Dissents Of The Day: Breitbart Edition

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 1 2012 @ 1:42pm

The above video was shot a few weeks ago. A reader writes:

As a proud liberal, I take issue with your post "The Sickness On The Left". You link to an article (from the Washington Examiner, not known for post-partisanship) that quotes the tweets from various people no one has ever heard of save Matthew Yglesias.  A tiny percentage of people on Twitter – itself a tiny percentage of any group – said nasty things.  This happens for any given topic and you can't extrapolate that this tiny percentage of people are representative in any way of liberals in general or even liberals on Twitter. I would bet that idiots somewhere on the Internet also made fun of Whitney Houston's passing.

Breitbart made a career out of lying about other people, and I don't think he would be surprised that there are some people, somewhere in the world, who are happy he won't be able to peddle his brand of "journalism" any longer.  But most liberals, myself included, do feel sadness that he had a family that will surely miss him.  He was a young man and any unexpected passing brings sadness.  My Catholic faith would not let me feel otherwise.

Another adds, "The comment '@AndrewBreitbart haha youre dead and in hell being a gay with hitler' doesn't sound 'liberal' to me." Another:

You're being ridiculous.  Five words: Christopher Hitchens on Jerry Falwell.

Hitchens said Falwell's death was a "deliverance".  Now maybe Hitch is more eloquent than those tweets you linked to.  But what he said about Falwell wasn't nice.  And you were okay with that.

Look, I'm not the type to speak ill of the dead, but we go through this every time someone polarizing dies. The same argument comes up: Only say nice things OR be truthful and speak out against that person's sins and express true feelings.  Grave dancing always happens.  Breitbart himself did so when Ted Kennedy died. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, just that it happens every time from people of all political persuasions.

I was always slightly intrigued by Breitbart, who seemed a complex character playing the role of a demagogue.  I liked your story about flying with him.  But the truth is I live in Georgia, and found what he did regarding Shirley Sherrod to be despicable especially since blatant racism still exists here.  Of course, Ms. Sherrod is a classy lady.

Another brings in the "Sickness On The Right" post:

To claim that the tweeting of random, unidentified individuals to that of a sitting federal judge is facetious. That a judge, who presides over all people of his community, would pass racist, glorified rape scenarios is serious. You diminish that seriousness by equating the two under the heading of "sickness."

Another veers from the vast majority of readers showing little sympathy for Breitbart's death:

I just read your decent words about Breitbart's passing. Josh Marshall at TPM made a very gracious comment as well. But I find myself appalled at many of the comments being made out there on the internet message boards, many of them distasteful and a few downright indecent and vulgar. It wasn't unexpected, but it's still deeply disturbing to read.

I didn't like Andrew Breitbart. I also didn't know Andrew Breitbart. I only knew the public figure, not the man. And yes, I found everything about that persona distasteful and damaging and wrong. He supported things that I objected to deeply and some things I found inexcusable (James O'Keefe comes to mind).

But he was a human being. One who effected a bad influence, I believed, on our political discourse. But he wasn't Hitler or Stalin. He was just Andrew Breitbart. And now he's gone and there won't be any chance for him to change his opinion or chart a different or better course.

For some people out there to be almost literally celebrating his death strikes me as morally no different the awful people who cheered for the number of executions in Texas at the GOP debate. It isn't any different at heart, is it?

The argument is that Breitbart himself would have shown no mercy if the shoe were on the other foot, which I think is demonstrably true. But we're better than that, aren't we? As for Hitch on Falwell, I think there is a difference between a man suddenly dying at 43, with four young children, and a veteran hate-monger dying after a long life. Maybe that's an unpersuasive distinction, but it's where my heart is.

I guess I'm saying that if I stop seeing Andrew as a human being behind the public persona, even in death, then I truly have lost my way. And if I do not think of his young family at this moment, then the personal really has become political. As a conservative – which Andrew surely wasn't (he was a revolutionary) – I believe in keeping that distinction. The other way lies madness. And I fear we are in danger of collectively losing it. Grace, people. Grace.

May he rest in the peace he sadly often didn't experience in life. And long live pop.