Sunday, October 20, 2013
"Hating Breitbart": documentary about controversial conservative blogger raises questions about "new media" vs. old
“Hating Breitbart” (2012), by Andrew Marcus, is as much a documentary about citizen journalism as it is a biography of the somewhat polarizing conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who died at only 43 of a sudden heart attack in March 2012.
Breitbart is on camera for most of the film, and isn’t necessarily funny (he could have chosen to be). He says that the left wing media establishment sees him as a threat because he understands “it” so well, better than anyone else in the world. (Somehow that reminds me of Suze Orman’s claiming she is the personal financial advisor for the world.) He does claim to be the voice of self-empowerment, right out of Ayn Rand.
Breitbart presents himself as quasi-libertarian and a fiscal conservative, and, as someone who lives in Hollywood, does say that government doesn’t belong in the bedroom either. Curiously, he helped “The Huffington Post” as much as the Drudge Report.
The film touches on the “controls” in the media establishment, and how this oversight is threatened by individual bloggers (even like me) as well as social media. It doesn’t go into the various special issues that could bring down the whole setup that makes self-broadcast possible. These include the way piracy has been handled (proposals like SOPA and ProtectIP), and newer threats to Section 230, the legal protection to ISP’s from downstream liability for what the “amateurs” say. Other problems, like "do not track" could also affect Internet business models. Make a documentary movie about these issues!
The first two-thirds of the film cover his skirmishes regarding a number of other controversial groups (like Acorn and its undercover videos scandal) and people, including the lanky and attractive Jim O’Keefe. The film comes to a head with the fiasco over Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official whose speech was edited in such a way as to make her look like she had practiced reverse discrimination. Sherrod resigned (she got an email demanding her resignation while she was on the road) and was offered her job back, but according to Wikipedia has sued Breitbart’s estate. The film presents the whole selective editing exercise as itself ambiguous.
Breitbart’s glorious days may have come at a big rally on the National Mall in September 2011, shortly before his sudden death.