Andrew Breitbart and the Hypocrisies of Rightwing Docs

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by Anthony Kaufman
May 1, 2013 9:33 AM
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The hypocrisies of the rightwing media are fascinating to behold: Claiming bias while engendering further bias; disavowing race and class warfare while fomenting racial and class divides; and taking the position of the victimized underdog while representing the most dominant and powerful ideological positions.

When I first re-launched this blog as ReelPolitik, I came face to face with the wrath and contradictions of the ring-wing after a series of posts criticizing the Sarah Palin documentary "Undefeated." I expect more of the same with a story I've written on "Hating Breitbart," a new film about the late conservative advocacy journalist Andrew Breitbart, in my weekly Docutopia column.

While I was, and continue to be, a small-fry in the new media world, at that time in 2011 Breitbart had found the need to enter the debate on my blog with a personal comment of his own, particularly with some respect to some comments I made devoted to the racial make-up of the Tea Party movement, as shown in the Palin film. After seeing "Hating Breitbart," I was compelled again to bring up some of these racial issues--but not because it's some bete-noire of mine, but because questions of race and racism dominate the Breitbart movie.

As I wrote on the Docutopia blog, "When the majority of a documentary focuses on a central white figure standing in opposition or counterpoint to black people, it only substantiates the claim that unseemly racial politics underscores the conservative movement."

A couple of weeks ago, summarizing a NPR report on conservative docs unveiled at CPAC, I pissed off "Hating Breitbart" director Andrew Marcus by including the film in a post titled, "Right-Wing Unveils More Poorly Made Agit-Docs." While I did not explicitly call "Hating Breitbart" "poorly made," I did infer it with the following statement, discussing rightwing docs, in general: "They are poorly made and poorly reported, are obviously made with little attention to the art of the documentary form, but simply to preach to the converted."

Sure, I shouldn't have made such a claim without seeing many of these films first-hand (although I've seen a couple of others in the past like "Undefeated"). Now having seen "Hating Breitbart," I should take back part of that criticism: I don't think the film is poorly made. It's a conventional, well-edited mix of verite footage and news clips, and Breitbart makes for a compelling documentary subject, with his alternating moods of "jocularity" and "righteous indignation," as he calls them. But I can still call it agit-prop. Marcus never challenges any of Breitbart's claims, but, of course, that's not the film's job. No one who pays to see "Hating Breitbart" is expecting objectivity. They're expecting rightwing political advocacy.

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