George Packer’s The Unwinding Excerpt: The career of Andrew Breitbart.

George Packer on the Fast, Fun, Short Career of Andrew Breitbart

George Packer on the Fast, Fun, Short Career of Andrew Breitbart

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
June 4 2013 5:41 AM

The Citizen Journalist

The fast, fun career of Andrew Breitbart.

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“Have you listened to Rush?” Breitbart’s future father-in-law asked.

“Yeah, he’s a Nazi or something.”

“Are you sure you’ve listened to him?”


Orson Bean, a game show regular from the ’60s, was the seventh-most frequent guest on The Tonight Show—his opinion counted. And after tuning in to Limbaugh over months during the 1992 campaign, Breitbart began to regard El Rushbo as his true professor. “I marveled at how he could take a breaking news story and offer an entertaining and clear analysis that was like nothing I had ever seen on television.” The hidden structure of things was becoming clear.

That same year, a friend from high school who was worried that Breitbart was adrift paid a visit to his apartment and told him, “I’ve seen your future and it’s the Internet.”

Breitbart replied, “What’s the Internet?”

One night in 1994, he vowed not to leave his room until he was connected. It took a rotisserie chicken, a six-pack of Pilsner Urquell, and several hours of sweaty effort with a primitive modem of that time, but at last he heard the crackle of a connection and suddenly Andrew Breitbart was linked to the Internet, the one place beyond the reach of the Democrat-Media Complex where you could say and think and be anything, and he was born again.


Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

It wasn’t long afterward that Breitbart found a one-man news digest called the Drudge Report—a mishmash of politics, Hollywood gossip, and extreme weather reports. He was hooked, and when Drudge began exposing Clinton sex scandals that the media wouldn’t touch, Breitbart knew what he wanted to do with his life. Drudge and the Internet rescued him from the cynical irony of his generation and showed him the power of one individual to expose the corruption of the complex. Breitbart was so awed that he sent an email to the secretive Matt Drudge:

“Are you fifty people? A hundred people? Is there a building?” Drudge introduced him to a rich Greek-born L.A. divorcee and author named Arianna Huffington, who wanted to do the same kind of awesome Web-based muckraking as Drudge. In the summer of 1997—a year after MSNBC and Fox News launched—Breitbart was invited to her Brentwood mansion, and over spanakopita and iced tea Arianna offered him a job. Pretty soon she couldn’t get him to go home.

The Internet and the conservative movement fused together in Breitbart’s brain. He read Camille Paglia on academic politics and saw his whole life as an illustration of the complex’s totalitarian power. He’d been living behind enemy lines ever since birth: the liberal fascism of the Hollywood elite, the left-wing bias of the mainstream media, the Nazi-fleeing German philosophers of his Tulane syllabi who had settled in L.A. and taken over higher education in order to destroy the coolest lifestyle in history and impose their Kurt Cobain–like depressive nihilistic Marxism. The left knew what the right ignored: New York, Hollywood, and college campuses mattered more than Washington, D.C. The political war was all about culture. A barely employed, autodidactic Gen-X convert with an ADD diagnosis and an Internet addiction was uniquely well-armed to fight it.

For the next eight years Breitbart worked with Arianna and Drudge. He helped Arianna with her biggest coup, getting a Clinton crony who had fabricated his war record disinterred from Arlington National Cemetery. Who needed the New York Times? “We were all doing more from Los Angeles with minimal resources than the mainstream media were doing from Washington, D.C., with hundreds of reporters.”