July 13, 2024

The Right’s Blogger Provocateur

Mr. Breitbart, the conservative author and blogger who first published Mr. Weiner’s suggestive self-portraits, had ditched his book-signing in central Illinois and hopped on a flight earlier than planned to the Twin Cities, where he was booked as a marquee attraction at RightOnline, a conservative bloggers conference.

“To put myself in Decatur, Ill., without a satellite connection would have put me in a bad situation,” he explained as a woman applied a layer of foundation to his jowly face in preparation for his appearance on CNN. (He had just finished a phone interview with Fox News; Sean Hannity’s radio show would follow; then a quick break before sitting down with a documentary film crew.)

Part performance artist, part polemicist, Mr. Breitbart, 42, has used his network of Web sites and their legions of followers to bring conservative media red meat. Some of his reader-generated scoops have reverberated all the way to the halls of the United States Capitol, like the Weiner photos and undercover video he released of Acorn workers offering advice on how to evade taxes and conceal child prostitution. After the videos went viral Congress ended grants to Acorn, and federal agencies severed ties with the group.

The stories and videos Mr. Breitbart plays up on his Web sites — which include Big Government, Big Journalism and Big Hollywood — tend to act as political Rorschach tests. If you agree with him, you think what he does is citizen journalism. If you don’t, his work is little more than crowd-sourced political sabotage that freely distorts the facts.

“On the right, he is seen as an investigative journalist along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein,” said James B. McPherson, author of “The Conservative Resurgence and the Press.”

The damage Mr. Breitbart suffered to his credibility after he posted a tipster’s edited video that showed an Agriculture Department official, Shirley Sherrod, making what appeared to be prejudiced remarks seems not to matter as far as his fans are concerned. Also, the Acorn videos appeared to show a man walking into Acorn offices dressed as a pimp, when in fact he was not.

“I think his actions show that if he’s not willing to distort, he is at least careless with the facts,” Mr. McPherson added. “But there are no standards of fact anymore for a lot of people. We have gone from selecting sources of opinion that we agree with to selecting facts we agree with.”

In person, Mr. Breitbart attracts a similar split between blistering condemnation or fawning adulation.

A sampling from his in-box recently: “You are nothing but a malicious moron and a filthy looking bum.”

“I hope you rot in hell.”

“I’d like to have 15 minutes alone with you.”

But as Mr. Breitbart barreled his husky, 6-foot-1 frame through the halls of the Hilton here for the RightOnline conference, he could barely move 10 feet without being stopped and exalted.

“You’re an inspiration to me,” gushed one young woman.

“You’re my hero,” a middle-aged female admirer declared.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” said one man, grinning spectacularly as Mr. Breitbart posed for a picture with him.

Conservative media does not lack for big personalities (see: Limbaugh, Rush; Beck, Glenn; or Coulter, Ann). But where Mr. Breitbart stands out is through his accessibility. He gives out his cellphone number in speeches and passes along his personal e-mail address to almost anyone who asks. If you write him, chances are you will hear back.

“If you’re a citizen journalist,” said James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who filmed the Acorn sting videos and passed them along to Mr. Breitbart, “you have to be responsive to people, you have to listen to the people around you. And you can’t do that if you’re sitting behind a golden microphone making $40 million a year.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4d02a6cde22c2ffb3181f2905121c7f8

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