It began with a piece by Friedersdorf in the Daily Beast. While chiding the New York Times for missing the ACORN scandal, he insisted it's a "net benefit to humanity," and more even-handed than Breitbart's unabashedly rightwing websites:
[Breitbart] is a leader among folks who complain that the Times is a pernicious force in American life--that it ignores stories that cut against its ideological bent, too often makes mistakes in its reporting, and gives insufficient consideration to ideological insights other than those held by its staff. This is somewhat odd given that Mr. Breitbart's media empire, and the outlets with which he most closely associates himself, are thoroughly ideological enterprises, publish few if any ideologically heterodox pieces, seldom if ever correct factual mistakes, and ignore liberal insights entirely.Breitbart scribbled an indignant counterattack, which he passed along to middleman Andrew Sullivan and posted on his own site, Big Government. Friedersdorf shifted terrain, blasting back at the The American Scene. Here's where they broke down:
- Breitbart: "Breitbart.com is MOSTLY a news aggregator. It carries the Associated Press, Reuters, even, Agence France Presse, from those dreaded croissant eaters!!! ... When lefties have asked to challenge something written at either site I have granted them the ability to do so ... As you well know, I was the person who came up with the idea behind the Huffington Post ... I stated what I believe today: Let's put it all out there, and may the best ideas win. Is it insignificant that I was behind the left's most prominent blog/media site?"
- Friedersdorf: "It isn't insignificant -- it's telling. I submit that The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report, two projects with which Mr. Breitbart are associated, share many of the same flaws -- that is to say, visit those sites on any given day and you're likely to see a misleading/sensationalistic headline that spins the news to attract an audience that prefers to exist inside an ideological cocoon."
ON QUALITY JOURNALISM
- Breitbart: "Big Government, too, is providing an outlet for voices and ideas that are not proportionally represented in the traditional and mostly biased mainstream media ... I believe that you [Sullivan] and Conor would like to paint me into a corner, the one you are currently trying to paint Glenn Beck into."
- Friedersdorf: "I am trying to paint him into a corner! ... what I am after is for him to do better journalism ... He and I agree ... that we should 'put it all out there, and may the best ideas win.' But that model of public discourse requires a commitment to accuracy, arguing in good faith, exposing people to ideas with which they disagree rather than contributing to the cocooning of American media, challenging one's audience as much as one panders to them, avoiding bombastic hyperbole, etc. I'd like to provoke Mr. Breitbart to do those things, whether by persuading him that it's best for the country, or that it's best for his purposes, or shaming him into living up to the standards to which the right holds other enterprises."
- Breitbart: "Conor Friedersdorf refuses to interview me as he continues to be my unofficial biographer ... I don't resent criticism. I embrace it. But I do resent self-superior journalists attempting to malign me and my vision without coming to me to get my thoughts. I'm glib and quotable and even prone to slip up. Try me!"
- Friedersdorf: "I want to note that I've repeatedly complimented Mr. Breitbart for publishing the ACORN pieces on Big Government, and dubbed him a savvy media critic who lands some punches against his targets ... What we disagree on, apparently, is whether the right's press outlets should adopt some of the core journalistic values that the mainstream media claims as their own, though they often fall short of them. I regard that as a question that Mr. Breitbart and I could profitably debate, if he is game."