Even before we saw the above clip of Andrew Breitbart screaming “BeHAAAVE yourself! BeHAAAVE yourself!” at Occupy protestors outside the CPAC conference last month, that’s how many of us saw Andrew Breitbart: red-faced, veins popping, eyes like pinwheels as he leans forward (and not in the MSNBC sense) to spew barely coherent rants like, “You’re freaks and animals!” “Stop raping people! Stop raping people!” “You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!”
True, he wasn’t all exclamation points all the time, but Breitbart, the conservative blogger/impressario who died Thursday at age 43, had come to represent the tantrum at the heart of the right wing.
That tantrum will not die with him, but his death—coming within hours of Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” tantrum that he later (and barely) apologized for—may have prefigured something about the future of hyperventilating right-wing extremism.
This is not to dance on Breitbart’s grave, as many on the right have been attacking the left for doing (and I say that not just because I don’t want to go through what Matt Taibbi is right now). It doesn’t really matter that Breitbart himself danced on Ted Kennedy’s grave within minutes of his passing, either. No, I actually found Breitbart’s death shocking and strangely resonant. And I wonder if the hysteria you can see in his eyes in that clip doesn’t come from righteous anger alone but also from a sense of impending doom—and if something similar doesn’t explain the ugly, self-destructive rage that’s been bursting out on the right ever since the election of Barack Obama.
After all, in the coming months, Breitbart was facing a lawsuit from former USDA official Shirley Sherrod that he well might have lost. Sherrod was fired from her job after Breitbart posted a heavily edited tape of her speaking to the NAACP that made it seem as if she had treated white farmers with “reverse racism,” when in fact the rest of the speech proved she was actually urging her audience to overcome such feelings. The suit was sure to win exhaustive coverage and, whatever its outcome, would almost certainly have left Breitbart’s reputation (such as it was) in tatters and his wallet lighter.