A Conversation with Andrew Breitbart
In the late thirteenth century, as King Edward I (aka Longshanks, the "Hammer of the Scots") grew increasingly despotic toward Scotland, William Wallace roused a ragtag band of patriots to take up arms for a free Scotland. Spurning fellow Scots' pleas to "negotiate" (read: "accept the king's terms"), Wallace stirred his countrymen to fight for the righteous cause of freedom, not only for themselves, but also for their posterity.
A similar battle is underway today in America. The tools are tamer—electronic media and words have replaced swords and spears—but the questions confronting people of conscience are analogous. Will we contend for civilized liberty, or will we bend with the wind of encroaching tyranny? Where many of his fellow Americans sway with the breezes of popular opinion, one unlikely warrior is rousing men and women to join him in the battle for a free America.
A former go-along-to-get-along cultural liberal, Andrew Breitbart got started in New Media journalism in 1995 as an editor for the Drudge Report. He subsequently developed the Huffington Post for Arianna Huffington before launching his own news site, Breitbart.com, which now includes Breitbart.tv, Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace. His new book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World is a rare combination of humble confessional and unabashed reveille. We recently spoke with Breitbart about it:
Righteous Indignation seemed to me equal parts autobiography, personal manifesto, and war cry.
The autobiography part was not for self-indulgent reasons. It's put there to show people how I went from being a factory-setting, default liberal to being a cultural warrior. I wanted it to resemble independent-minded people, or people who are liberal or leftist when they read it. I want them to realize, Hey, that's what I am. . . . And then I show them how the left took over our cultural institutions and what their desires were—to radically transform America into something that it was never meant to be.
After college, you returned to L.A. and got a job as a waiter. You wrote that the complete humiliation felt strangely good.
My dad said to me, "You're off of the gravy train." I remember at the time actually trying to formulate an argument as to why that was unfair. That's how my sense of entitlement was. It's embarrassing.
But then I started working. Much of education today, in this politically correct pabulum world, is self-esteem. They just tell kids that they're smart: "You just graduated! Feel good about yourself because you're empowered." The only way you're going get empowered is if you work and accomplish your goals. Small ones turn to medium-sized ones, which turn to big ones. That's how it's supposed to be.
You said you didn't learn much of anything worthwhile in college. But afterward, you began to educate yourself, and you found the exercise stimulating and satisfying.
In college, if you pay attention, they turn you into a nihilist. I resented it once I discovered what it was. It was cultural Marxism. This was the game plan of the left—to take on the cultural institutions and rebuild them in their ideology. Once I discovered that, I wanted to learn everything about the world that they didn't teach me in college. And the more I studied, the more I realized that I was conservative. It was very empowering because it was like realizing that water is wet. Life is conservative. Liberalism is pie-in-the-sky.
One of the cultural myths out there is media objectivity. And you're the primary person exposing that as a lie. You look like a fighter on the cover. Was that your goal?
I think so. I'm always under fire. I can't break a story without having to go through maybe a four-day session of kill-the-messenger, where the mainstream media and the organized left attack me mercilessly. So I have to fight. It's pretty brutal sometimes. I watched Ann Coulter for a long time and wondered what made her do this, why she would go into hostile territory and stand up for what she believes in. And I've learned that it's unbelievably satisfying to start doing that. I wish more people in the conservative movement would start realizing how exhilarating it is to stand up for yourself and not acquiesce to the dominant culture.
You wrote about two appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher.
[At the time of the first appearance in 2005,] going on Real Time with Bill Maher felt like the big time. I made some points that sounded conservative, but for the most part I went for laughs. A friend took me out to lunch that week and said, "Why didn't you stand up for what you believe in?"
That stuck with me for four years, until I went on again. And before I went onstage I said to myself, Stand up for what you believe in. I just focused on it, and I ended up fighting for what I believed in, in one of the most contentious episodes in the history of the show. It was pure awkward television. The audience was booing me before I finished my sentences.
Afterward, I walked into a dressing room [filled with] my friends and family, and they felt as if it were a funeral. I said, "You don't understand. I feel like I've just been reborn!"
It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had. I've never looked back. Now I absolutely yearn to go into the lion's den. I like confronting people. I like giving them information that they would try to suppress.
You've also undergone a transformation in your view of Christians.
I joke that I play on the Judeo-Christian softball team and I bat third. I fight probably harder for Christians and Jews than any self-loathing Jew you'll ever meet. When I was growing up, I remember there being a patronizing attitude towards Christians. Then I met them, too many of them for it to be a coincidence, and found that they were good and decent and the salt of the earth. I think this country is, to a great extent, a Christian nation. It's a Judeo-Christian nation most certainly. Any dominant system, such as the left, would do everything it could to extricate that backbone of our society, and I think that we [let them] do so at our peril. So I defend Christians and Jews, and I defend Christian and Jewish institutions.
You're Big New Media! Did you ever think it would get so big so fast?
I don't know, I've been doing this since 1995. It's such old hat. I like doing it. It's invigorating. But I've never done it for the money. This has been fifteen years of a long grinding battle.
Being a public figure—that's definitely different. It stinks when you find out there are family members and friends who no longer want to be in contact with you because they disagree with a policy position in your life. But there's something weirdly invigorating about perfect strangers hating you more than Satan.
You're out to do more than just build a media organization. You're out to transform media altogether.
I believe that the mainstream media is corrupt. As long as they position themselves as objective and neutral when they clearly aren't, as long as they claim to be representing everyone and truth when their goals are partisan and ideological, they're going to have a constant battle with me. My battle is less with the politicians than it is with the reporters, the editors, and the anchors, because they're putting on a very fake front about what they're doing.
You call the mainstream media the Democrat Media Complex, or The Complex.
You know [the moment] in the movie The Matrix when you see the matrix that you're living in? It's this alternative reality. And the Democrat Media Complex is my term for the matrix that we live in. It's the alliance of the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and liberal interest groups and how they work together to frame the national narrative.
You said the Cold War is now a New Media war.
When the Soviet Union went under, I think Americans said, Oh, we won that battle. But we didn't realize that the people who believed in what the Soviet Union stood for didn't die. And so the battles have played themselves out in the communications realm and in colleges and in cultural media.
How is it that I was a factory-setting liberal? Because I watched television and movies growing up. I listened to music. If you listen to the commonalities of the pop culture, it's a constant inundation of indoctrination. They're constantly coaxing people into a liberal belief system. And then there are subtle digs and attempts to turn the conservative viewpoint into something like the equivalent of your grandmother's Hummel figurines. They've created a "cool crowd versus the uncool crowd" thing.
You wrote, "Hollywood has shifted the moral landscape beneath our feet, and a sexual geography that would make Caligula blush has emerged." How do you maintain your own sanity living in the midst of it?
First of all, I'm married. And secondly, I'm not particularly attracted to these people or their lifestyle. I've lived here my entire life, so I have tons of friends and family. In addition to that, I've met hundreds upon hundreds of closet conservatives, and I have developed great, great relationships with people who exist in the cultural world who share our values. It's been exhilarating to find out that there's a secret society out here.
One overarching theme of Righteous Indignation is, This is no time to make nice. We are at war!
We are engaged in the culture war. It's not TBN Christian Broadcasting versus the hipsters. It's the Judeo-Christians versus the nihilists. I used to be a nihilist, and I can't tell you how happy I am to be leading the charge, batting number three on the Judeo-Christian softball team.
I've got four kids. The only thing that's rewarding is looking at my children growing, and knowing that they're going to be able to lead the best lives humanly possible. So [I'm] laying the groundwork so that America doesn't go under because a disproportionate number of people don't have the foresight to realize that we could lose this in a generation.
It's time to fight. Our founding fathers put their lives and their land . . . they put everything on the line. And I think that that's where we are right now. We have a righteous cause—to re-found this country. •
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