Former Boston Phoenix staff writer Chris Faraone traveled the nation and even got arrested while writing his 2011 book 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, a collection of essays and reporting from Occupy Wall Street encampments all over the country. This year, he’s written and released I Killed Breitbart, another collection of his reporting from the now-defunct Phoenix, especially stories he regards as “countless other causes of conservative consternation.” PW caught up with Faraone to speak about his latest work—and how he managed to “murder” late conservative icon Andrew Breitbart.
PW: So, the first time we met, you told me this story of your telling the now-late Andrew Breitbart to “Stop raping people.” Care to refresh my memory? What happened there?
CHRIS FARAONE: I was on the big conservative station in Boston, arguing with one moron caller after another. After about 10 minutes, during commercials, they asked if I wanted to stay. I was promoting my new book about Occupy at the time, so I obliged, only to find out that Andrew Breitbart was calling in for some weekly segment that he did with them. It took me by surprise, to say the least, but I snapped out of the shock within a few seconds, and started screaming right at him, ‘Stop raping people! Stop raping people!’ After that, we scrapped for another 10 minutes. He more or less got the best of me, especially measuring by his goal posts, but I was a formidable enough opponent that he agreed, at the urging of the hosts, to debate me again on the same station, at the same time.
And he dropped dead the next day. What was your initial reaction?
I simply didn’t believe it. After I saw that it was real, I had a day or two of ‘Holy fucking shit.’ Then it became a mixture of a joke—one friend’s father, for example, gave me a list of other conservative assholes he wanted me to fight with—and some serious shit, as I landed squarely in the crosshairs of a few Breitbart minions.
How long until you came up with the idea for I Killed Breitbart?
I toyed with a few other titles and ideas, but when I finally came to terms with what a fucking shitbag he was—the type of soulless parasite who cripples social justice organizations and orchestrates character assassinations from his plush bar stool in the nicest neighborhood in Los Angeles—then I settled into it quickly. Really, the ‘I Killed Breitbart’ part is the introduction—a long one at 8,500 words—in which I satirize the vitriolic fire that mouth-breathers like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity vomit on an hourly basis. The rest of the book falls into the context of that critical perspective, but also looks at the left and the growing police state in which these cultural and political revolutions take place.
The title isn’t meant largely to piss off conservatives, especially those who held Breitbart in such a positive light, is it?
It’s more just me saying that I don’t give a shit if I piss them off. As it turns out, I also pissed off a lot of neo-liberals who think my approach is in poor taste. That’s another one of my main points, though: that lefties, or at least people who call themselves liberal, are nowhere near quick enough to fight flames with flames. I’d say they’re getting nowhere, but I’ve come to believe that a lot of them don’t want to, as their instincts toward privatization and corporate charity are far more conservative than anything else.
What do you think about the role Breitbart played in American media, and do you think there will be long-lasting effects from his tactics?
I think Breitbart made more of an impact than a lot of his critics and even fans may realize. Unlike the other bigs—Hannity, Limbaugh, etc.—who are more or less cut off from the public, Breitbart entertained even his craziest followers and communicated with an infantry of amateur bloggers on a nonstop basis. This was his real genius. There are still thousands of losers out there who think he was their best friend. And when they read this, instead of snapping out of the bullshit fog and realizing how pathetic they are with their nasty little kindergarten-reading-level blogs, they’ll just get even madder at people like me.
One of the other pieces in your book is something I remember reading in the Phoenix—the story of Nadia Naffe and Breitbart acolyte James O’Keefe. How’d you get that story, and why do you think conservatives continue to show so much love for O’Keefe despite Naffe’s story?
Here’s the thing about this ferocious and despicable breed of conservative blog rat: For the most part, they’re miserable and shallow bastards, and they’re willing to sell their mother out for a retweet. If I were to die tomorrow, I’m pretty sure my colleagues, sources and associates wouldn’t maliciously leak my source material and emails, but in his case, they did, because they’re all dirtbags with zero integrity, just like their mentor. The same goes for James O’Keefe. Thanks to a whole bunch of leakage, assumedly spurred by their depravity, I was able to put together one of the most up-close and personal accounts of how Breitbart, O’Keefe and all sorts of their conservative minions orchestrate assaults on the media, minorities and working people alike.
This is now your second collection of writing you’ve sold as a book. How have you seen the process change between 99 Nights with the 99 Percent and I Killed Breitbart?
On a completely geeky tip, I’m really into ebooks and also presenting books and stories in new ways. This project is exclusively electronic, at least for now, but unlike my last book, it’s available in the iTunes bookstore, in addition to on Amazon Kindle. That’s helped a lot. I’ve been selling a good number of books to people who are reading on mobile platforms. I’ve also found it helpful to put a kick-ass sampler online that’s free for people to check. The crew that helps me with that—the people behind the Marquee platform, also used for Narratively, and my good friend Clarence Smith, Jr. of Bold Edition—really helped make it pop. I’m happy to try just about anything and everything—I even made promotional rolling papers—especially since the overhead is relatively cheap, compared to what it was back in the day when independent publishers had to print thousands of books at a time and make huge up-front investments. It’s the wild west out here.