Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow joined Patrick Courrielche for Red Pilled America’s 50th episode — the first of a two-part profile — to reflect on his political genesis and Andrew Breitbart’s vision for the news media outlet he founded.
Courrielche contextualized his profile of Marlow against the backdrop of Breitbart News’s ascendance within the news media landscape.
“Pound for pound, it’s undeniable that Breitbart News is the most influential media outlet in America,” determined Courrielche. “This media organization that started in the basement of its founder’s home has helped propel a man into the White House, retired politicians, cratered the popularity of bad legislation. [It] has even sent a movie box office soaring and helped tank a few others. The list of alumni and early contributors to Breitbart News looks like a who’s who of conservative media: Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, Dana Loesch, James O’Keefe, Sebastian Gorka, Larry O’Connor, Greg Gutfeld, Andrew Klavan, Christian Toto, [and] Kurt Schlichter.”
Breitbart News “foes,” added Courrilche, further demonstrate this news media outlet’s impact. “Hollywood, Big Tech, our far-left education system, and the political establishments of both parties have all unsuccessfully tried to take [Breitbart News] down — or at least quiet them — but they’ve all failed,” he said.
Courielche noted, “One analysis showed that it drove not only conservative media in 2016, but also the broader mainstream news coverage, and another recent study revealed that Breitbart News is crushing the mainstream media on Facebook, racking up more interactions than the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today combined, and is even outpacing both cable news networks MSNBC and CNN on Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform.”
Marlow’s consumption of conservative talk radio during commutes to and from middle school played a role in Marlow’s philosophical development.
“Alex’s awakening began, innocently enough, during his middle school commute,” explained Courrielche. “Back and forth between home and middle school, Alex was getting a steady diet of conservative commentary that was in direct conflict [with] what he was hearing from his middle school teacher and TV.”
Marlow recalled, “I started noticing the contrast between what my parents were listening to on the radio and what I was hearing from the rest of the media [and] learning in the classroom. … I would listen to a guy named Larry Elder — who is still a nationally syndicated broadcaster — and he really expanded my horizons.”
Marlow’s matriculation at Harvard Westlake — a college preparatory day school — further developed his ideological perspective. “Harvard Westlake [is] arguably the most academically rigorous high school on the West Coast,” noted Courrielche. “Just outside of Beverly Hills, Harvard Westlake is populated by the elite of Hollywood’s elite.”
Courrielche added, “[Harvard Westlake] has a parent and student alumni list that includes actors Jodi Foster, Jack Nicholson, Barbara Streisand, Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Candice Bergen, Shirley Temple, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhal, Bridget Fonda, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tori Spelling, California Gov. Gray Davis, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, just to name a few. So in his high school years, Alex was steeped in elite liberal orthodoxy.”
“It was within this competitive liberal enclave that Alex’s right-of-center worldview, oddly, began to solidify,” Courrielche stated.
Marlow described Harvard Westlake as “the ritziest, most prestigious private school is Los Angeles,” adding, “It’s an ultra-one-percenter environment.”
Marlow’s introduction to the Drudge Report via his father added to his political progression. “My dad recommended to me — when I was in the tenth grade — that I start going to the Drudge Report,” he shared. “I fell in love with Drudge Report almost instantly. … This was the greatest hack in the history of information, that I could go to this page and I could get updated on almost the entirety of what’s happening on planet Earth in a heartbeat.”
Marlow described his early forays into political controversy as enjoyable. “I was triggering people with what I thought were pretty fundamental ideas,” he said. “I got very intrigued by that, and it only pushed me to explore those ideas further, and it caused me to read more [and] study more.” Right-of-center ideas were uncommon in West Los Angeles and the “heart of Hollywood,” he added, describing broad suppression of conservative ideas in the region as a draw to further investigate conservatism.
Being the object of leftist contempt inspired Marlow to expand his political knowledge base.
“I had very handily beaten a couple of really smart people in the high school Democrat club [in a debate about the environment],” recalled Marlow, “and then I was told that one of the teachers had called me an ‘ignorant moron’ to his class, and that, to me, was a jolt. That was a very exciting moment for me, to have triggered an adult teacher — an authority figure — by simply winning a debate. … It didn’t scare me in the slightest, and that was a very seminal moment for me, because I realized that when I win a debate and then get attacked, there was something about that that made me hungry to learn more and fight harder.”
Marlow’s attraction to political controversy drew him to the University of California, Berkeley, given its role as a hub of left-wing ideology.
“When I got into UC Berkeley, I immediately saw the path for me,” Marlow remarked, “which is that I had to go to UC Berkeley because of their politics, because of their reputation as not just being extremely left, but being the home of the free speech movement. … A lot of people at Harvard Westlake were decrying big classes. They wanted you to have a … hands-on, small, touchy-feely environment. I didn’t like that as much. I liked the idea of a big sprawling diverse campus — but diverse in terms of ideas — and I liked the history of the leftism. I thought that would be a challenge. I wanted to see it. I wanted to go inside the belly of the beast.”
Courrielche assessed Marlow’s educational pedigree as a training ground for his future career in news media.
“It was an exhilarating time for Alex, a guy that seemed to be somehow immune to the ideas of the left,” Courrielche said. “I mean, think about it. Alex grew up in the heart of liberal Los Angeles, attended a private high school populated entirely by Hollywood elites, and was now being educated in practically the headquarters of the institutional left at UC Berkeley. Alex was steeped in the ideology of the far-left, yet still gravitated towards conservatism. Being comfortable as the outlier must have been an intellectual boot camp for Alex, preparing him for what was to come.”
Marlow recalled his first time meeting Andrew Breitbart.
“Andrew gave this speech about how culture is upstream from politics,” recalled Marlow of Breitbart’s articulation of a now widely known axiom. “Growing up in Hollywood, and seeing the power and influence of my peers’ parents at Harvard Westlake and elsewhere, it was so obvious this guy was right on the money, and I loved movies and I loved music, and it was so clear what Andrew was saying, and it never dawned on me, that of course, the politicians were taking cues from the cultural actors, not the other way around. I had never heard this before.”
Describing Breitbart’s speech –particularly the identification of culture’s shaping of politics — as an epiphany, Marlow recalled introducing himself to his future mentor in the lobby bar of the hotel.
“[Andrew Breitbart] lived about three miles from me, at the time, where I grew up. … We had the same interests, baseball, music, he had an incredible sense of humor — I was always a huge comedy fan — so we had so much in common,” Marlow recalled. “Core interests, similar politics, similar background, lived in similar places, even had the same hobbies. … It was a pretty clear match that we were kindred spirits.”
Marlow and Courrielche recalled Breitbart News’s breaking of “the NEA story,” detailing the Obama administration’s deployment of the National Endowment of the Arts to push left-wing ideology and its own partisan political agenda.
Courrielche explained, “In a nutshell, we recorded a White House conference call where the Obama administration tried to use a federal arts agency — the NEA — to create propaganda, all to sell the American people on Obamacare. … The NEA story [was when] we caught the Obama administration trying to turn the National Endowment of the Arts into a propaganda machine. … They encouraged us to create art on health care, on energy and the environment, and they wanted us to bring whatever art network [or] talent that we had to those issues. At the time, some experts claimed that the effort might have violated a law prohibiting federal funds for being used for political activities.”
The 2009 launch of Big Hollywood seized on a vacancy for right-of-center news media outlets within a landscape dominated by leftism, said Marlow. “A huge space [existed] for a right-of-center worldview in the media space,” he said. “Big Hollywood launched the day after President Obama’s inauguration, and it was the beginning of an opposition to the establishment media narrative that largely hinged on [framing] Obama as the messiah.”
Courrielche shared audio of an interview in which Andrew Breitbart explained Big Hollywood’s purpose:
The number one reason [for Big Hollywood’s launch] is that the conservative movement has completely detached itself from the concept of popular culture and thinks it can survive in the 21st century on politics and legislation alone, and political rhetoric and great writing reflecting conservative principles, and that’s not going to happen.
What needs to happen is that the conservative movement — based in Washington, DC, for the most part, and with ancillary entities around the country, New York City, Dallas, Virginia — these people have ignored anything west of the Mississippi for a generation, and they’re suffering the consequences, and the election of Obama is evidence of that.
The conservative movement proper did not embrace Ronald Reagan initially, but it eventually came to accept him as the standard bearer of conservatism. He was successful less because he carried conservative principles, but [more] because he came from Hollywood and he understood the importance of communication and pop culture.
It took [the conservative movement] a long time to realize that that magic was a good way to sell conservatism — that bright-eyed optimism — and so the conservative movement needs to go focus on Hollywood in countless ways. It needs to encourage its young to go out to Hollywood and become screenwriters actors, producers, below-the-line workers. It also needs to focus on Hollywood proper, film reviews, and become engaged in the debate out there.
It’s interesting that we have so many people in the conservative movement who write about legislation and political controversies every single day. As a matter of fact, here seems to be about 50 people writing on the same subject all day long, but very few people focus on pop culture, and pop culture is the DNA of who we are, and we export that through the satellite dishes and in our DVDs and your films and on the television screen and on film across the world, and if we don’t alter that DNA, if we don’t try to inject in it our best qualities and not our worst qualities, our fate is in the hands of people who don’t agree with us.
So we have to take them on using their skills. So that’s the primary objective [of the site].
I’d say the secondary objective of the site is to create cover for those who exist in Hollywood, right now, who actually are conservative or libertarian, or who consider themselves to be Lieberman Democrats or JFK liberals, people who don’t necessarily relate to the current boutique leftism that seems to be intent on squelching any type of dissent, especially dissent that is right-of-center, and I believe the site will provide cover for those people.
John Nolte, senior editor-at-large and founding editor of the Breitbart blog Big Hollywood, said of Big Hollywood’s launch, “It was a movement of real artists that wanted a voice … and there was something happening, so it felt right away like it was important and it made a difference.”
Adryana Cortez, Patrick’s wife and co-host of Red Pilled America, recalled the ACORN scandal broken by James O’Keefe with help from Andrew Breitbart. “ACORN was a community-organizing group founded in 1970 purported to advocate for low-income families. At its peak, it had roughly 500,000 members in 1,200 neighborhood chapters all across the country,” she explained. “The group worked with the federal government for the census, and it also had ties to a [Barack Obama’s 2008] political campaign. … Perhaps the biggest under-reported scandal tied to [ACORN] was its work in the banking sector. ACORN played a key role in helping cause the financial crisis by pressuring local banks to lend to poor and financially unstable people.”
Courrielche said, “Andrew thought [the ACORN story] was the story of his life, not only because it showed a deranged government-funded organization in action, [but] it would also expose the extreme bias in the media. You see, this was way before ‘fake news’ became a household phrase. Many right-of-center folks were aware of the media bias, but almost no one understood how corrupt the press had become. Andrew was going to expose that fact not just by calling out their bias …. instead he was going to expose it by showing that they would ignore a massive story that hurts the left.”
Courrielche quoted Breitbart’s description of the ACORN story’s importance as written in Breitbart’s book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!:
It seemed that if the ACORN story and NEA story could be paired and weaponized, maximized, and forced into the eye of the American public, they could serve as a case study demonstrating the new media could supplant [the] old media. These paired stories could serve as notice that if the mainstream media wouldn’t take helpful hints to right the ship, they were going to experience something akin to a mutiny.
Marlow said, “[Andrew Breitbart] was basically laying out how the media [were] not only going to miss the story, they were going to cover up one of the biggest scandals in modern political history. He basically wrote a script with a crystal ball of every step the media would make. … He also revolutionized the drip-drip-drip strategy, where he put out one story at a time to bait the media into saying this is an isolated incident. Of course it wasn’t. Andrew was sitting on piles and piles of tape. … He was such a visionary. He was inventing a playbook. I was sitting there next to him as he was inventing the modern playbook on how to fight the left.”
“The legacy of the ACORN story is not just the rise of James O’Keefe, the rise of Breitbart, [and] the destruction of ACORN — it is the beginning of the end of the establishment media as gospel,” concluded Marlow. “That was one of the biggest media scandals, ever.”
Courrielche concluded the episode with a preview of its sequel, which will examine Andrew Breitbart’s role in the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.