Andrew Breitbart as "Rage Machine": a slanted profile in the New Yorker

Rebecca Mead's article on Andrew Breitbart is unfair and one-sided. She disdains him. Her revulsion can be guessed at just from the title (Rage Machine), but the adjectives she uses remove any doubt.

If you take her text, remove the quotes, remove Breitbart's self-characterizations, and filter out everything else except the descriptive words that Mead herself uses to paint her picture of Breitbart, you find mostly words with overwhelmingly negative connotations. Here's the list:
"seething, sneering voice"
"brazen, blustering provocation disorientingly couched as a reasoned response"
"cultivated oafishness
"constitutionally adversarial"
"out of line" and
"feverishly cluttered" (his main website)
When I think of Andrew, a very different set of words comes to mind: likable, energetic, clear, blunt, persistent, colorful, engaging, factual, intelligent, fair, articulate, perceptive, and quick.

The few times that Mead uses adjectives with positive connotations, she quickly undercuts them with "buts":
  • She describes him as "effective", but it's due to his "rhetoric" and "comic demagoguery" (with the implication that he is fooling or tricking people somehow).
  • He can be amusing, but "his aesthetic ... [emphasizes] outrage over nuance, and comedy over comprehension"; "his tone [is] exquisitely balanced between humor and menace."
  • He's "tall and burly" but has "eyes the color of Windex, silver hair that he sometimes forgets is no longer blond, and jowls that he wobbles for emphasis when he wishes to express outrage."
If you don't count these backhanded compliments, Mead use only two descriptive words in the longish profile that would seem to carry positive connotations for most New Yorker readers: "urbane" and "Jewish."

No comments:

Post a Comment