If you like reading the Internet, and particularly if you like reading about politics on the Internet, you probably know that Andrew Breitbart is the guy who used to work for Matt Drudge, the elusive mastermind behind the Drudge Report, and now appears as a regular on Fox News and operates his own site, breitbart.com, along with a recently launched cluster of blog-based, citizen-journalist-y offshoots about the media, Hollywood, and government that together constitute, basically, the conservative response to the Huffington Post. [Deep breath.]
Moreover, you’re probably about to know even more about him: He plans to launch a site called Big Jerusalem, focused on Israel, sometime this year. As he told Mediaite last winter: “If you think it’s bad to be a conservative in the mainstream media or Hollywood, think what it must be like to be a small democracy in the Middle East and challenge the postcolonial approach.” Yes, that probably is worse, although in one case you are a person and in another you are a country.
But who is Breitbart? The New Yorker sent Rebecca Mead to find out, and it turns out that Breitbart, who was adopted, is a Jewish boy from L.A.’s Westside, specifically in Brentwood. There he attended the exclusive Brentwood School, which is the kind of place that turns out the people who run Hollywood’s machinery—the Ari Golds and the producers and the lawyers and the managers. But Breitbart tells Mead he was, even as a high-schooler, turned off by “the industry” and instead fascinated by the theatrics of Washington, D.C. His politics, he reports, emerged from his exasperation with the “deconstructive semiotic bullshit” first introduced to the American cultural scene by emigré members of the Frankfurt School—radicals, almost all of them Jews, exiled by the Nazis in the 1930s.
But what we begin to suspect, as we witness Breitbart making plans for a Vegas road trip from New York with Ann Coulter, and addressing a Tea Party rally in Washington, is that Breitbart is inspired less by a desire to overturn one political legacy or trumpet another than to engage an audience: He is a born emcee. “I love judgmentalism—it’s a sport,” he tells one fan in New Orleans. “I like judging! Let me judge.”
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.