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New Republic: The End of Andrew Breitbart
By Michelle Cottle-
July 22, 2010- I understand why Breitbart has Jonathan Chait, among others, up in arms about conservative pseudo-journalism. But what I find disheartening about this Andrew Breitbart business isn’t what it says so much about conservative journalism as about the sorry state of journalism period. Not the way it’s practiced (or malpracticed) by any one group or individual, but how the very notion of journalism as a real profession, with even minimal standards of conduct and ethics, has evaporated.
Breitbart’s decision to run with the video was without question appalling. But there have always been madmen, charlatans, and assholes in this business. Arguably more outrageous is that, even having been exposed as either a total scumbag or a fool, he will almost certainly suffer no serious or lasting repercussions.
I mean, how could he? Breitbart isn’t employed by an institution in a position to fire him. He operates with absolutely no oversight and no accountability. Not that I’m suggesting institutional oversight is necessarily the answer: These days, notoriety, no matter how grotesquely attained, is just another path (indeed, one of the surest) to becoming a multimedia phenom. Hell, look at Eliot Spitzer. But no one should be able to operate without some reasonable check on his destructive craziness.
Could Breitbart’s readership revolt? Sure, but don’t bet on it. More and more Americans consider journalism just another front in the bloodsport of partisan politics, where the ends justify damn near any means. Increasingly no one cares about (or recognizes) the difference between marshalling facts to make your argument and just completely making shit up. Breitbart already caters to an outraged lunatic fringe that, like Erick Erickson, will mostly cheer him for sticking it to the lefties. And if Breitbart’s readership doesn’t abandon him, you can bet he’ll always be able to find advertisers who’ll stick by him as well.
I suspect some will say that Breitbart is not a journalist. (I know I’d say that.) This is the sort of semantic hair-splitting that allows Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to spew the most outlandish garbage, then retreat behind the mantle of entertainer or “rodeo clown.” For a not insubstantial number of people, however, these guys are the definition of journalists: truth-tellers in an otherwise corrupt, hopelessly biased field.