Breitbart – And Us


Two small thoughts that came to me today, as I absorbed the news some more. This is how Andrew spent his last hours – a two hour argument in a bar with a total stranger. It wasn't heated, apparently, just lively, even fun. But it shows how utterly absorbed Breitbart seemed to be in the game. This nugget leapt out:

"He wasn’t drinking excessively," Sando recalls. "He was on his BlackBerry a lot."

Ah, yes, the Blackberry. Limbaugh notes:

Over the years, the whole thing he was involved in seemed to lose some of the fun factor as the intensity and the seriousness of it picked up. And this loops back to the notion that we all only have one life. I hope that that didn't have anything to do with it. I mean, he was very intense. He was profoundly intense, and at times he'd get very mad, very angry — as we all do — and very frustrated. Everybody wants to matter. Everybody wants to be effective. He was far more effective than he probably ever dreamed, but probably wanted to be even more so.

Toby Harnden adds to the picture:

Andrew also said [one] night that he had recently gone to the hospital emergency room with a tightness in his chest. When a nurse had "freaked out" at how high his blood pressure was, he had responded: "Don't tell me that – you'll make it even higher."

Breitbart had looked overweight and stressed that night. I and the others with us told him he needed to ease up on his insane travel schedule and he talked about trying to exercise more, taking downtime with his family and getting a personal assistant to take charge of his diary. But he always seemed to be on Twitter, on TV, on the phone or on a plane – and sometimes seemingly two or three of these at once.

In the new 24/7 mediaverse, in a brutal, unending culture war, with the web unleashed and news and opinion flashing every few seconds, you can very easily lose yourself, and forget how and why you got here in the first place. There have been times writing and editing this blog on that kind of insane schedule for more than a decade when I have wondered who this new frantic way of life would kill first. I do not doubt that Andrew tried to keep a balance, and stay healthy, but like the rest of us, became consumed with and overwhelmed by this twittering, unending bloghorreic chatter. It takes a much bigger physical, emotional and spiritual toll than most realize, and I've spent some time over the years worrying it could destroy me. Here I am, after all, at 9.30 pm, still blogging, having just filed another column, and checking the traffic stats, and glancing feverishly at every new item at Memeorandum.

Human beings were not created for that kind of constant unending stress, and the one thing you can say about Andrew is that he had fewer boundaries than others. He took it all so seriously, almost manically, in the end. The fight was everything. He felt. His anger was not feigned. He wanted to bleed and show the world the wounds. He wanted to scream. And he often did. And when you are on that much, and angry to that extent, and absorbed with that kind of constant mania, and obviously needing more and more validation, and on the online and real stage all the time, day and night, weekends and weekdays … well, it's a frightening and dangerous way to live in the end.

He is in that sense our first new-media culture-war fatality. I fear he won't be the last.

(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.)