RACISM, BY DEGREE
I appreciated David Frum's Andrew Breitbart obituary -- Frum concluded it by saying, "It's difficult for me to assess Breitbart's impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous," and by arguing that Breitbart was representative of a generalized poison in our political culture. But Zandar flags this:
Because President Obama was black, and because Breitbart believed in using every and any weapon at hand, Breitbart's politics did inevitably become racially coded. Breitbart's memory will always be linked to his defamation of Shirley Sherrod and his attempt to make a national scandal out of back payments to black farmers: the story he always called "Pigford" with self-conscious resonance.
Yet it is wrong to see Breitbart as racially motivated. Had Breitbart decided he hated a politician whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower, Breitbart would have been just as delighted to attack that politicians with a different set of codes. The attack was everything, the details nothing.
Frum is basically saying that Breitbart did racist things, used racist phrases, and played on racial fears and stereotypes, but he wasn't a racist because he was either playing a character or that he hated everyone equally.
To which I again cry "bullshit". That is such astonishing white privilege as to be shocking, and it's all the more terrible because Frum clearly admits in his obituary piece that Andrew Breitbart did really unforgivable things, and still calls him a "loyal friend". He wasn't a bad person, he just was playing the game that he helped to create, and it's really heart-rending that the discourse is in tatters right now, but hey, it's okay, he wasn't a racist, he hated women and Muslims and liberals and academics and environmentalists too, so it's all good.
Sorry Frum. You don't get to dispense this particular plenary indulgence. You don't get to posthumously absolve him of his sins. You don't get to play the "loveable bastard" card. He was a darkness on the American political media scene, and his death left behind a country where you think it's okay to treat people like animals, objects, or worse just because you feel you can just explain away the behavior as acceptable due to "you can't prove intent".
Look, what's the definition of first-degree murder? Murder that's both willful and premeditated? So, fine -- you're arguing that Breitbart hated Barack Obama first and only then, seizing on the blackness of the object of hatred, attacked that object of hatred in racist terms? Attacking Obama or Shirley Sherrod in racial terms was an afterthought?
Sorry, but even if we accept this view of the racial feelings in Breitbart's soul, his attitude didn't cease to be racism just because it wasn't (as it were) first-degree racism. At best it was racism in the second or third degree. It was still racism.