New York Times media reporter David Carr's profile of the late Andrew Breitbart, "The Provocateur" was a slightly hostile look at the life and influence of the sleepless conservative activist, that included this unnecessary and petty parenthetical stab: "For good or ill (and most would say ill), no one did it like Mr. Breitbart."
On the last night of February, Arthur Sando was having a drink at the Brentwood Restaurant and Lounge in Los Angeles when a bearded silver-haired man took a seat next to him, ordered a glass of pinot noir and began typing into his BlackBerry.
Carr recounted Sando's chat with Breibart on the last night of Breitbart's life: "As with almost any encounter with Mr. Breitbart, the next 90 minutes between the former strangers was punctuated by laughs, some outrageous political assertions and repeated interruptions as Mr. Breitbart checked his smartphone."
The following morning, Mr. Sando, a marketing executive from Los Angeles whose encounter with Mr. Breitbart was first reported in The Hollywood Reporter, grabbed his iPhone. The first thing he saw was a headline saying Mr. Breitbart had died.
“I thought it was a prank,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “I thought he might have been in the habit of sending fake headlines to people he had encountered with different political opinions.”
It was a common response, particularly among people who knew him well. After a lifetime of pranks, capers and so many people wishing him dead, it would have been just like Mr. Breitbart to stage his own demise.
In the days following the death of Mr. Breitbart, many of his admirers adopted a meme of “I am Breitbart,” and vowed to continue his work. But even though his Web site, run by his business partner and lifelong friend Larry Solov, is fully staffed and unveiled a redesign after his death, there could be no real replacement.
For good or ill (and most would say ill), no one did it like Mr. Breitbart.
Mr. Breitbart, as much as anyone, turned the Web into an assault rifle, helping to bring down Acorn, a community organizing group, with the strategic release of undercover videos made by James O’Keefe, a conservative activist; forcing Shirley Sherrod, an Agriculture Department official, out of her job with a misleadingly edited clip of a speech; and flushing out Representive Anthony D. Weiner, Democrat of New York, when he tried to lie about lewd pictures he had sent via Twitter.
Less watchdog than pit bull (and one who, without the technology of the 21st century, might have been just one more angry man shouting from a street corner), Mr. Breitbart altered the rules of civil discourse.
Mr. Breitbart took in life in big gulps, but he spat out even bigger portions of bile. The day that Senator Edward M. Kennedy died, he called him “a special pile of human excrement” and tweeted, “Rest in Chappaquiddick.” Matt Yglesias of Slate returned the favor after Mr. Breitbart died, tweeting: “Conventions around dead people are ridiculous. The world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBreitbart dead.”
Carr at least ended with a perfect anecdote capturing Breitbart's limitless love for debate:
At both the memorial and the after-party, stories about his relentlessness and love of argument were legion. In her note read at the memorial, his wife reminded the crowd that Mr. Breitbart was willing to engage and argue with anyone. “I came home one day to our first apartment to find a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” she wrote, “trying to wrap up the conversation and get out.”
The people in the audience, many of whom had spent countless hours locked in conversational combat with Mr. Breitbart, laughed long and hard at that one.
William Kristol himself weighed in on the Weekly Standard's blog this weekend.
There's a profile of the late Andrew Breitbart in the New York Times "Sunday Styles" section by reporter David Carr. Carr's a talented and fair journalist, by Times standards, and the piece is mostly fair enough. But in the middle of it is this striking sentence, or rather this striking parenthesis:
"For good or ill (and most would say ill), no one did it like Mr. Breitbart."
"Most would say ill?" Really? I know of no empirical evidence that backs up this statement. If anything, my experience has been the opposite -- almost all conservatives would say Andrew was a force for good, and even some liberals would deny he was a force for ill. I think Carr is intelligent enough to know this, and that he wouldn't have written it. I suspect this parenthesis was added by Times editors who couldn't stand the notion that innocent people might read Carr's piece and decide that Andrew's achievements were, on the whole, admirable.
If I'm wrong, David Carr is free to step forward to take responsibility for this parenthesis – and to defend it. If I'm right, we have here a striking example of the Times's irresponsibility and mean-spiritedness.