I met Andrew only twice. Before I attended law school, I enjoyed a moderately successful career as an actor and writer in Los Angeles. Andrew and I hung out in, shall we say, the same circle of friends.
The first time Andrew and I met was no more than an introduction. The second time was a reintroduction . . . and, at minimum, a two-hour conversation. More accurately, Andrew engaged in a stream of consciousness on myriad topics and I threw in my two cents when I could. What I remember most is how nice he was. To everybody. Even to those with whom he disagreed. As long as they were reasonable. I also remember his passion for ideas. And his irrepressible and contagious enthusiasm and energy. But I only met him a couple of times.
And here’s the funny thing: his death hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s bizarre. A guy I met twice (and spoke with once) died a week ago and it really shook me up, and I’m still processing it a week later. Bizarre. But, judging by the tributes, remembrances, and tweets honoring Andrew, I’m not alone. But how can this be? Why do so many people who met Andrew once or twice – or never – feel his loss so greatly? I think I have an answer.
Andrew was absolutely authentic.
To meet Andrew once, to have one brief conversation with him (although I don’t imagine Andrew engaged in brief conversations), was to know him. Not as deeply as his life-long friends knew him. Not as deeply as those who worked with him knew him. Certainly not as intimately as his family knew him. But to meet Andrew was to know him.
He was who he was. All the time. Regardless of who he was with. He also had the ability to empower people to stand up for their beliefs, to stop cowering in the face of leftist blacklists and the omnipresent threat of leftist ire. More than his words, his actions inspired. He was already doing what he encouraged others to do.
In her novel, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote:
I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win—and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was “No.”
Andrew understood that America’s culture is one of ideas, and that ideas that support reason, individualism, and liberty are our weapons in the current culture clash. Andrew also recognized that Hollywood, academia, and the news media were taken over and run by leftists and leftist sympathizers, that the news media wasn’t reporting news, but shaping it. Andrew had the chutzpah to shout that the emperors of Hollywood, academia, and news media had no clothes.
Andrew stood up and, in his colorful way, said “No.”
He withdrew his moral sanction and called leftists what they are: hypocritical, unthinking, elitist know-nothings bent on replacing liberty with their brand of tyranny. He held a mirror up to the left and revealed its impotence. He questioned their false narrative. The below video is just one example:
But Andrew’s magic was his ability to make anyone with a passion for liberty-supporting ideas feel like they could hold up that mirror too, feel like they could fight back in the name of something better: freedom.
I hear people say that Andrew is irreplaceable. In one respect he is: we will never see the likes of him again. Only Andrew Breitbart could be Andrew Breitbart.
However, regarding the movement he led, I don’t subscribe to the idea that he was irreplaceable. Instead, I agree with the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” meme that’s going around – that the people he inspired will take Andrew’s place and stand up for liberty; will call out leftist hypocrisy and leftist bullying whenever and wherever they can; and that this will have a greater affect on the country than Andrew could ever achieve on his own. Like the fictional Obi-Wan (no offense Star Wars fans), Andrew’s death may make for a more effective and powerful pro-liberty movement.
At CPAC, a few weeks before his death, Andrew passionately pointed out the stark choice before us: America or Occupy. We will choose reason and individualism. We will choose liberty. We will choose America.
And this, I think, will be Andrew’s legacy.