Andrew Breitbart, the Web entrepreneur, writer, provocateur and television personality who died suddenly last week at 43, always described himself as an "accidental culture warrior." For the few years Breitbart was given to fight the fight, his conversion from Hollywood guy to culture warrior was one of the most fortunate accidents ever to befall the conservative world.
Breitbart did a lot of things. But for the right, by far the most important thing he did was teach, again and again and again, that culture is upstream from politics.
Breitbart knew instinctively, as people in Washington, D.C., and most other places did not, that movies, television programs and popular music send out deeply political messages every hour of every day. They shape the culture, and then the culture shapes politics. Influence those films and TV shows and songs, and you'll eventually influence politics.
The left had known that for generations, but on the right, so many people in politics thought only about politics. To Breitbart, that was folly. "The people who have money, every four years at the last possible second, are told, 'You need to give millions of dollars, because these four counties in Ohio are going to determine the election,'" Breitbart told the National Policy Council in October 2009. "I am saying, why didn't we invest 20 years ago in a movie studio in Hollywood, why didn't we invest in creating television shows, why didn't we create institutions that would reflect and affirm that which is good about America?"
Breitbart was close with the small -- but not as small as you might think -- group of conservatives in the Hollywood entertainment world. They were fond of citing various quotes from history to the effect that those who write a nation's songs are more influential than those who write a nation's laws. Breitbart's friends in the entertainment industry were extraordinarily talented, accomplished people, but many felt they had to stay quiet about their politics. They had real reason to fear that being outspokenly conservative would hurt their careers in a way that being outspokenly liberal would not.