David Carr had a recent profile of Andrew Breitbart that contained the following passage:
On the Web, there was a huge outpouring of both invective and grief. Dark, unsubstantiated theories that he was murdered mushroomed immediately, while 24 of his friends used the hashtag #DJBreitbart on Twitter to offer a playlist of his beloved ’80s music. His own Twitter account (which included more than 80 tweets sent on the day before his death) now sits as a frozen memorial.
In the days following the death of Mr. Breitbart, many of his admirers adopted a meme of “I am Breitbart,” and vowed to continue his work. But even though his Web site, run by his business partner and lifelong friend Larry Solov, is fully staffed and unveiled a redesign after his death, there could be no real replacement.
For good or ill (and most would say ill), no one did it like Mr. Breitbart.
A friend passed that along, calling it a sneaky smear, and sent me a link to Bill Kristol slamming Carr over it:
“Most would say ill?” Really? I know of no empirical evidence that backs up this statement. If anything, my experience has been the opposite—almost all conservatives would say Andrew was a force for good, and even some liberals would deny he was a force for ill. I think Carr is intelligent enough to know this, and that he wouldn’t have written it. I suspect this parenthesis was added by Times editors who couldn’t stand the notion that innocent people might read Carr’s piece and decide that Andrew’s achievements were, on the whole, admirable.
If I’m wrong, David Carr is free to step forward to take responsibility for this parenthesis—and to defend it. If I’m right, we have here a striking example of the Times’s irresponsibility and mean-spiritedness.
You are about to call me hopelessly naive. But I suggest there might be a third option: Carr meant it as a genuine compliment.
Don’t get me wrong. When I first read the passage, I was angry, and started to bang out an ill-tempered screed about Carr. It was when I started writing the headline that I was forced for the first time to accurate characterize what Carr had really said . . . and I realized that it might actually have been a kind thing to say.
Bear with me.
“Nobody did it like Andrew Breitbart.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? For his admirers, it’s a bad thing, right? We want more people to do it like Andrew Breitbart. Andrew had his faults, but the qualities we admired were so great that, as Carr points out, many people want to carry on his legacy. But nobody was Andrew Breitbart but Andrew Breitbart. And that is a shame.
So if a guy says: “For good or ill (and most would say ill), no one did it like Mr. Breitbart” . . . I’m going to take that as a compliment to Andrew.