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Breitbart quitters shocked to discover they’d been working at a sleazeball propaganda mill

Andrew Breitbart: He started this dumpster fire
Andrew Breitbart: He started this dumpster fire

I‘ve been watching the implosion of the sleazeball internet propaganda mill known as Breitbart with a certain amount of schadenfreude.

So far five Breitbarters have changed their Facebook status to ex-Breitbarters in the wake of the site’s bizarre response to the news that one of their now-ex-reporters, Michele Fields, was (almost certainly) assaulted by Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski while asking the Orange One a question last week.

Breitbart’s rabidly pro-Trump top brass have clearly been far more interested in protecting their special relationship with America’s Mussolini than they were in supporting their own now-ex-reporter.

I’ve found myself feeling a certain sympathy for the growing army of ex-Breitbarters, who’ve been excoriating their former bosses in indignant resignation letters and in TV interviews.

I’ve felt the most sympathy, naturally, for Fields, first allegedly assaulted by Trump’s campaign manager, then smeared as a liar by both the Trump campaign and her own now-ex bosses. But I’ve also found myself feeling a certain weird almost-admiration for those who’ve quit the site in disgust over its handling of the Lewandowski incident.

They resigned on principle? Who knew that anyone working for Breitbart had principles?

And there’s the rub. Whatever they’re saying now, these are all people who worked for Breitbart, one of the sleaziest and most mendacious political propaganda outlets online. Indeed, they all seem to have been True Believers in Breitbart’s twisted mission.

Take the resignation letter of former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro. On the one hand, he offered a righteously angry takedown of Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon for turning the site

into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter, Breitbart News’ Michelle Fields, in order to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who allegedly assaulted Michelle. …

[Her] story was backed by audiotape, eyewitness testimony from The Washington Post’s Ben Terris, physical bruises, and video tape. Both Lewandowski and Trump maligned Michelle in the most repulsive fashion. Meanwhile, Breitbart News not only stood by and did nothing outside of tepidly asking for an apology, they then attempted to abandon Michelle by silencing staff from tweeting or talking about the issue. Finally, in the ultimate indignity, they undermined Michelle completely by running a poorly-evidenced conspiracy theory as their lead story in which Michelle and Terris had somehow misidentified Lewandowski. This is disgusting.

On the other hand, he also wrote effusively about his admiration for the site’s late founder Andrew Breitbart, accusing Bannon of  “put[ting] a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy.” Noting that he first met the man who would become his mentor at the tender age of 17, Shapiro declared that

Andrew built his life and his career on one mission: fight the bullies. But Andrew’s life mission has been betrayed. … Breitbart News has become precisely the reverse of what Andrew would have wanted. Steve Bannon and those who follow his lead should be ashamed of themselves.

Here’s some footage of Shapiro’s hero, er, discussing politics with some Occupy protesters. Apparently he felt their behavior was in some ways less than ideal.

 

Shapiro wasn’t the only ex-staffer to wax lyrical about Breitbart (the man) in his letter resigning from Breitbart (the propaganda mill).

“I believe Breitbart News is becoming less of a news site and more of a propaganda organization dedicated to the Trump campaign,” wrote former editor Joran Stepman, one of two staffers to resign from the site today.

I believe in the integrity of Breitbart News, my own personal integrity, and the legacy of Andrew Breitbart are at state, which is why I had to resign.

Now-former-Breitbart national security writer Jordan Schachtel, who also quit today, lamented in a statement to Politico that

[t]he company no longer resembles the ideals that inspired me to start writing for them three years ago. … Breitbart News is no longer a journalistic enterprise, but instead, in my opinion, something an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the trump campaign. I signed my contract to work as a journalist, not as a member of the Donald J. Trump for President media network … so I must step aside with my dignity intact.

What a shock to discover that a completely unethical propaganda mill is a completely unethical propaganda mill!

In Salon today, Gary Legum reminds anyone who needs reminding that Breitbart was never anything more than a giant burning pile of garbage.

Breitbart employees seem to genuinely believe they were rebels fighting the good fight to speak truth to liberal power, when the reality is they have been instruments for every grifter, blowhard, and paranoid lunatic the right has vomited up over the last decade, used to inject an IV full of venom directly into the American bloodstream.

As constituted, Breitbart has always been a clearinghouse for right-wing rage over every perceived slight to the self-described “real Americans” who make up the conservative movement. Every conspiracy theory about Barack Obama, Democrats, liberalism, Muslims, terrorists, the intellectual lives of politically correct college students, and every other conservative bugaboo you can imagine has found a home on the site at some point.  …

How people could see story after story after story on Breitbart revealed as utter nonsense, and yet still go to work there and call themselves “journalists” would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

On MediaMatters, meanwhile, longtime Breitbart-watcher Matt Gertz declares that “the notion of a ‘golden age’ of Breitbart journalism is fiction.” Indeed, Gertz notes, Andrew Breitbart launched his original Big Government site in 2009 with an “exclusive” trumpeting the infamous and deceptively edited “sting” footage of the community organization ACORN, put together by one James O’Keefe.

“Breitbart’s sites spent much of the rest of 2009 publishing similar smears of progressives that did not survive the most minimal scrutiny,” Gertz writes.

Was the White House making a political statement with Mao Zedong ornaments on the Christmas tree? (No.) Community organizers were praying to Barack Obama! (No.) The White House got union members to beat up a Tea Party protester! (Definitely not.) Meanwhile, the crew at [Breitbart’s] Big Hollywood was spending significant time with birther nonsense as well as more pedestrian comparisons of Obama to Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Fidel Castro.

The site’s low point may have been Jim Hoft’s disgusting anti-gay smears of Ken Jennings, the Department of Education official responsible for preventing bullying in schools.

Gertz goes on to chronicle example after example of Breitbart’s partisan “journalistic” fails; it’s rewarding reading if you need more convincing that Breitbart was never the sterling bastion of honest journalists that the site’s current and newly-former-employees seem to think it was.

And then of course there is the ongoing disaster that is Milo Yiannopoulos.

The only departing Breitbartian to write about his departure with what seems like real candor has been ex-publicist Kurt Bardella, who suggested in a piece for CNN that he feels “a little uncomfortable” about those who’ve declared his departure from — and public criticism of — Breitbart to be acts of bravery. “[T]he truth is I sat on the sidelines for a long time, took its money and stayed silent,” he writes.

Indeed, I would suggest that there is actually a certain amount of dishonor in what I have done — going on national television and calling the very organization I represented when the day began “liars.”

These are not the actions of someone who is courageous or brave.

Maybe not,  but we should probably remember that Bardella is a professional PR maven who may simply figure that a mea culpa will play better than pretending he wasn’t complicit with Breitbart’s awfulness. Indeed, he may well be praised as brave for declaring that he is not brave. Hell, I kind of almost did that right here.

And alas, even his mea culpa is filled with the same bullcrap about Andrew Beritbart’s allegedly noble dreams. “[T]he legacy that Andrew Breitbart had hoped for is on life support,” Bardella wrote. “Unless a significant change is made in leadership, the Breitbart News that he had started … will soon be unrecognizable.”

Nah. The sleazeball propaganda mill now called Breitbart News is irredeemable — and always has been.

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Judas Peckerwood
4 years ago

I dispute the characterization of Breitbart as “Trump’s personal Pravda“. Much more along the lines of Der Stürmer, in my opinion — which should have protected its reporter from physical assault by the Brownshirts but didn’t.

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago

God, wouldn’t it be fantastic if Breitbart continued to implode and brought GamerGate down with it? I’m not holding my breath that any Gaters might wake up and see the crap that Milo has been spewing, though.

Side note: I was ironic that someone from Salon commented on this. They’re the opposite side of the same coin Breitbart’s made from.

tedthefed
tedthefed
4 years ago

KEN JENNINGS IS GAY??

Oh, wait. Different guy.

My embarrassing, hopeless celebrity crush goes on…

Bina
4 years ago

Of course, some of us have known that Bitefart has always, from its inception, been a sleazy propaganda mill…but then again, some of us remember that its late founder was bestest buddies with the infamous right-wing gossipmonger Matt Drudge, who makes broken clocks look remarkably accurate.

Judas Peckerwood
4 years ago

The best way to experience Breitbart’s cesspool of ignorance, bigotry and hate is to skip the articles and go straight to the comments. Boy howdy!

weirwoodtreehugger
4 years ago

Breitbart was no better than Alex Jones really.

weirwoodtreehugger
4 years ago

If I go to Breitbart to hate read the comments, will Google/YouTube start giving me fucked up search results and recommendations?

Maybe I’ll stick to hate reading the comments of MRAL and NWOslave in the old posts here.

Aris Boch
Aris Boch
4 years ago

Trump’s no Mussolini, he’s the US version of Berlusconi down to the mafia ties.

numerobis
numerobis
4 years ago

WWTH: start an incognito window in chrome (or the equivalent in Firefox or safari) and it won’t affect your usual browsing.

My feeling for this shitstorm: it couldn’t have happened to a nicer “news” organization.

Margaret Pless
Margaret Pless
4 years ago

I don’t want to see anybody assaulted at Trump rallies – reporters, protestors, or supporters of the Orange One.

That said I don’t think we should be throwing any ticker-tape parades for the reporters who’ve left Breitbart in the wake of this scandal. Leaving an employer who barely cares when their employees get hurt on the job is literally the least you can do. It’s more of an act of self-preservation than altruism.

Saphira
Saphira
4 years ago

They resigned on principle? Who knew that anyone working for Breitbart had principles?

That’s the thing — people tend to idealize everything. I would not be surprised if there were/are people are Breitbart who honestly believe(d) they’re fighting the good fight without realizing that they and the “news source” they work for are just rolling around in the mud.

Not that I’m going to congratulate them on leaving that cesspool. I only hope they come out with the sense to discern rolling in the mud from actual journalism.

Chaos-Engineer
Chaos-Engineer
4 years ago

I signed my contract to work as a journalist, not as a member of the Donald J. Trump for President media network …

I ran this through my Secret Decoder Ring, and what I’m getting from it is that Breitbart was having an internal power struggle between the Trump faction and the Cruz faction, and the Trump faction won. Any reference to real journalistic concerns is most likely fanciful.

Kat
Kat
4 years ago

Jordan Schachtel: what a jokester!

I must step aside with my dignity intact.

Binjabreel
Binjabreel
4 years ago

No, i think the idea that their bosses would throw one of them to the wolves that dramatically was probably either enough to cut through their cognitive dissonance or a “honor among thieves” sort of deal.

Tragedy of the Commas
Tragedy of the Commas
4 years ago

I read that as “Breitbart shitters” for half a second.

The headline works either way.

EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

Milo Yiannopoulos, meanwhile, has not quit.

Ethics!

NickNameNick
NickNameNick
4 years ago

Does anyone remember that one time Andrew Breitbart, trying to refute it when someone called out his racism, was that he couldn’t be racist because he masturbated to a Latina?

…I do, unfortunately…

To quote a character from the comic Irredeemable: “a racist with a hard-on is still a racist.”

katz
4 years ago

Chaos-Engineer: That’s a compelling theory.

Lukas Xavier
Lukas Xavier
4 years ago

I imagine the real problem is that Breitbart broke the implicit agreement: You’re only supposed to attack and lie about those people over there. These reporters thought that they were safe and it was a bit of a shock to realize that they can get thrown under the bus as easily as anyone else.

EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

Chaos-Engineer, Binjabreel and Lukas Xavier all have explanations that make sense of this. Thanks!

Jack Graham
4 years ago

The picture you’ve used at the top of this article looks like one of the faces in ‘The Brain of Morbius’. Doctor Who fans will know what I’m talking about.

bluecat
bluecat
4 years ago

They thought they were “we”, and were happy to demonise “them”. Then some found out that they were not necessarily part of the “we” they thought.

Well, better to learn late than learn never, I suppose.

Cory Sampson
Cory Sampson
4 years ago

Man, pubic criticism is the harshest criticism there is!

Moggie
Moggie
4 years ago

On the other hand, he also wrote effusively about his admiration for the site’s late founder Andrew Breitbart, accusing Bannon of “put[ting] a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy.”

Interesting choice of words. As a rule, when you’re putting a stake through the heart of something, it’s not a good something. Sounds like Shapiro thought he was working for Dracula. Is he Renfield? Ben! Have you been eating bugs again?

Makroth
Makroth
4 years ago

No surprise they went after Fields. Can`t have her say anyhting negative whatsoever about Lord Trump. Plus she`s a woman, so she probably staged everything./s The people defending her were the exception, not the norm.

Freemage
Freemage
4 years ago

J^3: You do understand that nobody around here buys the ‘both sides are just as bad’ line of BS, and that the only reason no one else bothered to call you on it is because most folks are really bored with doing so and would rather continue mocking Breitbart and his disaffected syncophants, right?

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago
Reply to  Freemage

@Freemage: I realized, too late, that I got the same kind of personal attacks here that I got when I said the exact same thing on ultra-right forums. I had hoped this community would be different. But that’s neither here nor there.

I wasn’t talking about either political party. I never even implied anything about either political party. I expressed my hope that Gamergate would be impacted by the Breitbart meltdown and noted the irony of one propaganda site denouncing another.

I find it both humorous and exasperating that, when I speak my thoughts in the same words, “they” attack me as a bleeding heart liberal SJW mangina misanderist while here I’m labeled a right-wing cis white male privileged misogynist.

If anyone can explain how the exact same words and opinions can be seen as both extremes that’d be nice.

Freemage
Freemage
4 years ago

I’m not accusing you of being a misogynist, or a right-wing stooge, though. I’m calling you out on your South Parkian apathism, in which the worst sin is actually caring about anything. You’re the guy in this comic, on the subject of politics rather than religion:

comment image

There’s a difference between ‘propaganda’ and ‘ethical opinion journalism’. Salon is leftist, yes, but it holds to the same standards that more mainstream professional media organizations hold themselves too, including the issuing of corrections when called for. Breitbart is pretty much the exact opposite end of that scale. When you accuse Salon of being a propaganda site, you implicitly state that they are incapable of reporting honestly if it runs counter to their narrative–which is something you’d have to back up with evidence.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
4 years ago

Shorter Joe: “ME ME ME LOOK AT MEEE.”

Shoo, fly. Don’t bother us.

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago
Reply to  Freemage

It is true that I haven’t been to Salon since just prior to the last election so it is quite possible the site is as you describe. And it is also true you didn’t label me a misogynist. That happened in the other thread.

As for the cartoon, superior isn’t the feeling that overwhelmingly fills my being about my dislike of both (in truth, all) political parties. It is despair. Granted, this is colored by the fact that I live and worked in the DC Metro area. Seeing some of what goes on behind the curtain has definitely had an impact.

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago

@SFHC Heh, if you say so.

Freemage
Freemage
4 years ago

Oh, woe is Joe, despondent and despairing that not everyone behaves exactly as he.

dlouwe
dlouwe
4 years ago

And it is also true you didn’t label me a misogynist. That happened in the other thread.

As I pointed out in that thread, literally nobody called you a misogynist. Kindly continue to fuck off.

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago
Reply to  Freemage

@Freemage: Not at all what I said but whatever.

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago

@dlouwe Thank you, sir. May I have another?

suffrajitsu
4 years ago

I know this is probably the least offensive thing here, but I must say, of fucking course they would refer to men by their last names and Fields by her first.

littleknown
littleknown
4 years ago

There’s no delicate way to put this: anyone who believes the journalistic standards at Salon and Breitbart are the same, and that they represent two sides of the same coin, is profoundly ignorant — to a degree that it is hard to believe that it is not willful.

Michael P
Michael P
4 years ago

Ideology is a hell of a drug.

WeirwoodTreeHugger
WeirwoodTreeHugger
4 years ago

Salon has gotten too clickbaitish in the last couple of years and I don’t like that their comments are overrun with trolls. But they don’t seem to be chronically dishonest and they aren’t stirring up rage and hate.

Falconer
Falconer
4 years ago

Shall I fetch the fainting couch and clutching pearls for poor, abused J^3? We forgot that his words, when he types them, are separated from the larger context in which every other person who ever types those words, types them.

NickNameNick
NickNameNick
4 years ago

@J^e:

Having someone point out that you’re using false equivalence is not a personal attack. In fact, Freemage was being incredibly polite. The problem is stuff like this…

I realized, too late, that I got the same kind of personal attacks here that I got when I said the exact same thing on ultra-right forums. I had hoped this community would be different. But that’s neither here nor there.

And it is also true you didn’t label me a misogynist. That happened in the other thread.

Other than the fact you’re tone-patrolling, most people who post here do not suffer fools gladly and will not suffer fools at all if they are unable to move on from being called out and end up doubling down. When you get your shit called out, either you just deal with it and move on or – as displayed here – others will be less tolerant of your presence.

I’m speaking as someone who has, at several points, acted like a shithead and that was rightfully called out by someone here. Y’know what I usually did? I looked back at what I said, realize I was out of line, apologize, and do my best to avoid it in the future. Because, sometimes, self-improvement involves realizing you did something wrong after someone rightfully points it out to you.

It doesn’t help that you seem more concerned about how someone’s comment made you feel bad than if what you said was actually misogynistic – which tends to be a sign you care less about the subject at hand and more about your own ego.

Are you sure someone told you something you said came off a misogynistic? Not that you were a misogynist? ‘Cause that’s all I’m seeing. Freemage didn’t call you such, no one else here has, and Dlouwe’s comment cements that further.

I haven’t seen the discussion you mentioned, being as I don’t read the comment sections for each post, but the fact you have to bring it up here as well is rather telling…and not in a good way.

Makroth
Makroth
4 years ago

Joe, if it makes you feel better, i want you to know that i don’t think you’re a sexist. I think you’re a moron.