The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Chains Rattling, and Who’s That Ghost?

Posted on | December 24, 2012 | 29 Comments

P.J. O’Rourke encounters Andrew Breitbart at the
Manchester, N.H., Radisson Bar, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012

“At more than one point in the movie, Breitbart asks members of audiences he’s addressing to hold up their iPhones, pocket cams, and other recording devices and to turn them on. You, he says, are the media. That gesture is the essential takeaway of Andrew Breitbart’s work — and of the documentary Hating Breitbart. Such moments illustrate how something weird and wonderful is happening when it comes to media. . . .
“Andrew Breitbart understood that it’s easier than ever to own a press and that despite the vast, incomprehensible increase in chatter . . . the demand for even more is still infinite.”

Nick Gillespie, “Hating Breitbart‘s Powerful Post-Partisan Message,” Nov. 2

One of my favorite books is P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, which ought to be on every college freshman’s reading list. It therefore seemed obvious, when I bumped into O’Rourke in the bar of the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, N.H., after the Republican presidential debate, that I must introduce him to Andrew Breitbart.

So now I sit here and ask myself, “How would ‘a lone humorist’ attempt to explain the entire tragic situation at Breitbart.com?”

Having spent more than a few hours on the phone talking to people about it the past several days, a reasonably coherent picture is emerging, and I’m not really sure I want to be the guy describing it. In fact, the smartest thing for me to do would probably be to ignore it.

None of my business. Walk away and pretend nothing happened.

Except there’s a federal lawsuit filed by Dana Loesch, which is actual news, and maybe it’s not a good idea to let myself get scooped here.

Andrew Breitbart liked to say he had two modes of operation, jocularity and righteous indignation, and it’s rather unfortunate that he never got around to writing the book, Jocularity: Excuse Me While I Make You Laugh Your F–king Asses Off, because he certainly could.

In his righteous indignation mode, by contrast, Andrew went off on Glenn Beck last year, calling Beck a “coward,” a “snake” and a “huckster” in an interview on Stephen Bannon’s podcast:

You really ought to listen to that entire 13-minute interview. As a matter of fact, a transcript might come in handy, because (a) people are telling me that it was Glenn Beck who wanted to hire Dana Loesch away from Breitbart.com, (b) the same people depict Stephen Bannon as the villain of the story, and (c) I’m genuinely perplexed by all this.

My advice has not been solicited, because I’ve only worked in the news business since 1986, so what do I know about newsroom management?

Every newsroom is a seething cauldron of frustrated ambition. There has never been a news outfit that wasn’t afflicted by clueless management, inept editors and disgruntled reporters. “We’re working for chimpanzees,” as a former Washington Times colleague used to say.

Mistakes, conflicts, rivalries, backstabbing — it’s par for the course, standard operating procedure, and the key to survival in the business is deciding how much craziness you can stand before you decide to sing that Johnny Paycheck classic, “Take This Job and Shove It.”

What’s bizarre about the case of Dana Loesch v. Breitbart.com LLC is that when Dana wanted to leave, they wouldn’t let her.

Or so Dana alleges, I hasten to add, because the last thing I need is someone suing me for defamation, tortious interference, etc.

“Mongo just pawn in game of life.”

The last thing I need is to insert myself into the middle of the New Media equivalent of the Battle of Stalingrad, but as I said a couple days ago, the sharks are going to have themselves a feeding frenzy no matter what I do (or don’t do) and why should I let myself get scooped?

Never mind my dilemma. Hear what Patterico has to say:

I never said this before, but I was personally the recipient of some pretty shabby treatment myself from that organization, after Andrew died.
[M]y experience was not the only such experience. Not by a long shot. And having been through it, it is plenty easy for me to believe that Loesch was also treated shabbily.
And when you treat people like crap, it doesn’t stay a secret.

Read the whole thing, because it’s exactly right. The world of conservative New Media is kind of like a small town, and if a secret is juicy enough, don’t think you’re going to keep the town gossips from doing what they habitually do. Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly.

Anyway, this wasn’t my plan for a cheerful Christmas Eve column, and I’m sorry for throwing this bummer on you when we’re all supposed to be making merry. But even heavy burdens are lighter when they’re shared by enough people, and maybe we can crowd-source this problem.

After all, as Breitbart said: You are the media.

UPDATE (Smitty): welcome, Instapundit readers!





 

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Comments

  • http://profiles.google.com/dianna.deeley Dianna Deeley

    Funny – P.J. O’Rourke doesn’t look nearly as short in that photo as I know him to be. I’m 5’4″ (sorta, if I stand up really straight and kinda stand on the balls of my feet), and he’s almost eye-to-eye with me. He ought to look like a slightly sloshed Irish midget next to Breitbart. Instead of merely slightly sloshed. And Irish.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Beck always has to go and throw off that “huckster” vibe. Drives you crazy. A) Because it’s probably true that he cares deeply for the country. But B) He knows it’s foolish to go into debt at a time like this, so he becomes a bit of a grasping hustler at times.

    Of course, He’s not “old money” like the folks who manage to weather accelerated losses at the dinosaur media. So it’s hard to fault a guy for being an arrant, unapologetic capitalist. On the fourth hand, you’d hope that people could stay as classy as possible when running a network.

    See? Crazy making.

    I think that right now, Beck’s channel is still a net positive, as far as the contribution it seems to be making to society at large (of course the “hey, what has society ever done for me?” question must be asked, even at inconvenient times). But caveat emptor, etc.

    Thomas Paine probably made money on his writing, too. Might have even been a bit of an a-hole about flogging his work. Who knows?

    One thing I’m certain of is that “the media” is less journalism (by which I mean “old school reporting”), and more celebrity-oriented (something I know more about). Which means it is becoming like the music world, the fashion world, and the art world. It will eat its own children, pass around knives for the sole purpose of back-stabbing, and each fresh stabbing requires a story be filed, a photo op, and then, if there’s time, an ambulance.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    It’s impossible to render an informed opinion on this matter without seeing the original contract AND all intervening correspondence from the parties. But maybe uninformed speculation is the way to go, I might fit in better around here.

    So: the only way Dana loses is if she were paid a fee for her exclusive services which covers the period at issue. IOW, even if they didn’t formally claim their option for another year, if they sent her the check for it and she deposited it, it amounts to the same thing.

    But other than that, “exclusive services” deals based on fees for the particular services can’t survive scrutiny if there is no money paid for the rights, even if no services are used. Labor law has a strong prejudice against any arrangement than merely keeps a worker from plying their trade on a current or former employer’s say alone.

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  • robertstacymccain

    I don’t remember O’Rourke being short, but then again, it was 1 a.m. and I wasn’t on deadline that night, so I might have been … slightly Irish.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003232872834 Becca Lower

    Wonder what Andrew’s saying to O’Rourke in that photo… Stacy, if you feel that you have to pass up the scoop, then your instincts are probably right. I sure wouldn’t know how to make that choice. EDIT: “lone humorist” :)

  • http://www.leftbankofthecharles.com/ Charles

    If Dana Loesch goes over to Glenn Beck, that will be too bad. I won’t go so far as saying she’s dead to me too, but that would be the practical effect. Glenn is no Andrew, let’s leave it at that.

  • CPAguy

    In regards to Beck re: Gingrich….I agree with Beck rather than Breitbart…

    The Shirley Sherrod thing is another isssue were Breitbart backed off his own initial story…not that it is a big deal…since that story evolved quickly.

    Beck backtracked based on Breitbart’s evolution of the story. Beck covered the exact point Breitbart was upset he “didn’t” cover for an entire show.

    I guess this goes to the inside baseball/newsroom of the Tea Party movement.

    RIP to Breitbart, but he wasn’t without his flaws.

  • CPAguy

    I’m not a fan of The Blaze, seems that too many of the writers are concerned about trolling for comments via race baiting et. al, but overall, Beck seems to be balancing building an Oprah-esque empire while staying true to Tea Party principles.

    I’m not naive, maybe Beck is a huckster…in fact he is one to at least a minimum extent, but he is advancing the Conservative cause.

    If Beck starts to try advancing liberalism, then maybe I will share Breitbart’s Beck hate. Absent that, it seems like industry back-biting. Which is fine…not everybody has to like everybody.

  • CPAguy

    I think it depends.

    If she goes to the television side, that is a good move. Beck and his people seem to manage that very well.

    If it is to the print side, she might as well stay where she is with Breitbart….assuming the money is right.

  • Blake

    Breitbart hard more to say about Beck than Beck had to say about Breitbart.

    If anything, Beck was puzzled by Breitbat’s outrage.

    In the end, I think Beck and Breitbart were talking past each other with neither one understanding where the other was coming from.

  • http://www.redstateeclectic.typepad.com AngelaTC

    Isn’t there some sort of a soft rule that the journalists aren’t supposed to be the story?

  • http://profiles.google.com/dianna.deeley Dianna Deeley

    I’ve met him twice (as in, “he signed my copy of his book!”), and yes, he’s short. I’m moderately short, I tend to remember when I’m eye-to-eye with a guy. As to Irish, I’m a fine one to talk – or will be, once the sun’s over the yardarm.

  • narciso

    It’s rather clear, that Beck sabotaged Andrew, ‘for reasons passing understanding’ on that tape

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    That’s about it. Yeah.

  • CPAguy

    I simply don’t see that. It does seem that Beck wasn’t thrilled to have to back track a bit on the story. I would assume that he was told by Breitbart’s people, his own staff, or somebody else…that the context of the video was different.

    However, Beck covered the story the next day in its full context….I think Beck may have mentioned Breitbart to the extent of having to backtrack and not receiving/knowing the full context of the tape….but Beck never seemed to make a big deal about it. He did cover the full context of the tape repeatedly, I assume that is what Breitbart would want.

    Not everybody has to agree with each other about everything….and if two talking heads I like have a tiff, I’m not going to take sides absent some compelling evidence.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    I saw him a few times and he seemed average height to me. But what do I know, I am a Scottish Highland Cow.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Unless we have to have an emergency discussion of the rivers of blood the left is planning for everyone, I’m going to go silent for a few days. That’s the plan, anyway. I might drop a line of snark in somewhere.

    Barring that unfortunate pass, I just want to wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

  • CPAguy

    Enjoy the holidays!

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  • http://PrimordialSlack.com/ Joan Of Argghh!

    Thank you. Exactly. Which is why, for none of the reasons above (all news to me) I quit following Beck, Loesch –and Patterico for that matter. To each his own, but the personal outrage leaves me cold. It’s your profession, you chose it, shut up and dance for us.

    Andrew had his lesser moments, (don’t we all?), but it was never about Andrew. It was about We, the people, first and foremost.

  • Turning Leaves

    Sigh, now I have the title song from a bad Madonna film stuck in my head.

  • wbonesteel

    Exactly. The Outrage of the Day gets old…when the world is headed straight for WWIII… and when the left is rehearsing for a re-make of ‘Night of the Long Knives.’

  • GregInSeattle

    Big fan of Andrews, not so much of Glenn. That being said, Andrew was upset by Glenn’s efforts to lure Andrew’s employees? I’m in software- it happens all the time in my business! Andrew was a Capitalist, right? Capitalism is competitive. That’s why it succeeds. Andrew may have had some sour grapes there.

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    I met O’Rourke once, too. I’m 6′ 1″ and positively towered over O’Rourke (physically). Is it possible that Breitbart was short?

  • werewife

    I can’t stand this insider stuff; as you clearly state, it diverts energy, weakens the cause, and makes everyone involved look bad… but now I am absolutely convinced that our world didn’t begin its countdown to destruction at 11:11 AM on December 21, 2012. It happened at midnight on zayin Adar 5773 – or as you might know it better, March 1, 2012. The one person who might have held this thing together and provided enough weaponry to win the last election that will ever matter was taken away. I wish I understood what G-d is getting at. (As an aside, zayin Adar was when Moses died too.)

  • finished

    Well the issue at hand is tangential to my comment. I used to enjoy Big Hollywood and before that John Nolte’s Dirty Harry’s Place (was that the name of it?). But now it is less about the good on the culturally conservative side of things and seems to be mainly “hey, look at this liberal/leftist doing something stupid”. Tired of it. Bring back some more of the positive reporting on culture of conservatism in entertainment. That which you write about defines the subject.

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