On the heels of Andrew Breitbart’s death, one particular left-wing zealot expressed his own twisted schadenfreude at Breitbart’s demise. Matthew Yglesias, a contributor to Slate Magazine, tweeted that the “world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBrietbart [sic] dead.”
Breitbart’s body isn’t even in the ground, yet Yglesias, in his supreme arrogance, symbolically spits on Breitbart’s grave.
What happened to civility and manners in this country? What happened to the respect for four young children who lost their father, and a wife who lost her husband?
Whether one agrees with Breitbart or not, such vitriol is beneath human decency, and is reserved for the filth which subsists on the bitter cud of spite.
Creatures like Yglesias embody the problem festering in American society today. They hide behind their words and take pleasure in another’s death for no other reason than ideological differences. They stifle dialogue and lock themselves in their self-aggrandizing echo chambers, unwilling to engage with others who have opposing views. By providing Mr. Yglesias with a platform from which to spew such filth, Slate Magazine is also blameworthy, and its credibility is challenged.
Mr. Yglesias, your comments have only served to validate many of the claims Breitbart made about the liberal intelligentsia during his life. You have only succeeded in embodying the worst right-wing stereotypes about liberals.
To be sure, I remember some really obnoxious comments from the right when Ted Kennedy died. Neither “side” of the political spectrum is better on such things. There will always be people who get so caught up in the politics that they don’t see others as human. It’s wrong no matter who does it. Decency and civility has unfortunately been gone for awhile. One of my political heroes, Sen. Olympia Snowe, is retiring because of the toxicity in DC. Rational problem solvers who compromise and listen to each other are becoming rare. The reactions to Breitbart’s death are a symptom of deep problems with our political discourse.
“The reactions to Breitbart’s death are a symptom of deep problems with our political discourse.”
No they aren’t. Faux respect for the vile dead is really overrated. Breitbart was a vile man, as he proved again and again. It’s not about “ideological differences,” it’s about being a dishonest scumbag.
Well, Bill, that’s your opinion.
Care to add any meat to your argument, other than declaring that a dead man is “vile”?
Given that you’re someone who doubtless keeps up with the news, I sincerely doubt the sincerity of your question. Suffice it to say Breitbart was an intellectually dishonest man who didn’t scruple to unfairly smear others for his own gain and aggrandizement. I think the Shirley Sherrod affair speaks for itself.
If Breitbart had behaved decently while alive, you wouldn’t be having this conversation. Concern about “the political discourse” starts with his indefensible actions, not my defensible reaction to them.
Of course, many a “dead man” is vile; being dead doesn’t change that or magically dispel my contempt. It’s just a matter of where and when you choose to draw the line in your defense of “polite discourse.” I drew it before he kicked the bucket; you didn’t.
“Suffice it to say Breitbart was an intellectually dishonest man who didn’t scruple to unfairly smear others for his own gain and aggrandizement. I think the Shirley Sherrod affair speaks for itself.”
I think what he did to Shirley Sherrod was indefensible. Though his actions in exposing the same intellectual dishonesty at NPR, a dishonest Congressmen, and a corrupt organization that was willing to help fund a pimp (in multiple offices) constituted a valuable service to America.
That still does not make it right to trample on the man’s grave.
I remind you of the ancient Roman proverb:
De mortuis nihil nisi bonum
(Speak no ill of the dead)
All I’m asking for is common courtesy. The man has been survived by a wife and children.
I could say the same things about Ted Kennedy and his life (unfortunately Breitbart did to his detriment), but I won’t because it is inappropriate to speak ill of the dead.
We disagree. Dying doesn’t magically accord discourteous people respect they didn’t bother to earn while alive. If Ted Kennedy was history’s greatest monster, what better occasion than his belated death to make the observation. People are going to interpret the facts of the case and make up their own minds. It’s not your job to shelter Breitbart’s wife and children; it was his job, which he could have done by behaving honorably, but chose not to. Because he was a moral cretin.
This isn’t hard Sean. You’re obviously more interested in scoring political points here, with your pathetic NPR false equivalency. It’s faux outrage. Instead of clucking about the grave disservice Matt Yglesias has done to himself by giving an honest, fact-based opinion of Breitbart’s career, why not engage him on policy, which is what he spends his time thinking and writing about (as opposed to masturbatory political spin).
By the way it’s a Greek proverb originally, based in superstition.
“Instead of clucking about the grave disservice Matt Yglesias has done to himself by giving an honest, fact-based opinion of Breitbart’s career, why not engage him on policy, which is what he spends his time thinking and writing about (as opposed to masturbatory political spin).”
Bill, this is precisely my point. The only reason I ever heard of Matt Yglesias was because of his infantile Twitter rant. It will now be very difficult for me to think of him in any other way, even if he produced very thoughtful and intelligent commentary.
Well put Sean.
I thought TNC put it very well over at the Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/on-making-yourself-right/253889/
I think that was a fair characterization. I felt the same way when Ted Kennedy died.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to be happy over the death of another person, period. This is one reason I thought it was excessive to be celebrating so much over the death of Bin Laden. Sure, he was an evil person and the world is a better place without him, but celebrating a human being’s death is something that dehumanizes us all.
I’m not saying Breitbart is anywhere on that scale, he most certainly is not. But when we open the door to cheering for someone’s death, then we get involved in drawing lines. How bad does a person have to be before we celebrate their absence? These are hard lines to draw, which is one advantage to not celebrating any death of a fellow human being.
As for his family’s sensitivities, I am definitely sensitive to that, but again: we tend to care about that only when we actually felt bad for the person’s death. When a person on death row is executed, how often do we get pleas for decency with respect to that person’s family? Most people would say that that harm was brought by the deceased himself; after all, he is the one who did horrible things and brought this result onto his loved ones. But any public figure does the same. If you make yourself into a person with no credibility, who spends his life twisting the truth for political motive, then haven’t you brought some degree of shame onto your family by your own actions?
But when you get to the bottom line, nothing that Yglesias wrote in that tweet is wrong. Conversations around dead people ARE ridiculous. They simply are, every time, because we all feel a need to show sympathy and grief and respect, ignoring the person’s flaws. I was extremely irritated after Whitney Houston’s death because of the rending of garments that went on; it was just silly. And the world outlook is better without him: he was out there playing with O’Keefe, fabricating stories to drum up unwarranted outrage. His absence makes the field a cleaner place.
I don’t think we should cheer for his death, any loss of life is sad, but Yglesias doesn’t say we should. He’s merely pointing out that we shouldn’t lionize the dead without regard to the truth. If he said “I’m opening a bottle of bubbly right now”, I’d find it tasteless. But he was simply responding to the many reporters and editors who are acting as though we just lost Cronkite.
And on reading the TNC post DE linked above, I can basically say that that’s what I’m trying to get across, more or less, though far better written.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be happy over the death of another person, period. This is one reason I thought it was excessive to be celebrating so much over the death of Bin Laden. Sure, he was an evil person and the world is a better place without him, but celebrating a human being’s death is something that dehumanizes us all.”
I agree with you. That said, I personally make an exception for mass murderers. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t euphoric about bin Laden’s death – I was. Cheering for the death of a Hitler or Stalin is also perfectly acceptable for me, because all three men were responsible for the deaths of thousands or millions.
“But when you get to the bottom line, nothing that Yglesias wrote in that tweet is wrong.”
I respectfully disagree. Yglesias’ tweet is indicative of the mentality that certain actions are outrageous and immoral unless your side is doing them. To me, his actions are nothing but liberal hypocrisy. Saying that the world is now a better place after someone dies is insensitive and only creates enemies.
“Yglesias’ tweet is indicative of the mentality that certain actions are outrageous and immoral unless your side is doing them.”
He said the world was a slightly better place without Breitbart in it. That’s indicative of nothing other than his dislike for Breitbart.
“To me, his actions are nothing but liberal hypocrisy.”
Depends on which actions you’re referring to; there’s nothing hypocritical in the tweet itself, unless you want to suggest a new definition for hypocrisy.
“Saying that the world is now a better place after someone dies is insensitive and only creates enemies.”
Careful, you’re starting to sound like a bleeding heart liberal…
“He said the world was a slightly better place without Breitbart in it. That’s indicative of nothing other than his dislike for Breitbart.”
It also indicates to me that he is petty, spiteful, and disrespectful.
“Depends on which actions you’re referring to; there’s nothing hypocritical in the tweet itself, unless you want to suggest a new definition for hypocrisy.”
You are right, the tweet itself is not hypocrisy. But for the left to act as if these comments are legitimate and not worthy of scorn is.
When a cruel dictator or terrorist dies, people dance in the streets, and aren’t called spiteful or (heaven forbid) disrespectful. When a mere a**hole like Breitbart dies, people tweet a few good riddances, and suddenly the political discourse is swirling around the drain.
The lesson in either case is, what people do while alive affects people’s reactions when they die. The real problem with “respect for the dead” in this country is the amount of undeserved hagiography it produces.
I definitely make an exception to the rule for mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin and Osama bin Laden. But someone who disagrees with someone else’s viewpoint does not deserve such hatred.
I agree with your asking “What happened to civility and manners in this country?” Indeed, what has happened to it? However, it’s totally disingenuous of someone on the Right to complain about civility when a whole cadre of Right-wing-nuts have been engaged in non-stop trash talk for the past 15 years, and there’s a who tv “news” station (Fox) that’s dedicated to promoted them and what they say. Consider this line-up of foul-mouthed all stars : Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and ANDREW BREITBART. I know this is a family blog, but here’s what Breitbart — loving husband and father of four– wrote about Ted Kennedy the day after he died: “..he’s a villain, “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” and a “prick.” “I’ll shut my mouth for Carter. That’s just politics. Kennedy was a special pile of human excrement,”. Real civil, huh? I don’t think anyone should celebrate death; but, isn’t what’s good for the goose, good for the gander?
What he said.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, Charles. Breitbart’s actions were inexcusable regarding Kennedy, but that doesn’t make subsequent hateful actions right.
Dude, he didn’t say “the world is better,” he said “the world outlook is better” mostly in response to a bunch of people sanctifying Brietbart after his death.
Breitbart was a liar and an a**hole. Yglesias isn’t saying he’s happy he’s dead, only that the conversation has improved.
“Dude, he didn’t say ‘the world is better,’ he said ‘the world outlook is better’ mostly in response to a bunch of people sanctifying Brietbart after his death.”
I don’t quite see the distinction here.
“Breitbart was a liar and an a**hole. Yglesias isn’t saying he’s happy he’s dead, only that the conversation has improved.”
Just so you know, I edited two characters in the above comment. For future reference, let’s avoid using profanity. Thanks.
By the way, I don’t think the conversation’s improved. In fact, because of people like Yglesias, it’s degenerated. In fact, for all I know, Yglesias might have some intelligent things to say from time to time. Unfortunately, to many. he will always be that guy who danced on Breitbart’s grave before Breitbart’s body was put into the ground. In other words, he hurt his own brand and credibility.
“Unfortunately, to many. he will always be that guy who danced on Breitbart’s grave before Breitbart’s body was put into the ground. In other words, he hurt his own brand and credibility.”
So, if he’d just waited until just after the body was in the ground, or even a couple weeks, his “brand” would be a-okay.
This is what’s called spin. No thanks, I’ll stick with seeking the truth of things.
“So, if he’d just waited until just after the body was in the ground, or even a couple weeks, his “brand” would be a-okay.”
No. It would not be OK.
And unfortunately, many on the right are reacting with similar spite against Yglesias by giving his book low marks on Amazon. Given that Amazon’s ranking system is based on customer reviews, Yglesias might even suffer economically from his ill-considered and hateful comments. while he certainly doesn’t deserve these attacks, he definitely opened himself up to them. Which makes my point. By dancing on a dead man’s grave, Yglesias only poisoned the debate to the country’s (and his own) detriment.
I see, and when would it actually be okay to reflect honestly on the Breitbart legacy. 2013?
“unfortunately, many on the right are reacting with similar spite”
And you don’t see yourself as a party to that. At all.
Look, it’s kind of perverse to talk about “poisoning a debate” when the person at issue is Andrew Breitbart. Poisoning debates was what got him out of bed in the morning.
“And you don’t see yourself as a party to that. At all.”
No. I don’t. Do you?
It’s been mentioned that Breitbart was the last person to respect the ill or dying in general and in particular with Ted Kennedy
Read what David Frum has to say about it-
“When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career?”
Wow. The left’s got nothing on Frum when it comes to grave-spitting. I’m beginning to like Frum less and less these days.
Wasn’t he the guy who came up with that silly “Axis of Evil” moniker?
That’s not really engaging with Frum’s argument, or Coates’, or Yglesias’s. You’re retreating to the term “grave spitting” because you don’t want to engage in the relevant discussion here: Breitbart’s role in the public discourse. Which is the whole reason we’re talking about him on political blogs.
FWIW, I support the social convention that we ought not speak ill of the recently deceased. Violating it strikes me as impolite and insensitive. I don’t care to criticize that convention, and I don’t care to criticize Breitbart at the moment. It’s true, but irrelevant, that Breitbart didn’t share my view of this social convention. I think that both he and Yglesias are mistaken.
At the end of the day, though, I have to concede that my view is no more rationally defensible than Breitbart’s and Yglesias’s. I find Coates’ argument unanswerable.
“It’s true, but irrelevant, that Breitbart didn’t share my view of this social convention. I think that both he and Yglesias are mistaken.”
I agree with you here.
In terms of public discourse, I think Breitbart performed an essential function of tackling issues that most people have traditionally been afraid to touch, particularly on race. I would also agree that his methods were at times crude, but that comes with the territory of tackling prickly topics that people are terrified to touch.
Interesting discussion. You can’t hurt the dead person, so the convention about not speaking ill of the dead is more for the benefit of those who loved and cared for the deceased to have time to grieve without emotional suffering due to attacks on their lost friend/family. It is respect for the living rather than respect for the dead when you think about it.
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