What did Andrew Breitbart know and when did Andrew Breitbart know it?


Cillizza: That’s entertainment! On the day Andrew Breitbart died, Chris Cillizza swung into action.

In our view, he revealed a deeply unfortunate truth—a truth about Cillizza himself.

Like many pundits who wrote about Breitbart, Cillizza cited three of his greatest hits.

He copped to the fact that Breitbart’s tape of Shirley Sherrod had been “heavily edited.” That’s a long-standing euphemism for what actually happened in this instance—although Cillizza seemed to acknowledge, in a roundabout way, that Breitbart’s “heavy editing” turned the truth on its head.

Concerning Breitbart’s first greatest hit, Cillizza was even less forthcoming. This is the way he described the earlier ACORN affair:
CILLIZZA (3/1/12): His first big break came in 2009 when he posted an undercover video of a man—the now famous/infamous James O’Keefe—posing as a pimp and seeking legal advice for his “business” from ACORN, a community organization that has long been the scourge of conservatives.

The incident caused considerable embarrassment to ACORN and propelled Breitbart and O’Keefe into the national spotlight. Democrats decried the video as unfairly edited to paint ACORN in a negative light. Republicans seized on it as evidence of the corruption within the organization.
Democrats said it was unfairly edited! In this case, Cillizza wasn’t even willing to state the truth is a circuitous fashion. Cillizza cited the famous pimp costume, refused to report it was fake. (Did he keep his text "technically accurate?" Go ahead! You be the judge!)

In discussing Breitbart’s death, many pundits refused to tell the truth about this case of deceptive editing.

Chris Cillizza couldn’t quite admit that both these greatest hits involved deceptive editing. (Deceptive editing. That’s different from “heavy” editing.) But Cillizza’s most remarkable point was expressed when he described Breitbart’s legacy.

What did Breitbart understand? The highlighted passage is sad:
CILLIZZA: The legacy that Breitbart leaves on the political world is a mixed one. He was, without question a pioneering force in the rapidly-growing field aggregation of political news—both during his time at Drudge and HuffPo.

(One former Huffington Post employee related a story about a 2007 conference call Breitbart did—at Huffington's behest—with the staff to school them on the best methods for aggregation. “He really talked our ears off on the call and wouldn’t stop talking about this ‘monkey boy’ that he had made popular after finding a small article on it in the Indian papers and putting it on Drudge,” said the employee.)

And, Breitbart also understood before many others that the world of politics—and the way in which it was covered—was rapidly transforming itself into a form of entertainment for the public. The fusion of celebrity and politician—best epitomized by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin—was something that Breitbart (and Drudge) grasped longed before much of the mainstream media.

At the same time, Breitbart’s methods walked a fine line between envelope pushing and downright scurrilous at times. The Sherrod incident raised questions about whether Breitbart was a journalist with a conservative bent or simply someone willing to do whatever it took to bring down Democrats.
In this passage, Cillizza did manage to use the word “scurrilous,” after hiding the extent to which the word obtained. But in our view, that highlighted passage is deeply revealing.

According to Cillizza, “the world of politics—and the way in which it is covered” has been “rapidly transforming itself into a form of entertainment for the public.” We agree with that, of course. But we have spent the last dozen years complaining about that fact.

Cillizza shows no sign of having a negative view about this transformation. Indeed, he congratulates Breitbart for understanding this fact before almost anyone else did.

Breitbart understood this even before the media did! Cillizza seems impressed by this fact.

This comes right after Cillizza tells the tale about Breitbart’s “monkey boy.”

Breitbart was either very incompetent or he was very dishonest. Cillizza largely fudges this fact. But the sheer stupidity Breitbart promoted has been a very deep curse on the culture.

Cillizza doesn’t seem to understand this. We’ve written about this willful blindness for the past dozen years.


  1. The Real AnonymousMarch 7, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    I suppose Cillizza and everybody else could have called Breitbart out for being the lying, deceitful, self-promoting scum bag he was in life.

    That would have given Mr. Somerby the opportunity to once again try to prove one "tribe" is no better than the other.

    Perhaps the civility of those opposed to everything Breitbart speaks to the differences between the "tribes." Just look at how Breitbart himself handled Senator Kennedy's death. It wasn't with civility or respect.

    Only time will tell what kind of lasting impact, if any, Breitbart had.

    Giving him some credit for seeing how the lines of information have changed and how that could be exploited for political gain and massive profit, ask Arianna Huffington about that, isn't endorsing how he handled himself.

    1. If Cillizza and many others from the "liberal" tribe called out Breitbart and everyone else like him (including those nominally on the liberal side), then I think Bob might start having to distinguish between the two. But this hasn't happened.

      On the other hand, if Cillizza called out Breitbart (as you propose in your comments) but failed to go after others, then you can still make the case that the two tribes are very similar--in both cases they turn a blind eye to the problems with their own tribe but readily attack those on the other side.

      As it stands here, the only distinction you seem to have made in your comment is that one tribe can be more civil than the other--if this is true, does civility really matter when you're airbrushing lies and deceit as Cillizza does above?

      And your last remark, referencing Arianna Huffington, seems to imply that she saw and capitalized on the same "politics as entertainment" trend that Breitbart did--implying that relatively major figures in both tribes have taken this direction to some extent and going against your previous argument about distinctions between the two tribes just two or three sentences before that.

    2. The Real AnonymousMarch 7, 2012 at 3:26 PM

      These were Cillizza's first remarks about Breitbart since the man's death.

      Most people would agree that's not the time to bring up political differences but simply to remember the person as a human being.

      No, I didn't propose calling out Breitbart while his body was still warm but noted Cillizza could have taken that route and conjectured about what Mr. Somerby's reaction would have been.

      Are you aware what Huffington's politics were before recognizing the internet could be a gold mine?

      If you aren't you might want to look them up before deciding what "tribe" she belongs to and why.

  2. Critics who fault the Sherrod tape for being edited are themselves editing the point Breitbart actually was making. Breitbart's point was that the NAACP audience cheered when Sherrod told them how she had used her power in a racially unfair way. This was a valid point, supported by the Breitbart's edited portion of the tape.

    It's true that the edited tape was unfair to Sherrod, since it left out exculpatory statements Sherrod made later in the talk. But, those later statements don't excuse the NAACP cheers.

    IMHO the real miscreant was Barack Obama, who over-reacted by firing Sherrod, without asking to view the entire tape or getting a full investigation.

    1. The Real AnonymousMarch 7, 2012 at 2:04 PM

      "Breitbart's point was that the NAACP audience cheered when Sherrod told them how she had used her power in a racially unfair way. This was a valid point, supported by the Breitbart's edited portion of the tape."

      This is a blatant lie. There was no cheering and the poster can't provide a link to a cheering crowd either.

      Once again a point that has been debated and long decided seems to have more lives among the radical right than the walking dead.

      The firing of Sherrod illustrates the power the lies of the radical right have compared to the truth-telling of a relatively powerless individual like Sandra Fluke.

    2. If Shirley Sherrod didn't do anything wrong why did Vilsack and Obama fire her, they're to blame because they watched the Breitbart tape just like everyone else and they saw enough to can her.

      Breitbart was an entertainer. Rush is an entertainer. Sarah Palin is an entertainer. Ronald Reagan was an entertainer.

      The liberal media likes to be entertained. Cilizza is no different.

  3. I'm just glad he's dead. One less.

  4. Ariana is getting a big pass here on her part (and unseemly past) in promoting these creeps. The HP was editing the responses to it's sentimental obit on this creep the other day, only nice posts allowed.

    1. The Real AnonymousMarch 7, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      I've followed this blog since the Clinton impeachment.

      I wish Mr. Somerby would get his head out of 2000, when the NY Times and CNN were top dogs and FOX was fighting for a foothold, and into 2012 and address issues like the influence and agenda of sites like HP which have come out of nowhere since the turn of the century to become major players.

      You ever wonder why a minor figure like Joe Scarborough gets major play over at HP?

      It goes back to the days when Joe and Arianna were both neo-cons.

    2. I concur; and, I also have been following daily howler for several years.
      While I mostly appreciate Somerby's doggedly rooting out journo hypocrisy, his "two tribes" mind-set can be counterproductive. One tribe is often feckless; in my opinion, the other tribe is more often corrupt.
      "Both sides do it" too often ignores the differing levels of corruption that journalists must deal with.

  5. Brietbart was good. I doubt there is a single conservative in America that does not fervently believe that ACORN was knowingly committing voter fraud, and that the MSM ignored it because they are entrenched in the liberal camp.

    The carnage Breitbart and O'Keefe leave behind will outlast both their lives. Anthony Weiner resigned when Republicans that did far worse were re-elected.

    Even more disturbing than Cilizza writing this tripe is that James O'Keefe is not behind bars.
    To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are lies, damned lies and Andrew Breitbart lies.

    1. Weiner admitted he was wrong. He attacked conservatives who criticized the destruction of marriage and then what did he do to his own by sharing those photos with that woman?

      If ACORN wasn't up to anything why didn't they defend themselves and why didn't the Democrat Party defend them? Why did they just fold up instead of fighting if what Breitbart did was wrong?

      James O'Keefe was not convicted of any felonious behavior so he shouldn't be behind bars. Don't liberals complain about all the people behind bars, now they want to lock up an innocent man. Something doesn't compute.

      Krugman can post till he's blue in the face, he can win Nobel Prizes and post graphs that bear the stamp of knowledge and reality, but conservatives see the world a certain way and are determined to get things to confirm to that world view.

      Liberals just don't get it. Conservatives do and get their way. Completely.

    2. Patriotin
      Thank you for proving my point that some conservatives will swallow anything shoveled at them by Rush, Beck, et al, and research nothing for themselves.
      You ask many good questions, and there are answers available should you take the trouble to look them up.
      I won't do it for you.
      Of course you won't either, because they refute your preconceived notions.
      Of course you could be a troll or a "satirist", the last refuges of the chronically clueless.
      Gravymeister out.

  6. So now Cillizza isn't tribal enough?

  7. I just want my kids back.

  8. What a lot of misunderstanding of Somerby's "tribal" trope we see in these comments.

    Nevermind that this post isn't about reibalism at all:

    It's about a journalist who admits an awful truth about his profession as it is currently practiced -- that it's about entertainment, about a being a successful circus sideshow. Admits that truth, seems comfortable with it, and *praises* a hideous, deceitful man for being on the cutting edge of destroying American discourse.

    If Cillizza did "call out" Breitbart, Somerby would've still reamed him, only as too "tribal" instead of too novelistic?

    Look, slow readers, there is more than one way to skin a cat:

    If you call out Breitbart by making stuff up about him, that is indeed exactly the sort of thing Somerby would justly call tribal.

    If, as in the present case, you pretend to call Breitbart out, while typing instead the established novelistic treatment -- and thereby hiding the truth -- you are likely to get this kind of (entirely appropriate) treatment by Somerby.

    Complaining about this post that Somerby should get out of 2000 is idiotic. We're in the present here, discussing what's happening now. You think HP is as influential as the NYT and TV media? Sorry, but we're still a long way from there.

    But as always David-in-CA sees the cake is up for grabs and he takes it. The big villain in the Breibart-Sherrod affair? Not Breitbart. Not a craven press. Barack Obama. Give the man his cookie.

  9. There's now a controversy over a tape of Barack Obama lauding Derrick Bell. It was made back when Obama was a law student. Only, in this case, the mainstream media want to release only an edited version; the Breitbart organization plans to release the entire tape.