I never met Breitbart – and now tragically I never will. But of all the heroes fighting the culture wars on our behalf he was probably the one I admired above all – and the one whose feisty, rumbustious, no-prisoners style I’ve striven most hard to emulate.
One of the big problems with conservatives, another of my heroes David Horowitz has argued, is that we’re just too darned nice. As I noted, once, in the Spectator:
Often former leftists make the best conservatives — think Paul Johnson and Peter Hitchens — for they suffer fewer illusions about how devious, dangerous and unprincipled the left can be. Schooled in Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and the Leninist method, Horowitz knows all too well that the left will lie, besmirch, cheat, character-assassinate, bully, threaten, blackmail, ballot-box-stuff, bomb, kill, anything to get its way. Conservatives are no match because ‘they’re too decent, too civilised,’ up against ‘destroyers, racists, bigots. I refuse to call them liberals — we are the liberals. They are totalitarians.’
Not for a moment am I suggesting that Breitbart wasn’t nice. What I am saying is that, like Horowitz, he understood rather better than most conservatives just how vile and unprincipled the liberal-left can be: and wasn’t afraid to use their tactics against them.
You saw this, especially, in his devastating use of Twitter. If you subscribed to @andrewbreitbart, most of the Tweets you’d get were Retweets of the spectacularly horrible insults which had been Tweeted to him by his leftist opponents. I now do this myself. When, as happened the other day, some college kid Tweeted asking for someone to knife me (because, apparently, he disagreed with my views on global warming) I simply Retweeted it – and allowed public exposure to do my work for me. Pretty soon, that college kid had been so inundated with criticism from my other Twitter followers he felt compelled to apologize profusely. (Though I don’t doubt fear of prosecution for incitement to murder may have been a factor in this, too).
Another of Breitbart’s techniques was simply to turn up at leftist rallies – and film himself being abused. Can you imagine if, say, Keith Olbermann or Bill Maher were simply to turn up at CPAC they’d get the same level of abuse? I honestly don’t think they would. It’s not how we conservatives roll. I know there are some Ricochet commentators who disagree with me on this point, but I say they’re wrong. Put crudely, conservatism is a philosophy of ideas, liberalism a philosophy of emotions. We don’t really go in for character assassination like the other side do because we consider it cheating.
Who will replace Breitbart? No one will and that’s my worry. Whether we polite conservatives realize this or not there’s a war going on here and unless we take the fight to the enemy like Breitbart did it’s a war we’re going to lose.