You won’t find too many people who are indifferent toward Andrew Breitbart. But love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. With his ever-growing collection of “Big” websites (Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism and Big Peace so far), Andrew has redefined how the political right views and uses the Internet. He makes no apologies for his “in your face” style, nor should he. That style has won him many victories and many enemies. He seems to occupy the time of a disproportionate number of left-wingers, including many employees of the ultra-left-wing censorship factory called Media Matters. Those “senior fellows” are about to have their weekends ruined as Breitbart moves from the virtual world to the book world with today’s release of Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World (2011 Grand Central Publishing).
If you know Andrew, or have ever cornered him for a few minutes of conversation, you know his brain is like a shotgun — going a thousand miles an hour in every conceivable direction at once. He attributes this to ADHD, but constantly being pulled in 50 directions at once by everyone in the room doesn’t help either. But in Righteous, Breitbart is more focused than he’s ever been. He has a tale to tell — three, actually.
Righteous is three books in one, each self-contained. Together, they weave a narrative that will remind many readers of their own lives. Even if you don’t share all of Andrew’s political beliefs, you will find yourself identifying with at least some of his story and conclusions. The book is part biography, part history lesson, and part manifesto, and it flows with clarity of purpose from one page to the next. It subtly draws you into a narrative, strung through the whole book, where he meticulously makes the case against the media and pop culture, which, he argues, help spread and normalize the liberal agenda. He also explains how to combat that agenda.
The book starts with a young Andrew floating through life in the greater Los Angeles area with wealthy friends and a “doing just enough to get by” attitude. To say Andrew was aimless is an understatement. His life was occupied with what most teens’ lives are: movies, music and girls. Politics, to the extent they existed in his world, were unquestioned, unserious and liberal.
Andrew tells of his awakening to conservatism through his experiences, the least likely of which, upon reflection, started while drinking and partying his way through Tulane University. Once the seed was planted in college, he found himself questioning the accuracy of the media’s portrayal of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and having his eyes opened by Rush Limbaugh while driving around for his job as a production assistant for a small Hollywood studio. Even the simple act of buying shoes had an effect on him. Buying shoes may not seem like an Earth-shattering development to most people, but try to remember the first time you had to buy something for yourself that used to be provided by your parents. Up to that point, the money you earned was spent on fun things, not necessities. The cold, dead fish of reality was slapped across your face at some point in your life, and Andrew’s moment was when he needed shoes.
The first third of the book reads like a biography, but with a purpose. He writes about his first foray into the Internet, a place that would eventually become his home, in a way most of us who were late adapters missed. He touches on his discovery of Matt Drudge and his working relationship with a then-conservative firebrand named Arianna Huffington. But “touches” is the right word — both of those relationships deserve a book of their own, but he has a different purpose in Righteous, and he doesn’t get distracted from it.
The second part of the book is a history lesson on the progressive/liberal movement in America. It’s not nearly as detailed as Jonah Goldberg’s amazing Liberal Fascism, but it doesn’t need to be, and doesn’t aspire to be. This isn’t a history book; it has a different mission.
Nevertheless, this section plainly and calmly lays out the basic facts of how the progressive left-wing agenda first came to these shores with the help of many establishment people such as the vaunted Edward R. Murrow. Breitbart tells the history of how the Frankfurt School spread their radical ideals throughout the country.
But Andrew’s real praise is reserved for radical Saul Alinsky. Breitbart loathes Alinsky’s ends, but the genius of his means is hard to dispute. The story of how this Chicago radical took the dry teachings of the Frankfurt School elites and sold it to the masses is often told as a cautionary tale, but Breitbart sees it as an opportunity, which leads perfectly to the final third of the book.
The last part of the book reads like a manifesto, a call to arms. So much of establishment Washington, and more specifically the conservative movement, is predicated on niceties. This “go along to get along” is perfect if all you want to do is get along. Andrew Breitbart does not want to get along, he wants to win.
The manifesto section stops short of inspiring the reader to pick up a pitchfork and a torch, but just barely. What it does do is inspire those of us who have been afraid to speak out about our deeply held beliefs for fear of rejection or attack. Breitbart lays it on the table. “It is not just a political war, it is a cultural war, and our audacious goal is to change the big narrative,” he writes.
Righteous isn’t meant to simply inform; it’s meant to inspire. Andrew tells the story of his first appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher.” He thought he’d done well, until he started to hear from friends who wondered why he hadn’t stood up for his beliefs. He was much more assertive the next time he appeared on Maher’s show. Passivity only leads to appeasement. Sharp elbows are needed if victory is truly your goal.
And sharp elbows are what Breitbart hopes to inspire. He lays out his own rules for taking on the “institutional left” in a clear, common-sense way that can serve as the bow for each arrow in a Tea Partier’s quiver. And that’s the beauty of Righteous: it empowers and encourages the reader to speak up and speak out. You don’t have to accept the media and the left’s agenda — you don’t have to be silent. It inspires you to get involved without telling you that you have to. It teaches you the tricks and tactics of the left and how to use them against liberals. It fine-tunes your eye to be jaundiced enough to see through the spin of the willing left-wing cheerleaders in the media and find the truth.
Of all the things Righteous Indignation does, perhaps its most important function is to pull back the curtain on the unholy alliance between all the cultural and media institutions and the left-wing industrial complex and expose how they fit together like puzzle pieces to advance an agenda. If you trusted the media or the entertainment industry before reading this book, your eyes will be opened. If you didn’t, you will know you are not alone.
Breitbart might not save the world with his book, but he might just save your sanity. Or he might inspire readers to stand up and say “no more!” and take action to defend liberty. Come to think of it, if that happens, he might just save the world.
Derek Hunter is a Washington-based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter