This project's funding goal was not reached on June 19, 2013.
This project's funding goal was not reached on June 19, 2013.
Though I’ve only been writing full-time for 10 years, my career has undergone a few metamorphoses. I started as a hip-hop critic, covering music for underground magazines like YRB and Elemental, as well as bigger publications like The Source and Spin. Upon moving to Massachusetts in 2004, I became the lead rap writer for Boston’s Weekly Dig, then soon after took on similar duties at the daily Boston Herald.
Through covering hip-hop, I became increasingly immersed in the subjects that my favorite artists were addressing - education, poverty, inequity. In time I shifted much of my attention to covering these topics, and began writing news and features about everything from youth jobs, to urban violence, to the Oxycontin epidemic in New England. In 2008, I was hired at the legendary Boston Phoenix as a staff writer, where social justice soon became my focus.
From my start at the Phoenix until the magazine’s tragic and abrupt closing this March, I reported on everything from music and technology, to marijuana and murder, to education profiteering, privacy, Anonymous, police brutality, prison abuse, and grotesque institutional bigotry (some of my best recent features will be re-mixed in I Killed Breitbart, but more on that in a moment). There was also the Occupy movement, which I visited in more than two dozen cities for my debut book, 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, which I released on my own Write To Power imprint last year.
In the process, I’ve won accolades from the likes of the New England Newspaper & Press Association, BostInno, and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. It hasn't all been a party though; for my tenacity, I've also been arrested, assaulted, and prosecuted by the city of New York for doing my job while on assignment there. Through my experience in this media minefield, the bumpiest turn came two months ago, when the Phoenix suddenly shuttered. Now, after a few months of considering my next big move, I'm returning to the project I’ve been working on for more than a year. Enter I Killed Breitbart . . .
In September 2011, I set out to cover the Occupy movement from coast-to-coast. Then writing for the now-defunct Phoenix, I reported on the spontaneous grassroots revolt from Miami to New York, Seattle down to Oakland, and on two separate trips to Chicago, where I covered Occupy the Hood efforts that few others paid attention to.
From the beginning of the Occupy beat, I noticed that conservatives - and those on talk radio in particular - were inventing their own narratives, and doing so without even visiting camps. So I reached out to AM producers in Boston and beyond, offering to call-in from all across the country, and to explain what was really cracking on the ground, in the tents.
My mission in this airwave blitz was to amplify the real stories of those who were occupying. To some extent I also accomplished this through a slew of deep profiles and features, which in March 2012 culminated in 99 Nights with the 99 Percent. The effort garnered positive reviews and press, but not without infantile detractors calling me “fat,” lazy, and “homeless.”
I may begrudge my right-wing adversaries, but at the same time I don’t ignore them, like other lefties tend to do. In fact I’m tired of seeing true progressives avoid showdowns with conservatives, only to instead resort to either pouting, or incestuously amplifying one another. So on the week of my book release - in addition to my allies on public, pirate, and underground channels - I engaged far-right radio and its army of demented fanboys.
After spending a half-hour on WRKO - Boston’s home to conservative firebrands like Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh - the producer popped the surprise of my career on me. Live on-air, they pitted me against hot-shot conservative Andrew Breitbart, who began barking about how Occupiers infringed on his right-to-free speech at the CPAC summit a week earlier.
We battled for 10 passionate minutes, during which he landed a few haymakers, while I kept my head up, threw jabs, and worked in some insults ripped directly from his playbook. It was a respectable donnybrook; at the urging of producers, we even scheduled a rematch for the following week. We never got the chance to dance, though, as Breitbart dropped dead the next evening, after enjoying a nightcap near his Los Angeles home.
I’m not sure who - or what, how, or why - actually killed Breitbart. On the day he passed from what the medical examiner called “heart failure,” the rage blog god was courting more than half-a-dozen beefs, one of which - examined at-length in my book - he literally took to his grave, tweeting taunts up to his final moments. My guess is that the mix of all our fury did him in - that compounded by the thick river of vitriol sparking his synapses like steroids.
I Killed Breitbart is a story about clashing with an evil Goliath who represents all things ill and destructive, and then having him fall unexpectedly. It’s also about stepping not just into the arena, but descending into a toxic gauntlet to wrestle on the ugly fringe of right-wing lunacy. It’s about hollering back at inhumane free-market radicals, and most of all, it’s about telling spineless faux-libertarians like Sean Hannity to shut the fuck up, and casting them into history's waste basket alongside slave owners and Klansmen.
I Killed Breitbart, still a puzzle in the works, will be two books in one, all introduced by interplanetary anarchist icon Vermin Supreme, a political-satirical legend and perennial candidate for President of the United States. Moving on, the first half will entirely fly in the ballpark of the main title, beginning with a no-holds-barred intro (7,000 words and counting) about my clashes with Team Breitbart, and my war with the right. From my running into Andrew and other mega-righties at the New Hampshire primaries, to fielding their aggression online, I revisit the most graphic bouts, the most telling tribulations.
Following the intro, I'm hammering away at an expanded, updated version of my final Phoenix blowout, "The Trials of Nadia Naffe." Whereas the introduction tells why the yellow journalism propagated in the right-wing sewer is as petty as it’s putrid, the Naffe story shows the actual fruits of legitimate journalism. I've spent more than 500 hours investigating this saga so far, and by kick-starting it at this juncture, I plan on investing hundreds more. The payoff will be worth it. This is the mother of all GOP take-downs, an indictment worthy of placement alongside Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot on your bookshelf.
The Naffe story has already brought me to New York and Los Angeles, and it's still in the works. To secure more exclusive interviews and documents - both of which I'm spelunking for daily - it looks like I also have some more trips in my immediate future. Hence the Kickstarter; though I crash on couches and eat lots of rice and noodles, this kind of journalism isn't cheap to do. It's also time-consuming; for me to elevate the Naffe story into the definitive takedown of Breitbart, James O'Keefe, and all of their far-right legionnaires, I still have some bridges to cross.
The latter book - subtitle: Countless Other Causes of Conservative Consternation, or COCCC - is split into three sections: The Right, The Left, and The Police - each comprising remixes of my freshest Phoenix moments. For The Right, I revisit hardcore libertarians, Mason-Dixon line militiamen, Glenn Beck fanatics, rapture warriors, and also a few anomalously sane right-wingers. On The Left, I break out my best joints from post-encampment Occupy actions, a number of which involve police beating and arresting both reporters and protesters. There are also exclusive pics from the frontlines, plus previously unreleased dispatches including the Republican counterpart to my LSD adventure at the DNC.
Furthermore, I'll be including dispatches from some truly ridiculous upcoming events - the traveling for which will be funded through this Kickstarter. Right now it looks like I'll most likely be tailing gun rights extremists on their July 4 open-carry march into Washington DC, where they expect to be met with violent government resistance. I'm also making plans to follow workers from a certain corporate behemoth to their company's headquarters, where they will be protesting an executive board meeting. I'm sure there will be other adventures too, though it's impossible to predict everything that could happen between now and August. In this business of illustrating idiocy, there are a lot of twists and turns.
I’m almost as excited about the packaging of these Kickstarter kits as I am about the book itself. My small but gifted ad-hoc squad at Write To Power is determined to offer geek treats that fans of pop and political culture not only want to acquire, but that they can play with, show off, and perhaps even wear or display on a shelf to impress guests - kind of like a southpaw rendition of the Ann Coulter shrine in your angry uncle’s man cave. In the tradition of awesome indie rock and hip-hop swag that I’ve hoarded through the years - countless decals, limited-edition vinyl, an MF Doom lunchbox - I’ve set out to offer keepsakes. Among the incentives at various levels are I Killed Breitbart stickers, full-color posters, hoodies, and T-shirts. In not so many words - while your support is appreciated, we want everyone to get much bang for their buck.
While similar to most Kickstarters in many ways, I’ve set out to style a unique campaign, in which there’s the incentive of backing my work, but also of securing these limited edition items. From the hoodies to the book itself, every inch and image was designed by a carefully selected creative team - Pen & Sword Political Pirates on the site, inimitable photo-realist Steve Weigl on illustration, and many more. It’s a DIY renaissance. Hop on board.
Thanks to many of the friends and readers who are probably scanning this proposal, the last Write To Power project won by several measures. 99 Nights was well-received by notable outlets including Truthout, Esquire, UTNE Reader, and The Economist, the latter of which awarded it superlative status among three Occupy selections reviewed. All that plus a feature about me in Columbia Journalism Review to get things rolling.
On the commercial front, despite limited distribution, we managed to sell significantly more copies than expected, and continue to do so thanks to professors in the US and abroad who have assigned the book to students. I’ve also given away thousands of free downloads of a PDF version, and have debated, lectured, and spoken about Occupy and various related topics at dozens of colleges, conferences, book clubs, and symposiums.
This time around, I want to do an even bigger push, with even more speaking and debating in as many places as possible. Though some entities have compensated me, I don’t always get paid for these gigs; for those of us who eschew crooked interests, there are limited think tank funds in play. But with the Kickstarter backing, I can stand to lose money on some appearances and promo runs - at least hit some major cities, like NY, LA, Chicago, and Philly - as that’s what it takes to spread the word and broadcast my stories.
By propping this project, you’re not just helping me continue writing and investigating. Even better, you’re fueling the independent careers of nearly a dozen of my kickass collaborators - programmers, designers, an animator, an SEO expert, a publicist, a mom-and-pop screen-printing operation. I'm working with each of them personally to execute a memorable multimedia experience that clobbers the expectations for lame traditional releases, and challenges the indie status quo for books. Thanks for your support. It means the world to me.
I do expect to face hurdles, and difficulties, but none that I haven't seen before, and none that will interfere with my executing this project on schedule. For my comments, and for my more controversial writing, I've been trolled relentlessly, and have even received death threats online and been harassed in person. It's only bound to get worse, and for that I'm prepared.
Supporters can be assured that nothing will stop me from firing polemics and harsh criticism at lowly conservatives. On the night that I was arrested while covering the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, I still filed a dispatch. Even after my newspaper of five years, the Phoenix, went out of business, I quickly found outlets to write about some of the most pressing issues facing Boston in decades.
In asking users to explain the "risks and challenges that come with completing your project," Kickstarter notes that "addressing this from the start helps build a supportive community." That's kind of my approach to writing and reporting in this cutthroat new media environment; without the backing of likeminded progressives and other sympathetic parties - spiritually, financially, on Twitter - none of this would be possible. Again - thanks for the love!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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