Many readers of this site will remember the phrase, “friends… with potential,” from Cameron Crowe’s timeless tale of teenage love, “Say Anything…” For those who aren’t familiar with it: When the object of John Cusack’s passion, Ione Skye, says in a coffee shop that despite their growing feelings for one another, she can’t be involved in a love affair at that time, he replies, “Relax, we’re just having coffee. We’ll be anti-social.” She asks, “Friends?” He replies, “Friends – with potential.” Despite her intentions, they fell deeply in love – the kind of love to which every rational person aspires.
Great working partnerships are similar, I believe: an acknowledgement of the compatibility of two souls to engage in something that is important, that could change the world. John Lennon and Paul McCartney enjoyed such a partnership for a time. So did Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. So did Bill Gates and Paul Allen. So did Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. So did Rodgers and Hammerstein. So did Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In each of those cases, 1+1 added up to much more than 2.
That was the kind of working relationship that I hoped and firmly believed that, given the opportunity, Andrew and I could have realized. And one of the great regrets of my life is that we were unable to discover if this potential, which I saw so clearly, could have come true.
Who am I – and what possessed me to have such a grand aspiration?
I was a something of a friend of Andrew’s – even though we were never in the same room together. I say “something of a friend” because I think the word “friend,” unlike the Facebook definition, connotes people who get together on a regular basis… whose kids play together on Sunday afternoons in one of their back yards, etc. We weren’t that kind of friends.
And yet, as I describe below, Andrew trusted me enough to toss around ideas, and confide very personal things that were concerning him. Our communications took place mostly via phone, but also through email. On a professional level, over the four years we were in contact, I sensed that if given the opportunity, the two of us had such powerful, complementary skills, that we could do great things together, for liberty. I guess I envisioned the potential of us being sort of a Lennon-McCartney of media and activism to advocate and defend liberty.
Occupationally, I am a Charlottesville, VA-based multimedia designer-writer-creative consultant. My professional website is here. I specialize in developing analytical graphics & visualizations; in summary, converting complex data into visual media that the average person can quickly grasp and retain. Since 2000, I’ve applied this skill primarily to consulting on and designing legal presentations. When and where possible, I’ve also applied my skills to the advocacy and defense of liberty; see my portfolio here. I’m also completing my first book, about the transformative power that a “miracle” dog can have on a troubled person’s life; learn more here.
Like Andrew, I am also a staunchly pro-Israel secular Jew. And like him, politically I am a small-L libertarian, who believes in the Constitutional limitations on the federal government, and our Founders’ vision for maximum freedom, security and privacy of individuals.
Andrew and I first made contact sometime in 2008, before he was a household name. It was about the time that this article was published, which discussed the upcoming debut of the first of his “Big” sites, “Big Hollywood.” A mutual media acquaintance put us together due to what I’ll describe, for now, as a “significant mutual concern” regarding an entity that is deliberately, maliciously undermining American liberty. The full story may come out in a future book. For now, let’s just say it was something we both judged to be very important (though particularly to me, at that time)
I felt there was an instant sense of mutual respect between us. I respected him for all he’d achieved thus far (with Drudge, HuffPo, Breitbart.com and his regular column at The Washington Times), and especially for what he was then embarking upon: to turn Big Hollywood into a viable site that could really lure out more and more conservatives and libertarians from tinseltown who, until then, were too afraid to make their voices known. I mean, who would embark on a mission like that, except for a true American patriot, a pioneer, a visionary?
And I know he respected me for my varied creative, graphic, writing and analytical skills, which at that time I was primarily applying to consulting on courtroom presentations – but which I aspired to leverage for the cause of liberty. Although he didn’t see as fully as I’d hoped the full potential of how my skills could make his work more effective, I think he sensed that if my enthusiasm could be matched with sheer presentation ability, he could have found a very valuable ally in me. As I describe soon, a few months before he passed he called to discuss a practical application for my skills in his work.
He also trusted me, as a friend. Sometimes, particularly at night when he was on long drives to or from civic events in Southern California, he shared some very personal aspects of his life, his aspirations and his past, that gave texture and added dimension to the man, the hero I later saw so regularly on TV. The man who sacrificed so much time away from the wife and children he adored, to nurture his work. I remembered and reflected on those conversations, and how much he enriched my life, after he passed.
The unfulfilled potential of our friendship
Andrew’s enthusiasm and love for American were absolutely infectious. Every conversation we had, particularly the earlier ones, I looked forward to and savored, because I knew I was in the presence of greatness. I guess it might be comparable to speaking to a Babe Ruth, or a Muhammed Ali, or a Ronald Reagan, before they reached their ultimate potential; before they had their moment in the sun, and were fully exploiting all their skills, in pursuit of a dream. That’s how I felt whenever Andrew and I spoke in those early times; that one day, I would be able to say, “I knew him when…”
Ultimately, I would have wanted to say, “I worked with Andrew Breitbart.” I hoped that we would, one day, have the chance to sit down together so he could see some of the means by which I hoped to translate basic concepts of liberty, of limited constitutional government, of individual rights, into 3D animated visualizations. He was intrigued by the concept, and the potential, and we kept deferring getting together for this purpose.
“Brilliant!! I love it!! Do it!!”
Andrew had engaged me in a few tasks to help out the causes we care about. One that I will always remember is how, a few days after it was discovered in April 2010 that radical leftists were planning on attending Tea Party events while pretending to be Nazis, etc. in front of TV cameras, I called Andrew and described some funny, downloadable signs I could create, that would enable (real) Tea Partiers to show that the faker was not with them.
Andrew burst out laughing, and said six words that made me feel the glow of a compliment from this man, who I’d come to respect so much: “Brilliant!! I love it!! Do it!!”. He wanted me to produce and send the signs to him as soon as possible. I did so within the next few hours, and Andrew’s Big Government editor, Mike Flynn, posted them here. I asked only to be credited as “JS.” Due to my personal situation, I wanted to keep a low profile. Mike turned that into, “the great JS.” I had a good laugh over that one.
I learned, once again, that our time is not infinite: Andrew passed away on March 1, 2012
Andrew and I periodically discussed some of the ways that my analytical graphics and visualization skills could be fully brought to bear for his exposes. The most recent of these discussions took place in December 2011, when he indicated he had something big coming up to follow up on his exposure of the Pigford scandal. But again, we deferred getting together.
Ultimately, I guess, each of us kept thinking, “Well, one of these months/years, we will get together, “ as if we had all the time in the world, as if he and I would live forever.
What a shock to discover that we wouldn’t.
I became aware that Andrew had passed during a discussion I was having with one of my best friends, Rob Schilling, on whose Charlottesville, VA radio program Andrew had appeared about a year earlier, thanks in part to my opening the door between them (audio here). I had called Rob first thing in the morning with an update on some other business. Knowing of my affection and respect for Andrew, he replied by saying he guessed I hadn’t heard the big news — that Andrew died the night before. Rob heard my shock, and me beginning to weep, as he described what he’d heard in the news.
In retrospect, I know that my shock and grief should have been felt first and foremost for Andrew’s wife, children and closest friends. But instead, I initially grieved for America, and for the Tea Party movement. It felt to me like our generation’s George Washington, our Patrick Henry, our Thomas Paine, had been struck down, mid-way through America’s War for Independence. It was as if a force of nature, a supernova, had been silenced… just as it approached the zenith of its purpose in life. Andrew’s public purpose was, as he told me (and America) on numerous occasions, to change the world – literally. And he’d gotten a good foothold with which to do so. After beginning to think of (and weep, once again) his wife and kids, though, I became very selfish, and catered to my own grief, not only because I had lost a friend, but in honor of what could have been.
Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum strong enough, and I’ll move the world.” Andrew’s energy and vision served as his lever; his fulcrum was the vitally important reporting and commentaries on his growing network of “BIG” sites. Together, all of these assets Andrew created are steadily raising public awareness of the cancerous ideas and groups that are eating away at America. They are also inspiring legions of citizen-journalists to act in the finest tradition of American patriots – by taking it upon themselves to become better-informed, more active citizens, so that we may once again become the self-governing, free society that our Founders designed for us.
Why I created this site
Andrew’s sudden, untimely death left his friends and loved ones stunned and heartbroken. In the wake of his passing, I began looking for a website through which to learn more about him, express my thoughts, and share ideas on how to honor and carry forth his work and vision. Such a site didn’t exist.
We each have our own way of grieving. I chose to focus my grief (and modest WordPress skills) on creating the beginnings of such a site.
My hope is to work with Andrew’s family, friends and admirers – old ones and new – to develop this site into a living tribute to him, and his role as a patriot, a friend, an American hero and a visionary.
If you’d like to make contact or have suggestions, email me at jonsutz (at) yahoo (dot) com.
A memoriam to Andrew Breitbart
by Jon Sutz, March 1, 2012
(Note: I wrote the following in the first hour after discovering Andrew had passed. It all seemed to flow out very quickly, and naturally.)
Today, America lost a patriot and a friend. Andrew Breitbart exemplified the finest in the American tradition of demonstrating what one principled, courageous individual could do, to help nurture the seismic changes that he believed were necessary for a more perfect and just society. He had a blast doing it, and inspired everyone around him to have fun, as well.
To some, Andrew was a villain; a man who not merely challenged long-accepted doctrines and establishments – he wanted to overturn them, to cater to his selfishness, and his racist-sexist-homophobic bigotry. As Andrew described in “Righteous Indignation,” forcing his opponents to devolve into that level of attack always signaled a victory — because they’d acknowledged they cannot refute his arguments.
To his admirers, like me, he was carrying forth the rich tradition of America’s Founding Fathers, who were also hated by some for daring to even propose throwing off the yoke of King George’s tyrannical rule. Why upset the established order? Why fight against such a monstrously powerful institution? Why not just accept what is, and seek to compromise on what such a powerful opponent is willing to negotiate?
America was born of an audacious vision: of ordinary people governing themselves, of small, transparent government, dedicated and empowered to doing only the few basic things that individuals could not do for themselves. But it took heroic individuals – individuals who were hated by some, beloved by others, some of whom lost everything in this fight – to win America’s freedom.
Andrew Breitbart would have fit in well with America’s Founding Fathers, and Founding Mothers. While perhaps not as book-schooled as some of them were, Andrew had a magical mix of showmanship and principled persuasiveness. And, he led from the front. He never asked any of his activist friends or colleagues to do anything he was not personally willing to do. The upcoming film, “Hating Bretibart,” describes some of the price he paid for what he accomplished.
A baton has been dropped in the fight to reclaim American liberty, and limited constitutional government. But thousands of Andrew’s admirers are going to pick up that baton, and carry forth in this fight, with his spirit to help guide them, towards the shining city on a hill that was the destination of his soul until the prematurely last beat of his heart.
Rest in peace, Andrew. You will be missed – but more, you will be remembered warmly, by those whose lives and spirits you touched, and who will carry forth the mission you inspired all of us to join.
– Jon Sutz