Chez Pazienza woke up one morning earlier this month and found an email from Andrew Breitbart — Matt Drudge protege, founder of Breitbart.com and other right-wing news sites — waiting for him in his inbox. He was immediately suspicious of its authenticity; the email was riddled with typos, devoid of capitalization, and apparently mailed at 3:30 in the morning.
“I went and checked the email address to see if it was him, because my first thought was, ‘why the hell would he bother with me?’” he told me in a recent phone interview.
The email responded to a post Pazienza had written on his blog, Deus Ex Malcontent, referencing a Salon article that had accused James O’Keefe, the ACORN-punking “pimp” that Breitbart has invested serious time and money in promoting, of being a racist. The Deus Ex Malcontent post wasn’t particularly critical of Breitbart or O’Keefe — it simply opined that whether O’Keefe was a racist was irrelevant because both sides of the political divide had already made up their minds — but that didn’t stop Breitbart from treating it as if it was.
“you’re insinuation that james is a racist is equally egregious,” Breitbart wrote. “does it ever dawn on you that we conservatives can’t fathom how lefties can’t see how horrible their social policies have turned out to be for poor and minorities.”
The 3:30 a.m. email bizarrely ended with a reference to the movie Footloose.
“It was weird, it caught me off guard,” Pazienza told me. “I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what Breitbart would want with me.”
But this kind of Breitbart-launched offensive is nothing new or out-of-the-ordinary. While much attention has been given to the conservative’s attacks on traditional media outlets –through his Big Government site, interviews on MSNBC, and speeches at CPAC — he has been actively and aggressively going after bloggers and social media users who criticize him, a trend that has only intensified as more and more controversies surround James O’Keefe III in the wake of his arrest in Louisiana.
“There’s no question that when O’Keefe got busted trying to tamper with a US senator’s phone, it kind of freaked Breitbart out,” Brad Friedman, who owns the progressive Brad Blog, told me. Friedman has been on the forefront of reporting on issues and revelations surrounding O’Keefe, including the recent bombshell that the young conservative never actually dressed as a pimp when he went into ACORN offices, a fact that even Breitbart has been forced to acknowledge. He has also been a frequent recipient of the conservative’s scorn, especially via @ replies on his Twitter account. At one point he even jokingly suggested that Friedman should be subjected to capital punishment.
“We’re his only threat,” Friedman said, referring to progressive bloggers. He cited the New York Times’ reluctance to offer retractions for its erroneous reporting on O’Keefe’s pimp outfit as an example of the traditional media’s hesitation to go after Breitbart. “[The mainstream media's] scared to death of him, because they don’t know how to stand up to bullies. And Breitbart is a bully, make no mistake … Unfortunately, the progressive blogosphere and the readers who write letters to the [Times'] public editor, demanding a correction, we’re the only threat to Breitbart.”
Lately, Breitbart has been increasingly retweeting links from his detractors, links that often lead to blog posts and articles that are critical of him. Though he doesn’t offer commentary with the retweet, his followers often do so for him. Pazienza, for instance, was surprised one day when he received a flurry of angry @ replies from Breitbart’s followers after the conservative had tweeted a link to a Deus Ex Malcontent post critical of his Big Hollywood site.
“The thing about him beating up on little people on Twitter, that’s not new,” said Tommy Christopher, a correspondent for Mediaite. Chistopher was one of several bloggers who engaged in heated debates with Breitbart during CPAC. He recalled an incident several months ago in which Breitbart retaliated against a Twitter user who had bashed him by posting personal information about her and making vaguely threatening statements. “I spoke to him for like three hours that night, and he got really worked up about it. At the end he admitted that he stepped over the line a little bit, but this is something he does. When people attack him, he basically fights back just as hard.”
Christopher attributed much of Breitbart’s aggressiveness to “paranoia,” something that runs so deep that he’ll lash out at even the smallest criticism, even if it’s coming from someone who doesn’t have much of an audience.
“He’s definitely heaviliy invested in ACORN and O’Keefe and obviously in the outcome of whatever happens to O’Keefe in Louisiana. He has definitely racheted up the belligerence, because he stepped up with the intensity of the attacks. The encounter we had in the hotel [at CPAC] was quite a bit different than any time I’ve intereacted with him in the past.”
Of course, it hasn’t escaped me that this article I’m currently writing isn’t exactly flattering to Breitbart, so forgive me if I indulge in my own paranoia for a moment:
What will happen if and when he reads it?