A war is never over until both sides say it is, which is probably why the current state of American politics more closely resembles a really bad night in Mogadishu than it does the kind of high-minded debate we like to imagine Roman senators having. This has always been true, and anybody who doubts it might do well to remember why it is that Alexander Hamilton met Aaron Burr on the dueling green. The extent and character of our civic arguments have changed over the years to meet the unique demands and opportunities of the political landscape, but in the age of the Internet and new media, one person did more than most to redefine the rules of engagement in American politics: Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart was a conservative media mogul, which is an understatement on all three words of that description. He got his start in the mid-1990s as an early devotee of the Drudge Report, the Internet’s first big new media presence, where he made a name for himself aggregating content from other sources, and by crafting conservative outlets a) for those hungry for news, opinion and that grey zone where the two cross over and b) for those convinced that the mainstream media was not just biased toward the political left, but was in active collusion with it. Breitbart appreciated early on how the Internet was changing the news cycle, and that there was more news in any given day than one person could possibly take in. This, in turn, led to a rising appetite for news streams that drew from multiple sources and that spoke to a particular angle.