Last weekend, I went to see Hating Breitbart, the new documentary about the late online impresario Andrew Breitbart, who died unexpectedly earlier this year. Although released in time for the election and filled with familiar political faces and subjects (Barack Obama, ACORN, Anthony Weiner, the Tea Party, and more), the movie is stunningly post-partisan and should be watched by anybody with an interest in the future of media. (Disclosure: I was interviewed for Hating Breitbart a couple of years back and appear briefly in it as a talking head.)
Though Breitbart (1969-2012) was and director Andrew Marcus is firmly on the right side of the political spectrum, the film’s real achievement is in documenting the tectonic shift from traditional legacy media to newer forms of distributed news gathering and opinion-making. This move from conventional gatekeepers and authorities (think The New York Times, official spokespeople, and established broadcast and cable news channels) to endlessly proliferating tastemakers and outlets (such as Instapundit, Gawker, and Breitbart’s own suite of“Big” sites) doesn’t break along conventional ideological lines. It’s more attitudinal, more punk in the best sense of the word. When faced with a world that didn’t cater to them and their aesthetics, the punks of the late 1970s and early 1980s famously made their own clothes, hairdos, and music. They learned how to play their instruments (if at all) while on the job. Disaffected and unsatisfied people stopped simply choking down mass culture. Instead, they seasoned off-the-shelf meals to their own tastes, tossed in whatever other ingredients they felt like or could steal, and stirred the pot until the dish was OK by them.