Andrew gathered the editorial team in the center of our former office, a giant warehouse space with a row of desks above overlooking a recreation area below. We were just a few days from the re-launch of the website.
Most of the editorial staff, scattered around the country, had flown to LA for a week of intense training in the new technology that would power the website. While we learned, we still had to work, putting up posts and videos.
To the muffled sound of typing, Andrew began his pep talk.
The re-launch was the culmination of months of intense work, hundreds of design meetings and long conference calls, he said. The new website meant a new mission. We would no longer solely be a set of blogs. We were going to focus our energy on driving narratives and leading the news cycle, constantly.
But the news we covered would not be the same news everyone else was watching, he said. Andrew grew more animated as he described what he meant. He emphasized, for example, how radical fringes of the left were providing some of the most important content to the mainstream media, and how mainstream political and entertainment figures were driving that process by encouraging the radicals.
The Occupy Wall Street movement and the Anonymous hackers, Andrew said, had been extremely important in creating the 99%-vs.-1% meme that the Obama team had embraced, and which they encouraged to set a trap for likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (yes, he was saying it long before the rest of the country realized it). But the connections between Occupy, Anonymous and the media were even more direct.
Tracing those connections, Andrew said, was one of the many important investigative projects that needed to be done–and that the mainstream media would not do. As far as he was concerned, he said, that was the news. It explained how radical ideas that had circulated in remote corners of the Internet would pass through outlets like Current TV and MSNBC and eventually find their way to the headlines of the local nightly news bulletin.
Neither Andrew nor any of us could have realized that even as he was speaking, the Trayvon Martin controversy was about to unfold.
Martin was shot and killed during a confrontation with George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012, but it was not until March 8 that the first erroneous media report appeared referring to Zimmerman as “white.” Then, on March 11, the New Black Panther Party marched on the Sanford, FL police department.
The story might have remained on the fringe but for the fact that Al Sharpton’s National Action Network picked up where the New Black Panthers left off, issuing a statement on March 12 that alleged Zimmerman had used “racial language” in his 911 call to police–a theme repeated later that month in selectively edited reports by both NBC News and the New York Times.
On March 13, Sharpton devoted part of his MSNBC show to the case. Soon the mainstream media picked up the story as a story about race, prejudice, and guns. And Sharpton–who remains an informal adviser to President Barack Obama, in spite of his history of dishonesty and deadly antisemitic incitement–continued to lead the way, demanding that the Sanford police arrest Zimmerman, shepherding the grieving Martin family from one interview, one demonstration, one gathering to another.
This was not a legitimate news story that moved from the netroots to the front page, as the story of Barack Obama’s infamous “bitter clingers” comment had done during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. This was a distortion that began on the extreme left-wing margins and became a mainstream media firestorm–one whose flames were fanned by President Obama himself in describing Martin as his hypothetical “son.”
Breitbart News took the lead in exposing the deliberate distortions by the mainstream media, and how a tragic killing, twisted into a racial horror story by the extreme left, became part of the rhetoric of the 2012 presidential campaign.
But all of that, and much else, lay in the future as Andrew spoke to us–passionately, fervently, charging us with a heavy burden of responsibility that, despite his enthusiasm, felt daunting to everyone.
We could not have known that was the last time Andrew would address the Breitbart News staff as a group. Most of the editorial team flew home that day or the next–only to return, dazed and grief-stricken, for Andrew’s funeral a few days later.
Somehow we pulled together to launch the new website, on schedule, tears streaming down our faces, smiling and sobbing all at once, together, as we refreshed the screens and brought Andrew’s vision to life.
It has been a mad year. And a successful one. Andrew would have been proud to see how far we have come.
Yet we are still making the transition he envisioned. And the attacks–from the Obama machine, the institutional left, and the mainstream media–are multiplying.
Our mission remains that which Andrew gave to us. And it remains daring. I could not be prouder than I am to be part of the team Andrew built.