by Tony Dayoub
Masquerading as a fair and balanced documentary, Hating Breitbart is actually a tribute to the late Andrew Breitbart, self-anointed provocateur of the right. Designed to expand the myth about the professional conservative troll rather than examine what's behind it, Andrew Marcus's ostensible exposé is aimed straight at the collective heart of the same partisan audience that refuses to buy into any reportage that isn't accompanied by the imprimatur of Fox News. And like that network's segments, Hating Breitbart is cut together in a deceptive way that only seems to inform while really just proselytizing.
Following the usual trajectory of your typical personage profile, Hating Breitbart presents its subject as a scrappy, new media truth-seeker. A onetime liberal, Breitbart converted to conservatism after he surmised that the mainstream media was being manipulated by the liberal political machine. Only he confesses that he avoided the left's "brainwashing" by crediting his increasing disinterest with his own college education while attending Tulane. This immediately raises a red flag; for one starts to see how Breitbart, a skilled manipulator himself, drives a wedge between his followers and his enemies by characterizing those in his thrall as hard-working common people and those critical of him as elitist. During a speech at one Tea Party convention covered in the documentary, Breitbart contends that the left uses buzzwords such as "racist," "sexist" and "homophobe" to shut down any conversation from people on the right before characterizing said critics with a right-wing chestnut of his own, accusing liberals of having learned those buzzwords in "freshman orientation at Wesleyan." Predictably, this punchline gets a big laugh from his affirmation-seeking audience.
What starts to become clear as Hating Breitbart continues is that despite Breitbart's repeated assurances that he is simply bringing the fight to the smug liberals, long used to being the only source of news in a center-right country, he lacks the intellectual heft of say, a William F. Buckley. His lust for agitation and debate is strictly small potatoes. When offering some of Breitbart's biggest triumphs, even this laudatory profile can only come up with situations like his involvement in spreading word about Weiner-gate (Congressman Andrew Weiner's sexting a photo of his penis to a Twitter follower); the dismissal of Shirley Sherrod from the USDA after he posted video clips where she, an African American, spoke of being unfair to a white farmer who was looking to save his farm; and his backing of another conservative new media proponent, James O'Keefe, who secretly recorded videos of workers at the community organization ACORN offering him tips on how to avoid paying taxes for a prostitution ring he was pretending to run. None of these incidents were directly conceived by Breitbart or came off without considerable scrutiny concerning the questionable methods used to re-contextualize their respective controversies for maximum smearing effect. But more to the point, they fall under most centrist Americans' category titled "Who Gives a Shit?"
Though impartial organizations like Mediaite and Reason are included among the sources offering their take on Breitbart's place among political new media, the majority of those who log their opinions of the controversial figure are right-leaning pundits from dubious outfits like The Daily Caller, NewsBusters, Riehl World View, and the Washington Times. Any time criticism of Breitbart is culled from broadcasts of liberal-biased programming from MSNBC (who did not participate in the film's production), the footage is doctored, blown-up to depict despised leftie figures like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow in extreme, and extremely distasteful, close-ups. This while footage taken from Fox News avoids any such embellishment. Foul language, primarily profanities uttered by Breitbart himself, is inexplicably bleeped out. This, apparently in order to obtain a rating more suitable for general release, the better to aggrandize the reputation of the late Breitbart. I'm not saying there isn't much to the man, or much worth exploring. But I believe most people can think for themselves, and a truly objective profile of the contentious muckraker would be a good place to start. Hating Breitbart is not it.
Hating Breitbart is now in limited theatrical release and is also available on DVD and Video on Demand.