Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page writes an interesting retrospective on the mixed legacy of the late right-wing Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart. He points out that civility, accuracy and accountability were not always a big deal for him.
Speak no ill of the dead. So goes a saying from ancient Greece. I must beg for an exception in the case of the late Andrew Breitbart. Like Donald Trump, Breitbart had his sweet and gentle side, but that's not what made him interesting.
The Internet news entrepreneur and right-wing political activist, who I interviewed several times, died Thursday, apparently of a heart attack, at age 43. He leaves a mixed legacy. When his self-described "citizen journalism" got the story right, he demonstrated the Web's ability to empower people previously frozen out of the mainstream media spotlight. When he got the story wrong, he showed how much more responsibility the new information age puts on news consumers to figure out when they're being informed and when they're being bamboozled.
Breitbart made himself matter by using the Web with a frat-boy zest to drive a conservative message and embarrass liberal targets. Most prominent was Rep. Anthony Weiner. The New York Democrat was driven out of office when his Twitter-tweeted cheesecake photos of himself were revealed on Breitbart's news sites.
Breitbart's biggest coup was to take down ACORN, an alliance of community development organizations in poor neighborhoods. Over his websites and Fox News, the rising Web mogul publicized the videos of James O'Keefe, a young conservative who visited ACORN offices posing as a pimp. The videos appeared to show ACORN staffers advising O'Keefe how to best report income from child prostitutes on his tax returns. At least some of O'Keefe's videos later proved to be bogus, cleverly edited to give a false appearance of illegal activity. But by then ACORN had lost its federal support and reputation and closed up shop.
Read Clarence Page's entire column at the Chicago Tribune.