righteous."
Breitbart was determined to translate that visceral hatred into action. He despised the news media but his remedy was to exacerbate the very things he viewed as destructive – the lazy, biased, identity-driven nature of modern media. He proudly offers his opinion that "Ambush journalism is the most valuable kind of journalism." And befitting his massive ego, he admits that "I didn't want to react to the news at all. I wanted to be the news." This self-absorption expressed itself in wildly derogatory partisan zealotry that blamed his victims for his bile.
"If the political left wasn't so joyless, humorless, taxing, overtaxing, anarchistic, controlling, rudderless, chaos-prone, pedantic, unrealistic, hypocritical, clueless, politically correct, angry, cruel, sanctimonious, retributive, intolerant - and if the political left wasn't hell-bent on expansion of said unpleasantness into all aspects of my family's life - the truth is, I would not be in your life."
I don't doubt for a moment that Breitbart truly feels all of that. But I do question the roots of those feelings. He started out as what he called a "default liberal" and somewhere along the way flipped 180 degrees. It isn't difficult to spot the turning point. As he was jilted by his first love, Hollywood, he developed a gnawing animosity toward her. He now harbored a passionate hatred for Hollywood, and since Hollywood was liberal, he hated liberals as well. He even exposes that root animus early on in the book saying…
"The biggest point I wanted to make was one I'm still making: Hollywood is more important than Washington. It can't be overstated how important this message is: the pop culture matters."
It has always been about Hollywood and the revenge he could impose on those who slighted him. Had they been nicer to him he wouldn't have had to turn into a raging son of a bitch, employing anger, lies, intimidation, and sabotage, to get even with his perceived enemies. Let this be a lesson to us all to show kindness to even the most incompetent, disagreeable interns we encounter. They may grow up to be incompetent, disagreeable media hacks with powerful microphones and Plymouth Rock on their shoulder, just itching to write their "Hollywood Dearest" memoirs.
[Note: This review of "Righteous Indignation" was from a pre-release copy of the book. There may be differences between this and the published version.]