Tag Archives: Huffington Post

Hating Breitbart: The Movie

New Orleans   Andrew Breitbart was the face and force behind a number of high traffic websites during his career, ended suddenly with a fatal heart attack more than a year ago.  He played a role in helping set up the liberal Huffington Post, but at his death was best known for his “big” sites, especially Big Government, a right wing love feast.  To goose the traffic on these sites, Breitbart courted controversy including releasing cellphone photos that became the undoing of Anthony Weiner, now a former Congressman from New York City, and potential candidate for Mayor there, but perhaps his best known escapades were based on his partnership with the even more controversial conservative activist and videographer, James O’Keefe, especially his ACORN takedown.

Interestingly, I interviewed Andrew Marcus, the director of a documentary about Breitbart, called Hating Breitbart, yesterday on my weekly “Wade’s World” show on Friday morning’s at 9AM, since the movie was appearing at the Little Rock Film Festival.  Marcus’ route to the movie had been circuitous.  Coming out of film school in Chicago he became fascinated with filming protests because of the “human drama” that always emerged through the camera.  He created a blog on protest films, and next thing he knew he was filming Cindy Sheehan, the Iraq war casualty’s mother, protesting at President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch, and in the process the experience radicalized him as he witnessed what he saw as a double standard of lax reporting by the national media about the protests and the infrastructure that made them possible.  From there it was a short leap to catching the Tea Party as it grew and to then bonding with Breitbart, who he met while filming him speaking at a tea party, and gathering the footage that becomes Hating Breitbart.

Marcus confirmed in our conversation that Breitbart was in many ways apolitical.  He liked a good fight and wanted to build his business, so he was a happy warrior in some ways who became a conservative darling.  Certainly Breitbart’s real passion, shared by the director, was poking the rest of the media in the eye.  All of which seems natural to me, because he wanted to make his web-voice stand out in the herd.  Marcus, and perhaps Breitbart and many on the right, see the media’s indifference not as incompetence, but conspiracy, not as laziness, but bias and design.  Ironically, this view would find much common cause on the left as well, where victimization can also be a common complaint.  Marcus’ “hating” theme comes from his perspective that the antipathy stirred by Breitbart discolored the true man, but Marcus is surely aware that the “hating” from the right as well and the demonization of politics, politicians, and organizations, like ACORN, is equally obscuring.

Marcus seemed defensive about questions concerning James O’Keefe and his relationship with Breitbart, wanting to define O’Keefe as a “freelancer” and ignore the factual history of Breitbart’s dissembling about his financial and professional relationship with O’Keefe for months before admitting to it, which is anything but something described in the common vernacular of publisher to freelance journalist.  Marcus wanted to have questions about O’Keefe and his plummeting credibility around fake presentation of video on ACORN, legal settlements in San Diego for harm he inflicted on an ACORN worker, and the fiasco he was involved with in tampering with phones in Senator Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans field office, referred to O’Keefe directly.  At one point he even offered to give me O’Keefe’s phone number on the air, which would have been a huge privacy breach that I declined.  He was disturbed that people didn’t understand that the final settlement on the Landrieu case was for a misdemeanor and not a felony, which is hardly the point.  I asked if O’Keefe had any questions now about how stupid a stunt it was, but the answer was again a phone number for O’Keefe.  He also expressed amazement that people saw O’Keefe’s fake pimp video promo getup on his ACORN assault as “racist.”   Wow!

All of which inevitably leads to the conclusion that he got so close to the subject that he lost perspective.  What in some situations might have been an interesting and nuanced film about contradictions often missed by participants but shared by activists on both sides of the line, seemed increasingly to have been an attempt to hoist a banner on a battleground now abandoned by a warrior for another lost and forgotten cause.

Hating Breitbart Audio Blog

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FCC Gives Comcast a Slap for Reneging on Agreements for Broadband Access

New Orleans    No sooner are we dissecting Comcast and VP David Cohen’s remarks about metering broadband access than later in the day Gerry Smith, the Huffington Post tech writer, breaks the story of the FCC’s announcement of a settlement with the company over their foot dragging on their agreement to market a fixed rate broadband plan for 3 years as another condition of their $13+billion acquisition of NBC/Universal.  The set of circumstances is frighteningly similar to the identical follow through failure of Comcast on its promises to provide a low-cost package to low income families to lower the digital divide.

According to the FCC as reported by Smith:

To win FCC approval for the $13.8 billion deal last January, Comcast pledged to “visibly offer and actively market” a standalone broadband service to customers for $50 a month for three years.

The FCC imposed the condition to ensure the merged company did not force customers to buy bundled services such as cable television when they only wanted high-speed Internet.

But the FCC said a year-long investigation found that Comcast failed to mention the standalone broadband service, known as “Performance Starter,” in mailings to many customers, did not make the service easy to find on its website, and did not offer the service at its retail locations.

“The bureau investigated and found that while Comcast had made some efforts to comply, it had failed to fully implement the condition,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said.

Sound familiar?  Indeed!  This is precisely what our coalition has been saying to Comcast and its representatives from Cohen on down for months now about the so-called “Internet Essentials” program.  Yes, they have “made some efforts to comply” with the order to offer access to the poor, but they have absolutely “failed to fully implement the condition.”   And, in an identical bait-and-switch move, Comcast seems to have run the same scams on Performance Starter that we have found on Internet Essentials:  not telling people, making it virtually impossible to access on website and phones, since these are folks without internet, and refusing to offer at accessible retail locations (only 1 location in all of Harris County where they have a dozen outlets!).  Remember in the greater Houston area they have only allowed about 2000 to survive the maze to get the service and in Philly, I’ll be kind, and say less than 500 lower income families have been able to gain access.  Sign our Petition here!

Cohen has conceded to us directly in a recent meeting in Philadelphia that, yes, if a lower income family calls the regular Comcast number rather than making it through their maze to the special Internet Essentials number that Comcast will up-sell poor families to their higher end access offerings and not the lower access program they promised via Internet Essentials and the FCC order.  Smith mentions our protests and efforts obliquely in the story and acknowledges that the Internet Essentials program has been much more “controversial.”  The reports Comcast shared with us indicated hardly 40,000 had been enrolled in the program nationally, though Smith and the Huffington Post somehow are reporting a figure more than four times that of 160,000, which seems very suspicious and unlikely.  Comcast would have had to pull a rabbit out of a hat to achieve that in the short time since our meetings with them about these figures several months ago.  Their spokesperson was quoted in another dissembling remark as saying they will have a report soon.  Sounds a little bit like a report of election results in Iran, where they are manufacturing the numbers before the vote count.

I would like to believe that this announcement is a sign that the FCC is finally standing up to Comcast.  They claim this is the result of a year-long investigation.  The fine was less than a million, so the FCC may have spent more shuffling papers on this for a year than Comcast is actually paying in a fine.  There was no mention that the FCC is looking into the Internet Essentials failure which would have seemed to have been something they could have done at the same time.

The only real hope in all of this besides the fact that Comcast has had to admit that they were caught red handed is that Senator Al Franken and his committee seems to be following this closely.  Perhaps now we can move his attention to the shame and scandal of digital access to the poor!

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