De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum

We learned yesterday that Andrew Breitbart was only 43; that he had a wife and four children; that his father-in-law was Orson Bean; that he (like us) enjoyed The The; and that he was gregarious among fellow L.A. bloggers in the early days of the medium.

And, quite honestly, we don’t give a shit.

We also learned, much to our surprise, that the maxim “Don’t speak ill of the dead” goes back to the Greeks. Culturally, the West knows it from a 1432 Latin translation of a work attributing it to Chilon of Sparta, which dates it to sixth centuries before The Miraculous Birth of Our Holy Savior.

Chilon seems to have been something of a drudge — his other Greatest Hits include “Do not laugh at a person in misfortune”, “Do not let one’s tongue outrun one’s sense”, “Do not desire what is impossible”, and “Obey the laws”. Not exactly an Eat, Drink & Be Merry kind of dude.

We became curious about the maxim because, like Breitbart himself, we’ve never seen much point in following it. If your goal in life is to ruin the lives of others — especially if you’re spectacularly successful at it — we see no reason why your sudden terminal indisposition should thwart our pleasure in The Fates taking their revenge. If this reflects poorly on us, so be it; but to suggest that upon your demise we should suddenly forget everything that brought you to our attention in the first place strikes us as moral amnesia.

And dude, you didn’t stake your claim to infamy on the wife, the kids, the father-in-law, your musical taste, or your friendliness towards people close enough to punch your lights out.

We were so surprised at the ancient provenance of De mortuis nil nisi bonum — we had expected a Nineteenth-Century Schoolmarmish source — that we spent a little more time trying to track down the origin of “piss on your grave”, another phrase that came to mind yesterday. Alas, we were unsuccessful, but we did learn that in Russian, a simple shift of accent changes писа́ть — “to write” — to пи́сать — “to piss”. Perhaps the best way to properly honor the life of Andrew Breitbart is to do both.


Thenk you, Nojo. Like you I fail to see why, on his death, we should suddenly refrain from calling Andrew Breitbart out as the spiteful race-baiting prick that he was. Along with Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and Dinesh D’Souza, Breitbart fought the newly elected president’s agenda by gleefully ripping off the scab of our troubled racial history and throwing salt into the freshly exposed wound. America has known centuries of strife in which African Americans, young and old alike, were strapped to trees and whipped, tied to stakes and lit on fire, firebombed and the flesh literally flayed from their bones. And all four of the figures I mentioned have taken every opportunity to ramp up racist resentment against a president who has studiously avoided racially inflammatory talk, issues or policies. I would no sooner grant Breitbart the respect accorded by the injunction to “speak no ill of the dead” than I would shed a tear for the fact that Mohamar Khadaffi was bayonetted in the ass by one of his captors shortly before he was executed, point blank with a shot to the head. I’m sure to their families these men were saints, but to the rest of the world they were pure trash. Fuck Andrew Breitbart.

As well, Breitbart wants to reach up from the depths of hell to stab at Obama’s heart with this supposedly revealing video of Obama in college. I believe this comes under the heading of “Phyrric victory.”

Elegantly put.

I always thought the maxim was intended to be a way to control death: don’t mock the recently deceased lest they come back to take you with them.

I was just talking about this very thing with the hubby. I remember being appalled that Bill Maher had the shit stain on his program as part of the ‘panel’, and then was completely unprepared to counter his hateful trash-talk. I stopped watching after that.

I can’t help but imagine his children becoming old enough to use the google and finding out who their father was.

But, you know, Spartans: the moralizing scolds of the ancient world. If only the Athenians hadn’t launched the folly of the Peloponnesian war we’d all be speaking Greek. Just because Socrates wouldn’t sleep with him Alcibiades had to destroy the future? Talk about drama queens.

I took a piss on Kit Carson’s grave in New Mexico. Payback for war crimes against the Navajo in the 1860s:

“Their (i.e. the Navajo Indians’) depredations continued without serious check until the year 1863, during the American civil war, when the invading Confederate troops having been expelled from New Mexico, Colonel Kit Carson, the famous frontiersman, led the first regiment of New Mexico volunteers against them. After an arduous campaign, lasting over a year, the Navajos were subdued, their flocks and villages destroyed, and the whole tribe removed to a military reservation in Eastern New Mexico, where they were closely guarded.” (Clarence Pullen, “New Mexico: Its Geography, Scenes, and Peoples,” 1887.)

“After New Mexico and Arizona came into the possession of the United States, a series of unsuccessful military expeditions directed against the Navajos culminated in the campaign of 1863. During this year Kit Carson invaded the Navajo country, killed the sheep, burned the cornfields, and took possession of water holes, thereby forcing the surrender of the whole tribe. The number of prisoners held at Bosque Rodondo was 7,300 which was believed to include the whole tribe and doubtless was 90 per cent of all the Navajos in New Mexico and Arizona. (Herbert E. Gregory, “The Navajo Country,” 1915.)

Death never stopped Bitpart or many of the others who follow him.

Bitpart reminds me of people within my past who are no longer (or will no longer) part of my life now. They had their good points, but eventually those were outweighed by their general assholery.

“You get in life (and death) what you give.”

@ManchuCandidate: “You get in life (and death) what you give.”

Short version:
Karma’s a bitch.

I am reminded of Paul Simon’s “A Most Peculiar Man”. My take away from that song was to never be hypocritical around this issue. But good manners would normally prevent me from making comments around the immediate family. In the case of this asshole, I am afraid that I couldn’t show that restraint.

@redmanlaw: Isn’t it true that mesquite was spread throughout the southwest at that time to make the land difficult to grow grasses and grains/

I quite understand then sentiment.

True. Certainly shorter and to the point.

@DElurker: Your good manners are correct. No need to crash the funeral. Leave that to the Westboro Clown Troupe.

@Benedick: Well, if the last Constantine’s family hadn’t had squabbled among themselves and one side cut a deal with the Crusaders, they may have held the Huns’ line at Byzantium and, yeah, we’d all be speaking Greek. Instead, the West only woke up at Vienna.

Should we post an interview with Satan, reporting on Breitbart’s exploits in the fiery pit of damnation?

@DElurker: Yeah one cannot respect a woman that would straddle a guy like that.

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