On March 1st, 2012, I woke up to a text message from a friend I had lost touch with over the previous year. Naturally, I was intrigued. It had to be something important. And it was not just a single text message, it was a group thread addressed to several other conservative friends of mine. It read “Andrew Breitbart died…at 43. RIP.”
It was only the first of many more Facebook messages, emails, etc. that I would receive throughout that day spreading the same piece of news. Obviously, it was a shock and a sad day for the conservative community at UCLA.
I unfortunately never had the chance to meet Andrew, but he still had a tremendous influence on my life. The closest I came to meeting him was spotting him in a grocery store in Los Angeles while I was buying supplies for a party celebrating Ronald Reagan’s birthday. True story.
It was only after his death that I was able to actually pinpoint why I appreciated Andrew and his work so much. Left-wing bias in the media has always bothered me, but I could never explain exactly why. Andrew, however, put it into words perfectly. The problem is not so much that major media outlets lean left–it is that they claim to be objective while doing so.
It is better to state your biases, Andrew said, than to hide behind a mask of objectivity, cheating the American public out of the truth and presenting one side of the story as if it is the only side. It allows the left to unfairly control the narrative via the media, while the right must struggle to combat that narrative.
And Andrew, being the warrior that he was, seemed like the only one brave enough to put his foot down and fight this difficult battle head-on.
His bravery was another characteristic to be admired. I always saw ambush interviews, gathering undercover footage, and vetting politicians as the left’s thing. It brought up images of a bad Michael Moore documentary. However, Andrew showed me that it should in fact be conservatives’ thing, and demonstrated the right way to do it–with integrity and purpose. He was not afraid to take on such a huge institution as the mainstream media by calling them out on their biases and challenging the narrative through citizen journalism, empowering everyday people to seek out the truth for themselves and for the American public using their own resources. All you really need is a brain, an Internet connection, and a smartphone.
Andrew gave an outlet to the many Americans who shared his frustrations with being pushed around and bullied by the left, having their opinions and discoveries silenced, ridiculed, or BenSmithed by the mainstream media. For once I was not discouraged about pursuing a career in the news media, knowing that there is a realm out there for conservatives where I would not have to keep my political position a secret or even fake being a liberal in order to be legitimized.
Lastly, despite the importance and gravity of Andrew’s message, he managed to keep it fun and lighthearted whenever possible. I found his second book Righteous Indignation entertaining and easy to read, while still being incredibly informative. He mixed in sarcasm and edgy language with serious commentary, and was not ashamed to talk about his college days of partying, slipping grades, and majoring in “American Studies.” I had stopped obsessing so much about my GPA and being a Sociology major and Linguistics minor years before, but reading about Andrew’s college experience took away any residual guilt I was feeling about that!
Andrew also made Occupy especially hilarious. Suddenly it became fun to criticize the movement, which could be effectively done simply by mocking it.
I no longer felt like conservative activism was boring, overly serious, or archaic. It was quite the opposite.
Photo: Shal Farley