I first met Andrew Breitbart sitting in a secret meeting at an undisclosed location for an organization that doesn’t exist.
Being a conservative in Hollywood can be daunting, especially back when President Bush was in the White House. Every now and then, a few people would privately gather to remind each other that there were other creative people in town who didn’t think we were in a war for oil, or that profits were evil, or that–RACIST!
Anonymity is a prized commodity in that sort of setting, which is why it seemed so odd that the wild-eyed, crazy-haired man in the corner was pounding on a keyboard connected wirelessly to the internet, updating one of the biggest news sites in the world.
And yet, every person in that room put their trust in a man whose career was built, literally, around exploding the unknown into global headlines.
Of course, Andrew’s entire life was like that–a series of conflicting notes that somehow formed a unique harmony.
He wasn’t actually very political–that is, he had almost no interest at all in policy. Yet he lived his life at the forefront of political debate.
He wasn’t overly conservative–by which I don’t mean to say that he was inauthentic in his conservatism like some RINO politician trying to mislead his way into power, only that he wasn’t especially ideological and his own views of issues were at times quite eclectic. And yet he was a giant of the right, occupying a space in the movement so large and so vital that its loss is still felt a year after his death.
What defined and motivated Andrew was his unique ability to perceive the gross double standard that the media, the political establishment, and the pop culture employ in their war on those with whom they disagree.
What he hated were bullies.
Andrew challenged the left on the left’s own terms. He penetrated past policy and ideology and went straight to the basic morality of both the issues, and perhaps even more, the tactics the left utilized in its approach to those issues.
Andrew saw the endlessly race-mongering left as racist–and he said so. He saw the poverty-creating entitlement pushers as anti-poor–and he said so. He saw the perpetually-aggrieved tolerance-police as intolerant–and he said so. As a man of paradox, he saw the paradoxes that form the bedrock of modern liberalism–and Andrew always said so. Loudly. Fearlessly. Sometimes in one hundred and forty characters or less.
But as bold as he was in his proclamations–as bold as he was at everything–Andrew was not easy to know. He was always open, gregarious, and he invested more in other people than just about anyone I have ever known. In fact, if his first greatest gift was to see the matrix behind the illusion of objectivity and fairness on the left, giving of himself to others was a very close second. Andrew didn’t like to make music alone, so he sought out others to join his symphony. (Actually, scratch that. It’s inappropriate to use a symphony analogy when discussing a man who counted The The and New Order among his favorite bands.)
Andrew gave many of us a voice in the fight for our country. He built up a small army of collaborators and legions of friends, but I think very few people knew him well. His heroic wife, Suzie; his friend through every battle, Larry; his children–I think it was a very intimate club, and though I loved Andrew like so many others, I was not a member. As I think about his life, as I often do, I think about them. They absorbed the full might of Andrew’s giant energies; a torrent the rest of us only encountered in small yet potent doses. It is a testimony to them that they sent him out to the rest of us undiminished.
It can be easy to deify great men when they are taken at the peak of their powers. Andrew was not a perfect man, as I’m sure the faculty of Tulane University would remind us.
But he was perfectly Andrew. A man who lived a life both large and short–another of the endless paradoxes that make perfect sense in him.