In the days since the Donald Trump campaign hired Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon as its chief executive, several peers of mine who have known both Bannon and Andrew Breitbart have voiced their fair sentiments on the matter, and some have even broken their inside scoops on Andrew’s opinion of it as well.
Here’s mine: I don’t know what Andrew’s opinions would be in 2016, because Andrew is not with us in 2016. Here’s what I do know: Steve Bannon was a part of the Breitbart family because Andrew Breitbart put him there. Every one of us Andrew put there had that honor because he trusted in each one of us, whether or not we trust eachother.
I’ve not known Steve terribly well; I was in his film Occupy Unmasked, have been a guest on his radio show a few times over the years, was a colleague of his at the company, and have been in and out of touch in the years since. He has always treated me with warm respect, responsiveness and emphatic verbal esteem.
I’ve been no fly on the wall to the harrowing testimonies of his estranged former colleagues, and have no opinion on their veracity or lack thereof. Most have known Bannon far more intimately than I have, and some had known Andrew for years before I did. I do see a pattern in their descriptions, yes, and another pattern I’ve noticed has been a curious absence of anecdotal specifics to annotate their strong measures of him. Anyone who has worked with Harvey Weinstein, for example, can seem to vividly transcribe every nerve-racking word and detail. But again, I wasn’t a fly on the wall in these cases, and I don’t know.
But I know this: When I hear mutual friends and colleagues of Andrew’s purporting to channel him from the grave, or assure us how he’s been “spinning” or “turning” in it, that immediately disbars their credibility as far as I’m concerned. Close friends and relatives of mine surprise me every year with unexpected opinions and endorsements, and if you can’t appreciate the complex moving parts of the living mind, let alone in the volatile context of the turning world it is constantly adapting and reacting to every day, you forfeit the authority to even speculate on anyone’s behalf. (I especially found it fascinating to see Glenn Beck channeling a strong posthumous opinion from Andrew last week, when I have a pretty vivid recollection of opinions Andrew himself shared with me one day about Glenn Beck. Oh but I won’t go into detail.)
But one thing Andrew DID make clear when he was last here, was whom he trusted, and he made that clear by whom he put in place to help carry his mission out. Many of Steve’s avowed nemeses were among those trusted, but so was Steve. There have been bitter and public rivalries and factions in the extended family, but the invocations of “How Andrew would feel,” to unilaterally enlist his posthumous moral support on a given position, has put a bad taste in my mouth since 3/2/12.
We don’t have to agree on everything, we don’t have to even like each other, nor will some of us ever like each other, but surely we can all afford Andrew the dignity of remembering that he trusted each of us for his own reasons, and if we must tear each other apart, we ought to do so for our own reasons.
I sure would be interested to know his thoughts on this election. I don’t. No one does.
Christian Hartsock is an independent filmmaker and journalist, and was a close protege of Andrew Breitbart. He lives in Los Angeles.