Reading Breitbart: Learn, Don’t Copy
Andrew Breitbart has 13 pieces of advice for people organizing against corporate media and the political establishment. His rules parallel the 13 rules developed over a career of agitation for the labor class by Saul Alinsky.
The following rules were meant to defeat the ‘liberal’ media, with ‘liberal’ being used as a catch-all for the Left. In our story today, by ‘liberal’ we mean Corporate Democrats and those who push market-based policies that help concentrate wealth, but claim to help the citizenry.
Decades after Saul Alinsky the darling of the Tea Party and reactionary right-wing media released his own Baker’s Dozen organizing tips. The, now-deceased, Breitbart wrote down his rules for libertarian radicals in his autobiography, ‘Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World’ (eye-roll emoji).
Here are his rules:
1. Don’t be afraid to go into enemy territory
Use the platforms of the establishment to steal their adherents. Get your speakers onto cable news. Take every opportunity you can to get onto the pages of the NYTimes and WaPo.
The business model of corporate news relies on pushing the talking points chosen by corporate lawyers but a grassroots PR offensive can break that stranglehold and build support for your ideas and movements.
2. Expose the Left for who they are — in their own words
Replace the word ‘Left’ with ‘Corporatist Establishment’ and Breitbart and I could still agree on this.
The actual Left needs to inform as many people as possible about the DNC’s lack of action on universal healthcare, support for endless military spending while cutting food stamps, and expansion of State surveillance. An effective Left would create a ruckus every time a Dem pushes policy from the fever-dreams of Spooks and Fortune 500 CEOs.
3. Be open about your experience
Preempt the media’s rush to label anybody undermining their narrative as the worst of that person’s mistakes. Be open about who you are and what you have done.
During the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush said, “When I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid.” This was used to sideline the importance of his low GPA at Yale, cocaine-fueled adventures, and bad business decisions.
4. Don’t let the Complex use its PC lexicon to characterize you and shape the narrative
Don’t acknowledge the unsubstantiated character smearing laid on you by your detractors in the media. Mudslingers only have power insofar as you treat their allegations seriously.
Also, don’t fall into traps that support the mainstream narrative. For Breitbart this was being characterized as a misogynist, a white supremacist, and a fascist.
For people on the left this could be the stereotype of the freeloader who just wants free stuff, the utopian dreamer, the militant communist, or the anti-imperialist who condemns Israel over their occupation of Palestine but ignores human rights violations in other countries.
5. Control your own story — don’t let the complex do it
If you have a story with the potential to shake up the public debate but you release all of the information at once the story will be gone too quickly. Breitbart discussed how Arianna Huffington would release big stories in bits to keep journalists and the public interested.
A corruption investigation, for instance, might find several crimes. Breitbart would recommend feeding one of the stories to the media, waiting on a response between each release, and then building the narrative up with a more inflammatory story.
Allow your target to damage their own reputation.
6. Ubiquity is key
To really get a ground-shaking story into the public eye in a lasting way it needs to be championed by a broad body of interest groups. Your supporters will be behind you but others will also take up the story if there is an angle that works for them.
Two complementary social movements are environmentalism and racial justice. The greatest environmental injustices are perpetrated in communities and on land occupied by people who aren’t considered white.
A chemical exposure story can grab and connect environmental and racial justice communities. This intersection has been given the names Environmental Justice and Environmental Racism. For another example, a Congressional scandal for the Democrats can be played differently for both conservative voters and voters to the left of the DNC. It is useful information for both communities.
7. Engage in the social arena
Build trust, respect, and solidarity with your peers in the social arenas of the internet and the public. Breitbart wrote that, “a well-socially-networked person can soon carry more weight than a household-name columnist at your local news daily.” The book was published in 2012 and this has only become more true as local journalism has continued to recede.
A brief caveat: Breitbart was known for a brand of reactionary, sensationalized blogging that was tight on slander and loose with facts. PLEASE DO NOT COPY THAT.
Breitbart Media and BM Jr. (Project Veritas) used disingenuous journalism to hit a DNC-affiliated community service organization named ACORN, a USDA Georgia State Director of Rural Development named Sherrod Brown, and a writer for The Atlantic. All three of these attacks were proven fabricated or baseless after the damage was done.
AGAIN… PLEASE DO NOT COPY.
8. Don’t pretend to know more than you do
Never be afraid to admit when you need to do more research or consult an expert in a debate. Half-remembered numbers and factlets will hurt you in the long run and damage your reputation in a way that maturely addressing your ignorance won’t.
It feels good to change someone’s mind and it feels good to present a logically sound policy prescription. But if you’re faking knowledge then it will catch up with you. Somebody will fact check you, and then you’re done.
Instead of acting pedagogic, you can undertake the far more attractive stance of Socratic questioning, which leads into the next point.
9. Don’t let them pretend to know than they do
Make your opponent justify their opinions at every level.
Don’t just ask why they think tax breaks for billionaires will create growth, they won’t, but also ask them to explain why economic growth is such an attractive end.
10. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon
This rule was taken verbatim from Alinsky’s rules. If you want people to join your side you need to be more than right, you need to be fun. If you want people to take your criticisms to heart they need to remember them, and if they remember them and laugh it’s superior to remembering them and scowling.
An Exxon office door blocked by sunburned penguins to protest the Fossil Fuel Industry’s disregard for the climate is going to attract better attention than a dramatic, but all too serious die-in.
People might not share opinions or ideologies but humor is a universal language for bonding, and bonding builds organizational capacity.
11. Don’t let them get away with ignoring their own rules
This rule tells you to use the values and ethics publicly held by your political opponents to critique them to their base. Breitbart chooses to deconstruct instances of Democrats breaking the rules of Political Correctness to illustrate this point.
But, why ignore this opportunity to discuss the Republican nightmare that is Donald Trump Vs. their ‘family values’-politics?
- Donald Trump has married three times, which means he has also divorced, (a major no-no for God).
- Trump had an affair while his current wife, Melania, was pregnant with his youngest publicly-known son Barron.
- That affair was with a porn star, an unwelcome profession in Christian conservative circles.
- Trump also has a baffling relationship with the truth, he lies a lot, almost reflexively. And I believe that’s covered in the God’s big ten rules. (Thou shalt not bear false witness.)
This list isn’t exhaustive for Trump or the GOP. But it should give you some ideas for where to attack hypocritical politicians in the Christian conservative camp.
12. Truth isn’t mean, it’s truth
As long as you have verifiable facts to back up your arguments you can’t be concerned about the feelings of those who hold opposing stances.
If you have data that proves that access to abortion improves people’s lives then it doesn’t matter that the opposite side thinks that what you want is immoral, it is your duty to drown them in reason until they can’t help but agree.
However, this would also apply to accepting arguments that your opposition has proved to you beyond a doubt.
13. Believe in the audacity of hope
Fighting systems of oppression isn’t easy, but without a determined belief that it’s possible we are lost.
We need to believe in our own potential and that of our peers. We need to believe that our system of government can facilitate the changes we need.
Or as Breitbart wrote, “It can’t happen without hope for America and faith in its people.”
It might be easy to despise Breitbart but he shared enemies with Leftists. He was a successful thorn in the side of many big liberals to the extent that many of his plans have conspiracy theorized that Obama had him whacked. Get your message out, build coalitions with natural allies and those you might disagree with, and ridicule these corporate shills. If people don’t hold these people to account and we allow the MSM to continue to narrate our story we will all end up powerless.