The ‘decent interval’ is over!

Whenever someone dies, there is something called a ‘decent interval’ where it is considered in extremely poor taste to disparage the deceased. It’s perfectly reasonable – even the worst of people have families who are mourning the loss, and it does no good to rub salt in their fresh wounds. The length of that decent interval is very much an ambiguous question. There is no rule as to when it’s done, but it’s usually proportional to the amount of good (or evil) the person did in hir life. I myself was appalled when the vultures began circling almost immediately after Christopher Hitchens died.

Andrew Breitbart died last week. When it happened, I stated it as a fact and left it alone because, despite the revulsion I felt toward him, it wasn’t right to begin crowing victory at the death of an enemy. Mobutu & Gen. Ze’evi have apparently kicked the fucking door off the ‘decent interval’, and thank fuck for that:

Provocateur, website founder and collector of America’s largest wads of spittle Andrew Breitbart died last Thursday morning, when some sentient shred of his cardiac organ kamikazed out of an exhausted sense of justice.

The invertebrate response from journalists was exactly to be expected. Breitbart said, like, bad stuff in his lifetime, but he also married someone and fathered people; once he even objected to anti-gay GOP rhetoric. A malicious career and two milquetoast mitigating facts: It all balanced out, really, at least for the purposes of forced, quailing objectivity. To borrow a grossanalogylustilyemployed on Breitbart’s own websites, if today’s mainstream media was penning obits on May 1, 1945, they would have summed up with, “Despite initiating the Second World War, the German leader was fond of public architecture and is survived by his beloved dachshunds.”

But nothing so generic could be the money quote of this squeamish grudging esteem-a-thon. For that, we have to go to Slate‘s Dave Weigel, who quoted Breitbart thus: “‘Feeding the media is like training a dog,’ he wrote. ‘You can’t throw an entire steak at a dog to train it to sit. You have to give it little bits of steak over and over again until it learns.'” This is just the carrot part of the metaphor. Nobody mentioned the stick.

The piece is long, but holy fuck is it amazing. I love good polemic, and this is great polemic. You’ll notice that the focus is (rightly) placed on Mr. Breitbart’s actions and behaviour, and is a criticism of things he actually did. This isn’t crowing over someone’s death – this is an unapologetic statement that the man who people are tiptoeing around revealed himself to be an awful person deserving of an honest and thorough verbal keel-hauling, which this piece gives him in spades.

Go read it right now. Some choice nuggets below the fold.

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“What his biggest fans have never confronted, and what the obits omitted, perhaps out of embarrassment, is that Andrew Breitbart was always a creature of the left, accepted by the establishment, nurtured by the American elite. They made him from cradle to grave. He was banal troll indistinguishable from any gin-blossomed paunch of resentment occupying a neighboring barstool and nursing his own sense of denied grandeur—save for the glorious intervention of two cultures he so loudly claimed to hate: The Hollywood madding crowd and, later, the Beltway water cooler.”

“Breitbart slouched, eked out a pathetic GPA as an American Studies major, then tried to exonerate his failure via a baseless indictment of “Marxist” scholarship: He didn’t fare poorly because of innate failures but because he rejected the school’s terms. (“Dude, I woulda done waaay better on the SATs, but I took ’em drunk, because fuck that.”)”

“Breitbart is another sign of American decline. He’s what happens when even the ratfuckers have lost all subtlety to their art. When the far-right is bad at dirty tricks, and can’t even frame up some black activists without a messy, drawn-out pushback, it’s time to fear for the state of the union, because their every success is indication that they’ve had help.”

“How was Breitbart able to inflict a critical hit on ACORN? A truly subversive journalist diagnosed the means years ago: “It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.” Breitbart snorted out those blind spots like a truffle pig.”



  1. Decnavda says

    Regardless of the amount of time that has past, the man is dead and can no longer defend himself! Shouldn’t you just treat Andrew Breitbart with the same respect for privacy and humanity that he treated oth…

    Nevermind. As you were.

  2. Zugswang says

    Thanks to this article, I learned that there is an under-appreciated nuance to good rat-fucking. His feeble-minded acolytes would do well to keep this in mind.

  3. michaeld says

    Damn they took that waiting period shoved it through a wood chipper and dumped napalm on what remained.

    It may not be the polite thing to say but I’ll say it again, good riddance.

  4. Audley Z. Darkheart says

    Wow. That was more (deservedly) brutal than Matt Taibbi’s piece in Rolling Stone.

    I, too, was disappointed in the amount of tiptoeing around that the liberal blogs did after Breitbart’s death– even my favorites put up posts along the lines of “he was a jerk, but he had a great sense of humor!” or someshit.

    It’s nice to see people tell it like it is.

  5. left0ver1under says

    Defenders of scum want to pretend that stating the facts of someone’s life is equivalent to character assassination. It’s not. There’s nothing wrong with telling the truth, even if its unpleasant. It’s only wrong when the last words said are insults and slander.

    For example, when Tim Russert and Tony Snow died, any mention of them each being a cheerleader and a mouthpiece for the illegal wars was quashed on most websites, even supposedly “progressive” sites. Or when Ronald Reagan died, there was dead silence about Iran/Contra and his deal with the Iranians to keep US embassy workers hostage until after the election. Both of those things are true, but mention of them wasn’t allowed.

    On the flip side, when Kurt Vonnegut died, FOX Fiction’s “obituary” was nothing but cheap shots at the man. Or when Jerry Falwell died, Christopher Hitchens tastelessly spoke of Falwell’s “carcass”. Falwell was scum, but Hitchens’ remark went too far. Unsurprisingly, similar tasteless insults were hurled at Hitchens about him “burning in hell”.

  6. scenario says

    You can be civil to the man’s family and not take cheap shots while attacking all of the evil someone did. My opinion is that I felt sorry for his kids but I have no sympathy for him at all.

    If I were to write an article about him, I’d start with a paragraph saying how he died and who his nearest of kin were. Just the facts. Then I’d spend bulk of the article explaining how he lied and destroyed peoples lives and reputations. Then I’d end it with saying that I feel sorry for his kids. I don’t feel especially badly for his spouse because she chose to spend her life with an evil man.

  7. prtsimmons says

    Thanks for the article – I love a well-researched takedown. I thought most of the pieces on Breitbart’s death on progressive blogs were pretty classy; most said that they send their condolences to his family and friends, but the stuff he did while he was alive was still reprehensible. My favourite Breitbart post-mortem article is Ian Murphy’s story about rambling, late-night phone conversations with Andrew Breitbart on

  8. says

    Frum doesn’t seem to have drunk too deep of the right wing Kool-aid. He makes points that, while I often disagree, I can at least see evidence of a rational mind at work. I am inclined to think that he sees folks like Breitbart as being more harmful to conservativism than liberals are.

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