In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Andrew Breitbart, founder of such center-right online powerhouses as Big Government and Big Hollywood, blasted what he dubs the "Democrat-media complex." He spoke of his most recent exposes on the administration's political malfeasance and the mainstream media's refusal to cover those scandals.
Breitbart rocketed into the national spotlight with his work with James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, the young conservatives responsible for the ground-breaking ACORN sting operations that led to congressional votes to de-fund the community organizing group.
"I had a 20-year-old and a 25-year-old and my integrity on the line if we were going to launch this," Mr. Breitbart says. "It was so obvious that the mainstream media, given this information, would not cover it and would, in effect, attempt to cover it up." So he devised an intricate strategy of rolling out the videos one at a time, anticipating Acorn's defenses and rebutting each in turn with the next video...
"This plan wasn't just a means to defend against the media's desire to attack the messenger," Mr. Breitbart says. "It was also a means to attack the media and to expose them . . . for the partisan hacks that they are." One need not agree with that harsh characterization to acknowledge that Mr. Breitbart largely succeeded in catching news organizations flat-footed and embarrassing them into reluctantly covering the story.
After Breitbart's undeniable success in exposing the criminal doings of five ACORN branches, he let loose on another hard-hitting expose. Big Hollywood reported on the administration's attempts to use the National Endowment for the Arts to promote Democratic agendas on health care, education, and environmental policy.
Once again, he pre-empted major media outlets, forcing them to cover a scandal that would most likely have gone unnoticed without his impressive investigative skills.
He published the full transcript of an August conference call in which officials from federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the White House's Office of Public Engagement, urged federally subsidized artists to produce propaganda on behalf of Mr. Obama's legislative initiatives. Patrick Courrielche, an artist and Big Hollywood contributor, had recorded the call. By week's end Yosi Sergant, who had organized the call as the NEA's director of communications, was out of a job.
Mr. Breitbart claims victory, and in extravagant terms: "At every step of the way, we were correct. At every step of the way, the mainstream media took the lies of Acorn. At every step of the way, the mainstream media attempted to cover up for Acorn. . . . If they think that Acorn or the Democratic Party or the NEA or the Office of Public Engagement is the primary target, they couldn't be more wrong. It is the Democrat-media complex. It is the mainstream media. No jury would need more evidence at this point. The Clark Hoyts of the world should just put their pens down and retire right now and walk away. They lost."
James Taranto, who penned the interview for the Wall Street Journal, while rightfully noting the gross bias of most media outlets in ignoring the videos at first makes the point that for all their flaws, media organizations do provide reporting services (however imperfectly). It is a point to consider.
The potential obsolescence of major print outlets has Taranto, and many other media commentators, worried about the future of investigative journalism. While Breitbart's investigative work helped to expose wrongdoing on the parts of ACORN and the NEA, his motivations, as Taranto notes, were openly political.
Media outlets reluctant to cover the ACORN and NEA scandals were hesitant not out of naked partisanship, Taranto states, but rather due to "journalistic discomfort" with tactics considered wholly unethical among traditional news reporters.
Giles and O'Keefe did lie to ACORN officials in filming the sting operations. Their subterfuge is well outside the realm of respected journalistic practices. Taranto considers the mainstream media's initial silence on the scandal "a sign of integrity, not corruption."
Breitbart is open about his unorthodox tactics. He acknowledges the importance of traditional journalistic ethics, and does not wish to see the counterbalancing effect of the quintessential media watchdog simply disappear. Battling the Democrat-media complex does not entail destroying traditional media outlets, by his account.
"I'm not looking to slay the dragon," Breitbart claims, "but I wanted to embarrass the dragon into being a more reasonable dragon."
When this dragon, as he dubs it, serves its stated purpose and checks those in power, it performs an invaluable function. Breitbart seeks not to do away with the Fourth Estate, but rather to aid it in fulfilling its initial goal. When media outlets fail to act as the reliable check on political power, folks like Breitbart step in and ensure that the truth is told, no matter how inconvenient to the establishment.