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Andrew Breitbart’s contribution to the gay community

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2012

Andrew Breitbart died today, presumably due to longterm heart problems. Response to his passing has been, to an extent, flavored by how one perceived his activism and where one stands on the political spectrum.

Breitbart served as sort of the Right’s answer to Michael Moore. Like Moore, he carefully selected anecdotes and presented them, often out of context and without explanation or contrary evidence, as representative of broader trends and themes. While anecdotal illustration can be useful if your goal is reform of abusive institutions, too often – as in their case – this is merely a means of galvanizing the forces, demonizing the opponent, and leading the charge for total destruction of the enemy in the Great American Culture War. It matters little that the “enemy” is your next door neighbor or your cousin and that outsiders find it hard to distinguish between you.

And, also like Moore, he delighted in his role as provocateur. With a bombastic style, palpable contempt for the idiots on the other side, and an unquenchable thirst for attention, they never miss an opportunity to see the worst in other and describe it in detail.

But while I have little use for Breitbart’s propaganda efforts and find his antics a bit distasteful in a man older than 22, I neither hate him nor revile him. So my response has been primarily to note that Breitbart is younger than I am and that “died of natural causes” has suddenly taken on a new meaning. I won’t miss him or his work, but I offer my condolences to this family and loved ones.

Yet, the time of his passing may be a good time to note observation of a social phenomenon about which Breitbart is a good illustration. He, perhaps as much as anyone, represented a significant shift in social and political acceptance of gay people.

There have always been those in the Republican Party who believe in and supported gay rights. Many of the old guard, those who were active in the 60’s and 70’s, were not part of the social conservative wing and did not hold their values. While folks like Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, and Alan Simpson may not have advocated for gay rights specifically then (few politicians did), they held the worldview and perspective that allowed them, along with their Democratic counterparts, to grow to support equality.

And there have been those who are called – and often call themselves – Moderate Republicans. They tend to see politics from the perspective of pragmatic solution-finding rather than with rigid adherence to a set of partisan distinctions and are often open to gay-supportive positions. Like Moderate Democrats, their instinct is to find a way to advance policy which can be accepted by the broadest majority of constituents, often to the annoyance of those in their respective parties who are more dedicated to specific goals.

But Andrew Breitbard was not old guard. He was not a moderate. Andrew Breitbart was a Conservative Republican and a darling of those who see the country in terms of ‘friend or foe’. He was a Culture Warrior and he did not view those whom he considered to be The Left with benevolence. Andrew Breitbart was also on the board of a ‘gay organization’.

I put ‘gay organization’ in quotes because I don’t find much about GOProud, the organization in question, that is dedicated to advancing issues of importance to our community. Nevertheless, to many on the Right, self-identification as gay is in itself offensive. To those who insist that they don’t hate anyone but are so motivated by ‘religious conviciton’ that they find it to be ‘supporting the homosexual agenda’ if they are physically in the same room with gay people who otherwise agree with them, GOProud is a militant homosexual activist group seeking to destroy the family.

So it is of some social importance that Breitbart not only sympathized with GOProud, but joined their Board of Directors. And what his participation did, along with that of Grover Norquist, Chuck Muth, and humorless comedienne Ann Coulter, was send a message that one could still be a Conservative Republican and be pro-gay. And as a firebrand and one who was currently relevant (sorry, Ann), his may have been the most surprising and impactful.

I don’t suggest that GOProud’s Board Members necessarily have pro-gay positions (Ann Coulter certainly doesn’t seem to), but rather that they introduce the idea that a Conservative could actually find themselves siding with gay people on an issue without having an identity crisis. And once one accepts that a Conservative need not, by merit of identity, oppose gay people on every issue, then one is opened up to support on at least some issues. The notion that one could be hardcore on taxes or immigration or abortion or funding of social programs, and not be compelled by bonds of association to also oppose ‘the evil homosexual agenda that seeks to destroy America’. For example, Breitbart reportedly supported the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

A message that “Conservatives are allowed to like gay people” may not seem like much. And GOProud is certainly not going to capitalize on this message by actually seeking to influence any conservatives to change their policies.

But it does open the door for real gay advocacy organizations like Log Cabin or HRC or Marriage Equality to present our case without facing automatic hostility. And it also frees Moderate Republicans to be supportive on gay issues without having their legitimacy challenged or them paying a high price in committee assignments or party influence. And I can’t think of a vote in which we didn’t need at least some Republican support.

And it also moves the goal post.

Pat Robertson railed against gay people in vile terms. George Dubya said that the debate over ripping civil rights from gay people had to be respectful. Sarah Palin had unnamed and possibly mythical “gay friends”. Andrew Breitbart joined a ‘gay’ group. It may not feel like progress that is meaningful, but unapologetically conservative and unapologetically accepting of gay people (though not necessarily gay politics) is a position that was unthinkable a short time back.

In short, the pro-gay visibility of Breitbart and others like him is not a great thing, but it’s a good thing.

I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture or praise Breitbart too highly; he doesn’t deserve it. His contribution to our community was more emblematic than intentional. Yet he did choose to join (though he resigned later over the outing of Tony Fabrizio) and that is worth something. And at the time of his passing it is appropriate that reflection on his life be tempered – on both the Right and the Left – by that contribution.

Comments

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TampaZeke
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

Ugh.

That is all.

Jim Hlavac
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

I have been saying this for decades, being 53 years old, and involved in the “radical Homosexual agenda” since I was 20 — more than 30 years ago — back then all, ALL, the nation was against us — left, right, Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, non-religious, religious — all were against us. Lately, it’s devolved into a small minority, the rest merely um, “evolving” — who claim to be “conservative Republicans.” But I know personally too many Republican conservatives, including my dad, who is very Breitbart like, and Breitbart himself, who are not anti-gay, and far too many Democratic Liberals who still are against us, vociferously. African-American preachers, Democrats all, are merely thinner versions of Maggie Gallagher; please give me a break on that.

Because gayness is simply not a political position, and no political position is for us or against us, but it’s person by person. We did this without laws or government power on our side, but with personal individual one on one begging and pleading. This will continue. We are winning, we will win.

And frankly, I’m against socialist Democrats, even if they pretend to be for me at the moment (I have too much experience in communist Czechoslovakia to believe they are anything more than liars — chcete mluvite ceske? Bude Vy ucit. Nevadi. I speak that language, I have relatives there, who suffered. Don’t preach socialism until you have suffered under it.)

But if American socialist democrats come to the gay fold, good. But I also need the conservative republicans too. I don’t need half the nation to not give a damn, and accept my reality. I need 100% of my country to not give a damn and accept my reality. And on every issue but gays I take a stand on the Right — yes, — but on gay stuff — I am with every gay man — we are such a different thing, that who cares left or right? I want both to kiss my tuckus finally and accept me as who I am — and then I will argue economics. And to me, regardless of my gayness, I’m still anti-socialist, for that is my heritage. And few here ever had to smuggle the Monkeys, Rolling Stones, Beatles and Levis, into Czechoslovakia, or books, and jeans and etc. Don’t preach the wonders of socialism to me, ever, I have too many stories of reality.

But with any gay man I stand in utter complete opposition to any anti-gay anything ever, regardless of any other factor. And this is a lesson gay men should learn — the Democrats may be “evolving” a bit faster, true, but don’t give me this garbage they are for us because of votes only in the last year or so. They were against us for decades; now they need our votes, and they know it. Learn that reality. Ucejte tento zpravy. Learn this truth. Then vote your pocketbook.

Charles
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

Jim Hlavac, well said. I am in total agreement.

Lynn David
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t Breitbart resign his position on the board at GOProud because the GOProud president and maybe one other GOProud member (inadvertantly) outted a Republican as gay?

That inveterate culture-warrior/gay-hater Cliff Kincaid (no relation to Timothy) had the following to say about Breitbart:

I am shocked by the reported death of Andrew Breitbart, the feisty conservative publisher of the “Big” sites, including BigJournalism.com I just saw Andrew at the recent Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., where we posed for a picture together.

He had promised the CPAC audience that he was planning major stories about the background of President Obama. He said he had videos of Obama’s college days.

He had made a lot of enemies, from the Obama Administration on down, throughout the liberal/left/progressive movement.

It is reported that Andrew, who was only 43 years old, died of natural causes. But the exact cause of death was not immediately revealed. ….

Andrew made himself into a target for the left. He knew he was up against powerful forces. ….

If there are any suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, they must be pursued and exposed. I am not coming to any conclusions just yet.

Jim Burroway
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

To say that he was willing to hang with the gays is an awful small thing these days. And as days go by, it’s getting smaller all the time.

It seems to me that as time goes on, we can afford to be a bit more choosey about who we want to applaud and who we don’t. And more to the point, we should be more choosy. Those who actively contribute to the poisonous venom that passes for “discourse” in our country should earn our contempt and disdain, if for no other reason than because we ourselves know first hand the effect that poison has. Just because he didn’t spew his venom on us is certainly not a good reason to count him among our friends. I certainly don’t count my friends that way no matter how willing they may be to hang out with me.

Steve
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

There are no socialists in the European sense in America. Bernie Sanders, yes, but they don’t exist in an organized fashion.

The US doesn’t even have a true social democratic party (which is NOT the same as socialism). The American Democrats are mostly the same as European conservatives and maybe some of the right-wing social democrats (they’re center-left to center-right), while the Republicans are the same as European far-right nationalist parties.

mitchw7959
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

What Zeke said, and what Jim Burroway added. Yes, there *are* the occasional Ted Olson, Del. Wade Kach in MD, and the 4 GOP senators in NY, but they obviously are the exceptions that prove the rule. There are good reasons why self-styled “compassionate conservatives”–who are nothing but good ol’ boy bigots in drag–have earned the enmity of LGBT people. And Mr. Hlavac seems blissfully ignorant of African American pastors and bishops such as Bishop Harry Jackson in MD and Patrick Wooden in North Carolina, being bankrolled and used by National Organization for Marriage and GOP stalwarts like Ken Blackwell–NOT by Democrats. I’ve come to expect A LOT better from this blog, this post is very disappointing in setting such a dismally low bar. This man may have lent his name to GOProud’s quisling agenda, but he was no friend of LGBT communities and did his best to aid and abet, condone and nurture the prejudices of his right-wing colleagues. This piece reminds me mostly of Andrew Sullivan’s sadly predictable Stockholm Syndrome over the termination of his card-sending buddy Pat Buchanan–the same whose policies would have had Sullivan imprisoned for sodomy, HIV status, or being deported to his native England. And by the way, Pat Roberton’s calumnies are NOT in the past tense but on-going; and in the past year, George W. Bush has lent his prestige to the Alliance Defense Fund, a notoriously anti-gay legal foundation–so spare me the sermons on civility. Read the regular posters’ comments on Free Republic, Townhall.com, and WorldNetDaily and you’ll clearly see most “conservatives” want us in the closet, in jail, or dead, see their unanimous denunciations of Secretary Clinton’s efforts to include LGBT interests in diplomatic human rights discussions, or their utter disinterest in LGBT rights in Uganda–if I’m not mistaken, one of your favorite subjects.

Soren456
March 1st, 2012 | LINK

I’m with Mitch and Zeke, and Burroway.

But let me add a couple thoughts of my own:

To equate Michael Moore with Breitbart is, as Gingrich would say, as close to despicable as I can imagine. Breitbart was hated–will remain hated–because he was, at base, simply poisonous. Deliberately, intentionally, recklessly and, apparently, joyfully poisonous. Poison is not a political stance, it is purely destruction.

I have my own issues with Michael Moore, but nothing that I’ve just written about Breitbart will ever be said truthfully about Moore. To echo Zeke: Ugh.

Second, Hlavac ought never to pretend that he knows American political history, especially as it touches gay issues, until he actually does know it. At which point, of course, his posts will be considerably different.

Gus
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

“Moderate Republicans. They tend to see politics from the perspective of pragmatic solution-finding rather than with rigid adherence to a set of partisan distinctions and are often open to gay-supportive positions.”

It is not just pragmatism. They also see others in the political process as fellow human beings. And have better manners.

Ryan
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Because of the title of this post, I was expecting to learn about Brietbart’s contributions to the gay community. Instead I learned he was once part of an extreme right-wing group who is ignored and excluded by other Conservatives. I think we’re stretching the definition of the word “contribution”, just a bit. I will agree with you that Michael Moore is just as dishonest and scummy as Brietbart was. Fortunately, the Dems only have a couple “Moores” running around, while the GOP has nothing but Brietbarts. And definitely expect the “Obama killed Brietbart” wacko conspiracy theory to grow in the coming months. I love the idea that in order for it to make sense, Brietbart would have to have shown no one the copy of his mysterious tape, *and* it had to have been programmed to somehow self-destruct upon his death.

Stephen
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

To equate Michael Moore with the loathsome, for-profit liar Breitbart seems extraordinary to me.

Don
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

For the past 24 hours or so I’ve been shaking my head as every online blogger and news outlet has twisted themselves into ridiculous contortions to find something positive to say about Breitbart. Let’s get real: he was vile. He was corrosive. He was poisonous. There is nothing, repeat: NOTHING positive that can be said about the man’s public positions, actions, or statements that could meet any reasonable definition of the word ‘true’.

blue-heron
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

But on a positive note; He’s DEAD!

Nathaniel
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

We can say this: he was a human being (in the literal sense, anyway). The loss of a fellow person should give us all pause, if for no other reason than to marvel at our mortality and resolve to not waste what life we have.

To be perfectly honest, I had to look this man up. I have never heard of most of his sites, though I do recall encountering some of his major controversies. Truth be told, he might have gone unnoticed to me first, had his life not been so short. However, I am thankful to Timothy for offering up some thoughts, and otherwise allowing history to decide what this man actually offered to his fellow humans.

Priya Lynn
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy said “And what his participation did, along with that of Grover Norquist, Chuck Muth, and humorless comedienne Ann Coulter, was send a message that one could still be a Conservative Republican and be pro-gay.”.

I don’t know about the others, but Ann Coulter?! I can’t believe some of the stuff you come up with. Ann coulter is certainly not pro-gay. No one who opposes equality is pro-gay.

andrew
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I’m really pissed about this article.

There’s a big difference between the kind of work Moore does, which is obnoxious, but honest, and the kind of things Breitbart did that didn’t shade the truth, but actually falsified it. He became a master of editing video to to be irrefutable evidence of one thing, when in many cases, it was very clearly something else.

I’m sure I could probably go through one of your postings, remove a word here or there, take out a few letters, and announce to the world that you’ve threatened to personally kill all Latvians (hypothetically). All it takes is selective editing and the will to deceive. Breitbart had that will to deceive. Moore, as obnoxious as he is, does not.

As for GOProud being an indicator of gay-friendliness… I think you misunderstand the purpose of GOProud.

The purpose of GOProud is to stand in as a shill for HRC and LCR, while remaining firmly under the thumb of straight Republican spinmeisters.

The considered majority of the public do not follow gay politics in anything except the most shallow degree. That means you can create bogus groups with virtually no following, and then claim equal standing with groups that actually have huge support and are not owned lock stock and barrel by the people they’re supposedly trying to influence.

This is so consistent with folks like Breitbart and Coulter who lack any moral fiber whatsoever, and will do anything and say anything in support of their positions. And to support their media empire, built on making outrageous statements. The idea that either of them had anything meaningful to say to the gay community, or even gay conservatives is a slap in the face, and, frankly, I take that very personally.

How stupid do you think people are?

Ryan
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

andrew, Moore isn’t honest. Peruse any fact checking site (neutral ones, not right wing sites) . His “documentaries” are filled with deceptive editing and flat-out fabrications.

Désirée
March 2nd, 2012 | LINK

anyone who thinks Michael Moore is “honest” simply hasn’t done any fact checking on his work. The man lies, distorts facts, edits for effect and blatantly disregards the truth if it interferes with his narrative. His one advantage over the slime that was Breitbart is that Moore is actually quite good at what he does.

Donny D.
March 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, good article. Thoughtful and perceptive.

Thomas Kraemer
March 4th, 2012 | LINK

This is not a gossip blog, but the real (or not) decade-long connection between Matt Drudge and Andrew Breitbart seems to be missing in all of the coverage of his death.

If I recall right, Matt Drudge met Andrew on a gay beach, fell in love, and taught Andrew how to be a rightwing blogger. Matt Drudge was widely suspected of being in the closet when he brought down President Clinton over a decade ago.

Is my memory right or is this only a rumor about Andrew Breitbart and Matt Drudge? If so, I’ll shut up.

Jeff
March 11th, 2012 | LINK

Why is it ‘ok’ to hate anyone? Why is it ‘ok’ for Gays to hate those that don’t believe in the unnaturalness of their actions? Why is it ‘ok’ for Gays to put their sexuality in everyones face; who cares?! Why is it ‘ok’ for Gays to be offended; like Gays don’t offend people, like their actions are not offencive. Why is it ‘ok’ for Gays to pass judgement on those who do not accept their LIFESTYLE CHOICE. You can’t demand tolerance by being intolerant … Well, it’s not ‘ok’. I see a naked man every morning when I get out of the shower, to fall in love with what I see would be the unltimate act of selfishness. To not care how much it confuses the public, to have an agenda that indoctrinates school kids through sex ed, to destroy churches to label conservatives, to persue positions of power to push that agenda as activist judges or what have you, Gays act like ‘racist’ No matter how bad it hurts their county, their community, their mothers or brother or friends. -‘Cause Gays are for Gays and against anyone that is anti-gay’- That is selfishness … to insist that the gay view of reality is the correct view, to fight for equality like your a race of people is a perversion. Your a group of individual people and each individual has the same rights as everyone else, no one is stopping anyone from being whoever they want to be or do what ever they want to do. Just seems to me that the haters are the Gays, they are the intolerate, self-centered arrogant sharped tongued slanderers who can’t sit down and shut the heck up! Gays cant even accept who they are ‘Man or Woman’ be what you see – ‘Cause realy nobody else gives a crap …

Désirée
March 11th, 2012 | LINK

one more time for the logic challenged: It is not being tolerant does not mean tolerating intolerance.

I suppose in your world black people should “tolerate” white supremacists and Jews should “tolerate” Nazis and if they don’t, well they are being hateful and intolerant.

As for the rest of your rant, it’s the typical hate filled, misinformed bigotry your type usually spew and no, I (we) have no obligation to “tolerate” it.

Désirée
March 11th, 2012 | LINK

oops, that should have said: Being tolerant does not mean tolerating intolerance. No idea where the “It is not” came from.

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