Commentary Magazine


Topic: Andrew Breitbart

CNN Bias Exposed by Breitbart Video

The much-hyped Andrew Breitbart video of President Obama’s college days we’ve been hearing about didn’t live up to all the talk. It shows Obama embracing and praising a radical Harvard professor when he was at law school, and while it’s an interesting peak into Obama’s younger years, it’s not exactly a bombshell.

But, as Ed Morrissey explains, that’s not the point. “The point of Andrew [Breitbart]’s final project isn’t so much to make Obama’s early radical ties clear; it’s to point out how the media tried to keep them quiet.”

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The much-hyped Andrew Breitbart video of President Obama’s college days we’ve been hearing about didn’t live up to all the talk. It shows Obama embracing and praising a radical Harvard professor when he was at law school, and while it’s an interesting peak into Obama’s younger years, it’s not exactly a bombshell.

But, as Ed Morrissey explains, that’s not the point. “The point of Andrew [Breitbart]’s final project isn’t so much to make Obama’s early radical ties clear; it’s to point out how the media tried to keep them quiet.”

When the mainstream media considers it a major story that Rick Santorum’s wife once dated an abortion provider more than two decades ago, you have to wonder why it didn’t even merit a news brief that Obama is on video hugging and endorsing a radical academic who had some troubling views on white people and Jews – especially when you remember that his association with Jeremiah Wright was a big controversy back in ’08.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien (unintentionally) made this double standard even clearer today, when she tried to dismiss this as a non-story during a panel with Breitbart editor Joel Pollak. But she underestimated Pollak, and only ended up exposing her own bias and embarrassing her network in the process:

Making Obama’s “radical ties” an election issue is a losing strategy for Republicans, especially because there’s so much to attack him for in terms of his presidential record. But that doesn’t mean the media double standard for covering Republican and Democratic politicians isn’t infuriating. The Breitbart video campaign is aimed at exposing just that, and O’Brien’s comments today helped them along.

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Andrew Breitbart, 1969-2012

Andrew Breitbart was a revolutionary, and I mean that almost literally. He was one of the few people who seemed to understand in his marrow the transformation of the way we would get and understand news and politics—and how that transformation would undercut the ideological narrowness that was the dominating condition of the media in the second half of the 20th century. And he helped bring about that transformation.

He was also my dear friend—garrulous, cheerful, raging, enthusiastic, hysterical, joyful, frenetic, passionate, untamed, smart, personally modest, technologically ambitious, weirdly visionary, compulsively pugnacious, monomaniacal—hard to take at times, and impossible not to love at all times.

Andrew Breitbart was a revolutionary, and I mean that almost literally. He was one of the few people who seemed to understand in his marrow the transformation of the way we would get and understand news and politics—and how that transformation would undercut the ideological narrowness that was the dominating condition of the media in the second half of the 20th century. And he helped bring about that transformation.

He was also my dear friend—garrulous, cheerful, raging, enthusiastic, hysterical, joyful, frenetic, passionate, untamed, smart, personally modest, technologically ambitious, weirdly visionary, compulsively pugnacious, monomaniacal—hard to take at times, and impossible not to love at all times.

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What You’d Find at a Real Tea Party

Unlike most of the mainstream media and punditocracy, Glenn Reynolds has been to a lot of tea party protests, interviewed scores of activists, and spent time to understand what they  are all about. Not surprisingly, the mainstream-media portrait bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing.

For starters, there is the tone. Reynolds writes of the Nashville gathering and the movement more generally:

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry — and they are — but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

Nor is the group merely waiting for Sarah Palin to sweep them off their feet. (“Press attention focused on Sarah Palin’s speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren’t looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn’t looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.”) And these are hardly a bunch of racists, as Chris Matthews et al. would have us believe. It seems they are backing a number of African American candidates. (To echo Pete’s point, Tom Tancredo does the tea partiers no favors by spouting racial venom and peddling in conspiracy theories; activists as well as elected officials would do well to reject his eagerness to “play to people’s worst instincts.”)

What the tea party activists do have is a well formulated set of ideas — small government, debt reduction, spending restraint, and an aversion to hurried, secret deal making. It is an agenda that is resonating with conservatives and independent voters who see the opposite behavior in Washington.

This is, as much as anything else, yet another “mainstream media misses the boat” story. First they ignored and ridiculed the tea party activists. Now the media misrepresent them to the point of deliberate distortion. The media’s distorted characterization is not simply a matter of getting the details wrong, I think. This is, just as surely as that Big Labor slush fund, an effort to kill the movement in its crib and discredit it among average Americans. Treating them as rubes, extremists, religious nuts, and racists seems to be a bit of Saul Allinsky-type strategy. (“Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It  and Polarize It,” was Alinsky’s mantra.)  But the media is less and less credible and the tea-party activists are doing a good job of getting their own message out.

In a contest between the elite media and the tea-party protesters for control of the message, I’m betting on the latter. For one thing, the tea-party activists’ numbers are increasing while the elite media is shrinking. That should tell you something about their relative health.

Unlike most of the mainstream media and punditocracy, Glenn Reynolds has been to a lot of tea party protests, interviewed scores of activists, and spent time to understand what they  are all about. Not surprisingly, the mainstream-media portrait bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing.

For starters, there is the tone. Reynolds writes of the Nashville gathering and the movement more generally:

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry — and they are — but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

Nor is the group merely waiting for Sarah Palin to sweep them off their feet. (“Press attention focused on Sarah Palin’s speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren’t looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn’t looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.”) And these are hardly a bunch of racists, as Chris Matthews et al. would have us believe. It seems they are backing a number of African American candidates. (To echo Pete’s point, Tom Tancredo does the tea partiers no favors by spouting racial venom and peddling in conspiracy theories; activists as well as elected officials would do well to reject his eagerness to “play to people’s worst instincts.”)

What the tea party activists do have is a well formulated set of ideas — small government, debt reduction, spending restraint, and an aversion to hurried, secret deal making. It is an agenda that is resonating with conservatives and independent voters who see the opposite behavior in Washington.

This is, as much as anything else, yet another “mainstream media misses the boat” story. First they ignored and ridiculed the tea party activists. Now the media misrepresent them to the point of deliberate distortion. The media’s distorted characterization is not simply a matter of getting the details wrong, I think. This is, just as surely as that Big Labor slush fund, an effort to kill the movement in its crib and discredit it among average Americans. Treating them as rubes, extremists, religious nuts, and racists seems to be a bit of Saul Allinsky-type strategy. (“Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It  and Polarize It,” was Alinsky’s mantra.)  But the media is less and less credible and the tea-party activists are doing a good job of getting their own message out.

In a contest between the elite media and the tea-party protesters for control of the message, I’m betting on the latter. For one thing, the tea-party activists’ numbers are increasing while the elite media is shrinking. That should tell you something about their relative health.

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