Andrew Breitbart, recently deceased set-up man for the 1 Percent, left behind a legacy of destructive political theater. His influence, though, should be seen beyond that, in the out-flowing historic ramifications emanating from his morbid circus of spotlight oriented personal attacks and authoritarian power-urges. Those elements of his legacy reflect consciously chosen tactics serving a grander strategy, one that still reaches from the Supreme Court to the inflamed reactionary minds of his followers. This strategy ultimately aligns specific traditionalist and authoritarian demographics with 1 Percent politics. While the privileged-paranoia duopoly over American politics is nothing new to us, we find that Breitbart’s twisted career haunts, warps and dysfunctions our democracy to this day in a very direct and troubling manner.
A legend in the pantheon of dirty right-wing operatives, Breitbart could count among his accomplishments being the very first employee of ultra-conservative rumor blog Drudge Report, then a favorite among the late-90’s online neo-conservative crowd. He was also a founder of the once-conservative Huffington Post (now of centrist leaning and AOL’s property). Here he honed the craft of buying news feeds, selectively syndicating them to skew the conversation rightward and interspersing far-right commentary to give the appearance of a semi-journalistic site that just happened to always highlight the scandals the right-wing political machine wanted highlighted.
Breitbart’s obsession with using the spotlight as a political fulcrum dove-tailed perfectly for his scandalous version of shock-and-dominate politics. His tactics focused on creating and then flexing online echo chambers for the right. He created Breitbart.com, and five other websites specifically for this purpose: Breitbart.tv, Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace. Whatever paranoid obsessions lurked deep in the right-wing mind, Breitbart was unafraid to use his online outlets to dogwhistle them.
Are you a middle class caucasian guy riled up by corporate news outlets to believe the neo-centrist Obama is a radical leftist with racist intentions on white America? Here’s a doctored video of an Obama administration official seemingly saying that she has problems being nice to white people. Are you an isolated mentally-incestuous suburbanite who feels like black people are leeching off the system and stealing elections with the help of “radical leftists”like ACORN? Here’s a doctored video that seems to show clueless ACORN employees helping an outlandishly dressed pimp get a loan for one of his hookers to get a house. More than a scandal-opportunist, Breitbart was the wildcat scandal-tycoon. He sought and promoted aggressively incendiary (and misleading) news items specifically with the ends, a further secured voter/follower base, in mind.
A former Hollywood wannabe, Breitbart’s focus on celebrity and the destruction of it would often fuel what passed as bare-knuckle politics. He lied, he misled, he edited video to lie and mislead. Verisimilitude in news items always counted less on his six blogs than their use of personal assault tactics.
On a spectrum of right-wing operatives, Breitbart’s tactics place him somewhere between the sprawling un-fact-checked right-wing psychosis of World Net Daily, the cut-throat powerlust of Lee Atwater and the elitist arrogance of the self-imagined rebels on Fox’s late night show Red Eye. Policy never really mattered to Breitbart. Tax rates and platforms were irrelevant. In the Breitbart playbook, there’s one go-to act: the direct personal assault to destroy or distort the opposition and their goals.
The Shirley Sherrod incident and the horrendous framing of ACORN were both tactical and strategic achievements. Tactically, the direct assault character assassinations were completed in the mind of the Main Stream Media long before any of the members of that media bothered to actually look at the doctored evidence. Strategically, they achieved the demonization of community organizers and the Obama administration, further binding the 1 Percent with the paranoid right-wing herd that votes them into power.
Breitbart’s most successful coup, we are coming to find out, was his politically utilitarian assault on former Representative Anthony Weiner. The only voice of New York liberals in Congress, Weiner was at the forefront of numerous progressive issues and a nemesis of the Right. Towards the end of his career, Weiner began a concerted push to investigate and impeach former Monsanto lawyer and current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In the disgrace of Anthony Weiner, Breitbart’s most important legacy may be the dramatic warping of modern american jurisprudence.
WeinerGate unfolded with the viciousness that was a signature of the Breitbart school of political media maneuvers. The timeline of the scandal reads of Breitbart’s spotlight chasing and willingness to use personal assaults to achieve political goals. During the two months of the scandal, Breitbart was there to incite and push for further investigations into the conduct of Weiner’s personal life at every step. What started with a hacked tweet of a photo, plumped to a plot with possibly half a dozen mistresses and concluded with the resignation of a progressive congressman. Breitbart took to the talk shows to trumpet and tease Weiner’s inappropriate communications with women he wasn’t married to. Breitbart even used the scandal to pump up readership for his Big Government site, by slowly leaking out the inappropriate photos. When Weiner called a press conference to address the scandal, Breitbart took the stage before Weiner arrived, announcing that he had shown up to be vindicated.
Weiner’s career was ruined and talk in the days following his resignation focused on digging for mistresses, discussing how destroyed his family must be and who the likely candidates were to replace him.
What also fell by the wayside along with Weiner’s family life and public image were his work of challenging the most corrupt right-wing elements on the Supreme Court.
“Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and a group of Congressional Democrats are said to be drafting demands that Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas be disbarred in Missouri for perjury, and investigated by the Department of Justice for bribery”
Thomas’ ethical violations that piled up by the week as revelations unfolded through April and May were all but forgotten as soon as the WeinerGate scandal gripped the pre-teen mind of the corporate media in late June 2011.
Although no one has arisen to pick up the fight, the Clarence Thomas ethical fail-list was heavy and ready to be carried forward. Thomas accepted gifts from people who brought cases to the Supreme Court. He even ruled on cases in which he had a direct financial interest. Thomas attended political fundraisers, stumping for the right and their corporate funders. He even hid portions of his income so he could avoid being busted on his habitual corruption. Even the case for judicial impeachment, if not indictment, was increasingly strong with evidence piling up and larger groups slowly coalescing around the call to somewhat de-corporatize the highest court in the land.
By June 2011 Justice Scalia’s years of shady friendships with billionaire sugar-daddy’s on the right finally came under scrutiny as well. One of the first law-school faculty advisers for the ultra-Right Federalist Society and a particularly bitter debater, Scalia was a highly politicized dreamboat of the indignantly far-right. Common Cause outlined the case against both justices in a powerful, detailed letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for Citizens United to be vacated as a ruling due to a variety of conflicts of interest from Justices Scalia and Thomas.
“The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010), has had a dramatic impact, overturning prior Court precedent, ending restrictions on corporate and union political spending that had been in place since 1947, and fueling a surge in secret and independent spending in the 2010 elections. Outside groups spent more than $296 million on the 2010 Congressional midterms – a 330 percent increase over 2006 – with more than $135 million of that coming from undisclosed donors¸ according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Since that decision, information has come to light that raises serious questions about the impartiality of Justices Thomas and Scalia in the Citizens United case. It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision. With respect to Justice Thomas, there may also be an undisclosed financial conflict of interest due to his wife’s role as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.
Until these questions are resolved, public debate over allegations of bias and conflicts of interest will serve to undermine the legitimacy of the Citizens United decision and erode public confidence in the integrity of our nation’s highest court. As Attorney General, you are ideally situated to address this matter, both in the interest of justice and in the interest of your client, the Federal Election Commission. The Commission was the losing party in Citizens United, but may now have legitimate grounds to seek reconsideration.
Therefore, Common Cause hereby formally requests that the Justice Department promptly investigate whether Justices Thomas and Scalia should have recused themselves from the Citizens United case under 28 U.S.C. § 455. If the Department finds sufficient grounds for disqualification of either Justice, we request that the Solicitor General file a Rule 60(b) motion with the full Supreme Court seeking to vacate the judgment.”
And then WeinerGate hit.
Since then, efforts to overturn Citizens United on grounds of Scalia and Thomas’ conflicts of interests have all but stalled. Even these past few weeks, eyes have turned to the Supreme Court’s potential ruling in relation to health care reform. Yet there’s not a single breath on the corporate media to mention Scalia and Thomas’ excessive and corrupt ties to lobbyists who have much to gain from the failure of healthcare reform.
When Weiner’s career ended, Congressional Democrats lost their biggest spine. For all his personal failings, Weiner was among the few Democrats willing to challenge at least some elements of corporatized America.
Scalia and Thomas, the most crooked judges this side of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, continue to force their corporate-funded right-wing views into american jurisprudence. Every day they sit in the Supreme Court is a day our justice system become less fair, more corporate and infinitely more corrupt. That justice system itself helps defined the political world. Indirectly altering the course of that Supreme Court for at least a decade is ultimately Breitbart’s haunting legacy.
Thanks to a crooked Supreme Court, challenge to Citizens United have little shot on the federal level. Thanks to a crooked Supreme Court, the government just won the right to strip search you for any suspected violation. Thanks to a crooked Supreme Court, you can’t sue corporations for torture. This barely scratches the surface of all the disturbing trends in the Supreme Court that are no longer being challenged.
The new saint of the Tea Party set, Breitbart’s legacy is in many ways rightfully defined by his egomania, willing use of outhouse antics and tabloid pseudo-journalism. Our analysis, and our memory of his assault on American democracy, however, should go further than that.
Breitbart willingly used outhouse antics as tactics to achieving actual political goals. Isolate and neutralize core opponents and their voices. Weiner was an obvious target as one such core voice very distinctly moving the progressive wing of the Democratic party forward towards accountability for a corrupted Supreme Court.
More than a sideshow clown, Breitbart was a ruin-life-tactics terrorist who made a career of keeping the opposition in his perpetual crosshairs. More than a publicity princess, Breitbart played the destructive attention-hog towards very specific ends: in Weiner’s case, keeping two very corrupt politicos on the Supreme Court.
In a time when top companies pay CEOs 380 times the average worker’s income, perhaps we would do well to realize how much we lost and the corporations won when we were successfully trolled by one of the Right’s most ruthless and ambitious tacticians. In losing Weiner to a personal scandal, Americans lost their best mainstream route to ridding the Supreme Court of the MRSA virus that is corporate influence. Just a year after the original push to investigate Scalia and Thomas, the ghost of Breitbart mocks us from an early grave as nary a peep is heard in the MSM of the greased palms and corporate-friendly decisions in our nation’s most powerful courtroom.