There’s an ongoing argument among bloggers about Andrew Breitbart, and whether we’re “stooping to their level” by saying what we actually think about him. Well, here’s what I think.
Wars split families. Benjamin Franklin refused to let his own son out of prison to see his wife while she was dying. What a terrible, unfeeling man. Or not.
This is also a war – of ideologies, class and culture.
Are those who say mean things terrible people for declining to whitewash Breitbart out of respect for his family? The real question is, why is his family more worthy of concern than the families once helped by ACORN? (Hint: It’s the same reason I joke that Apple-loving progressives would be a lot more concerned about Foxcomm workers if we described them as factory-farmed chickens.)
The very problem with the Village – the moneyed, connected, inbred establishment – is that that they value their personal relationships above all else, and use those personal relationships to justify and excuse all kinds of political and economic horrors visited upon the rest of the world, things that have serious ripple effects.
This is why we ridicule them. Isn’t that the point? Their emotional relationships render them incapable of connecting those dots between what they do and the results out in the real world. They live in the bubble.
For example, the top management at the Times loved Judy Miller and, I’m sure, they would have cried at her death. How many Iraqis are dead because of that relationship? Am I a monster if I don’t especially care, or if, even worse, I snicker? I don’t think so. I just use a much broader, more external measure of her worth.
I once wrote a column making fun of a GOP leader for collecting paychecks from three different full-time jobs. It wasn’t even mean, I simply joked that he must be hurting for money. A few weeks later, he and the other GOP leaders surrounded me after a debate while he yelled at me, said I made his wife cry and how she didn’t want to leave the house now because “everyone would feel sorry for her.”
I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You know, Mr. X., I take a lot of crap in my job, too, for a helluva lot less money than you make. But if it upset me as badly as you say this does, I’d quit. If your wife is really that affected by this, perhaps it’s time for you to consider another line of work.”
He was flabbergasted. No one ever spoke to him like that.
See, I was pissed. I knew about the Superfund landfill in which he was a silent partner, the one that was giving leukemia to kids in the little town bordering it. I knew about the payoffs, the Mafia connections, the cover-ups. To me, his wife was a Carmela Soprano, who knew what paid for her lifestyle and looked the other way. If I made Mr. X’s wife cry, well, maybe that would make her look at her life differently. Maybe that was a good thing. (Mr. and Mrs. X were prominent pro-lifers who marched up to the communion rail every Sunday. Toxic waste that killed living children didn’t seem to bother them much, though.)
Some years later, his son (who’d been appointed to an open township council spot even though he didn’t even live in the town) was upset because of the profile I’d written about him. “You said my father was the HR director where I worked! You made it sound like I only got the job because of my father!” Poor baby. He really believed he got a well-paid management job because he was so talented.
That’s a microcosm of what the Village is all about – money, power, relationships and life in the bubble. They really believe they’re above criticism. This is why they have such thin skins.
It’s why, given the opportunity, we poke them in those thin skins.
We all have some degree of tunnel vision. I’m not saying I’m perfect. But I always try to weigh my values against plain old human nature. I don’t live in a protective bubble, so I’ll cut them some slack when I think it’s warranted.
Ultimately, though, it’s not our job to protect them from the public fray.
I also don’t accept the “if we say mean things, we’re as bad as them” argument, because conservatives only seem to notice that something is bad after it happens to them. When someone attacks Breitbart after his death the same vicious way he did Ted Kennedy, they’re only holding up a mirror to the right wing.
Is it wrong? Maybe. Maybe not. Those people have money, power and connections to insulate them. Those ACORN families didn’t.
May Andrew’s needy, grasping, desperate soul rest in peace. Or not.