After conservative activist and publisher Andrew Breitbart died Wednesday night, obituaries have scattered like buckshot across the mediasphere. While many have focused on his controversial stunts, right-wing investigations and exciting vocabulary, Wired's Noah Shachtman had a different approach.
"I remember him as sort of a goofy, very intense, very zany, foul-mouthed magnetic personality," Schachtman told KPCC.
Breitbart was a mainstay in Schachtman's circle during the mid-2000s, a wide nexus of wannabe journalists in the Los Angeles scene who would get together to do shots and discuss leads over cocktails.
"Back then, anyone who was a non-entertainment reporter — from the lowliest blogger to the high-vaulted columnist — hung out together," explained Schachtman. "Andrew was a part of that. It was only later that this other persona emerged."
While Schachtman is quick to add Breitbart was still "a partisan, a deep one," back when Schachtman knew him best the future conservative media megalith was "more interested in shooting the s--- with friends than in picking political fights."
"Andrew wanted to make a name for himself as a conservative in L.A. and as a freethinker," said Schachtman. His column claimed that Breitbart saw himself "as a high school nerd, about to wreak vengeance on the press’s popular kids with his new media plays."
He also, reportedly, had terrible taste in music.
"The more awful the synthesizer, the better he liked the band," summed up Schachtman (after adding a disclaimer that he himself was more into punk than new wave).
It would take Breitbart barely three years to make a name for himself, using his intuitive knowledge of the Internet to build an online publishing empire that ran from Huffington Post to the Drudge Report. Breitbart would later use his media connections and far-flying brain to trap everyone from Anthony Weiner to ACORN to Shirley Sherrod.
But when asked what Breitbart's legacy is, Schachtman says he "needs to think about it for a minute."
"Andrew sat at a really interesting intersection between activist, prankster, blogger and old-school journalist," Schachtman said. "He pushed media in directions it unconsciously wanted to go to, but maybe didn't know it wanted to go to."