A 33-year-old man died this week in a fiery car crash in the early morning hours in Los Angeles. A tragedy, as it is when anyone dies before their time. But this man's name was Michael Hastings, and his death set off a week of media praise and adulation about his all-too-short life that is telling in more ways than anything the subject of it ever exposed.
Hastings didn't cure cancer, he didn't invent anything that makes life better, he wrote words. Michael Hastings was a journalist. And if there is one thing journalists love more than anything else it's heaping praise, especially posthumously, on other journalists.
It's a vanity rarely seen outside of journalism (the exception being Hollywood), when someone dies they are praised in a way most of the praisers would like to eventually be praised themselves. It's a sick sort of preemptive self-obituary for the narcissistic class.
I must state here that this is in no way an attack on Michael Hastings, a man I didn't know and whose work I only vaguely realized I was familiar with after reading of his death. Nor is it an attack on his family or friends who mourn his passing. It's no one's business how people cope with a loved one’s loss and I have empathy for the hell they're going through now.
But I've gone through this before, losing a friend long before his time, and I'm struck by the dissimilarity in how many of these same people, and many in this same profession, struck a decidedly converse tone then compared to now.
My friend’s name was Andrew Breitbart, and while he was a decade older than Hastings, his death was no more sudden and no less tragic. But the reaction to it was dramatically different because Andrew committed the ultimate sin today's dominant media culture - he refused to conform.
Calling it liberal media bias is too easy, and too small. For all their talk of "rebels" and "speaking truth to power," the one thing the media culture values more than anything is conformity. Not Conformity of clothes, of hairstyles, tattoos or anything superficial, but the most dangerous and damaging type – conformity of thought.
Not to belittle the work of Hastings, but the thing most cited about him by those marking his passing this week is that he wrote a story that "brought down" a General. He wrote a story for Rolling Stone that led to the resignation of General Stanley McCrystal, the then commanding General of allied forces in Afghanistan. It was a big story at the time, hyped by the media as a massive scoop, but most people would be hard-pressed to tell you any of the details even if you offered them a lot of money to do it.
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