The Jury Talks Back

3/21/2018

Breitbart Readership in Free Fall in a World Where “Relevance” Is Measured by Devotion to Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

Upsetting Donald Trump has consequences. Breitbart.com, which used to ride a traffic high during its salad days as Donald Trump’s most reliable propaganda machine, is now seeing its readership leave in droves. POLITICO (cached link; no links for bullies):

Breitbart, the alt-right news site whose executive chairman Steve Bannon was pushed out in January after feuding with President Donald Trump, has lost about half its readership according to comScore, raising questions about its future.

The site dropped from 15 million unique visitors in October, per comScore, to 13.7 million in November, 9.9 million in December, 8.5 million in January and 7.8 million in February.

Its comScore figure for January was down 51 percent from the same month a year earlier, and the February number was down 49 percent from 2017. Last month was the site’s least trafficked since February 2015, four months before Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president.

POLITICO offers different possible explanations for the cratering of Breitbart’s readership, including “changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, amped up investment in digital by Fox News, and the shifting status of Bannon.” To me, it’s this last one that stands out. When Steve Bannon became persona non grata with Donald Trump, I predicted that he would be gone within days, and he was. Now, without a Trump-approved guy at the helm, the site has lost its relevance.

Relevance.

Take a look at Fox News for a contrasting example. As Ralph Peters pointed out yesterday in resigning from the network, “Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.”

He’s not wrong. And how is Fox doing these days?

Fox News continued its cable ratings domination among total viewers, extending its long-running winning streak both in primetime and on a 24-hour basis.

Fox News averaged 2.3 million viewers in primetime during the week of March 12 to March 18, topping all cable networks for the 9th straight week, according to Nielsen. MSNBC finished second with 2.0 million viewers.

As Stormy Daniels has learned, [verb deleted]ing Donald Trump’s [noun deleted] pays.

Relevance.

If you closely read the people who are highly visible Trump supporters on the right who supported a different candidate in the primaries, you’ll notice that they constantly hit the theme of “relevance.” I’m talking about the type of people who supported Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio in the primaries — but now, when the prospect of Trump d**k pics is floated, seem excited rather than revolted. It’s very important for people like this to denigrate Trump critics on a personal level, and their go-to phrase for NeverTrumpers is “irrelevant.” They go on and on about how this NeverTrumper is on a list of Salon Conservatives, or that one is having a tough time selling berths on his magazine’s cruises.

The ultimate insult in their eyes is not that their NeverTrump targets have lost their principles or have gone ideologically astray. The ultimate insult is that NeverTrumpers have lost their relevance.

Relevance. It is the drug that, more than any other, causes humans to forget what they used to stand for.

Now: to be sure, the criticism that these most visible Trump supporters level at “NeverTrumpers” often stems from a genuine disagreement, since “NeverTrumpers” sometimes go too far in their zeal to criticize the President. I’ll acknowledge that. BUT…

But the need that some of these people feel to personally attack Trump critics, who in many cases are former friends, stems in part from shame. It’s the shame they feel when they know the Trump critics are on target with some of their criticism — criticism in which these people can no longer join, because it would alienate their new Trumpy audience.

And so they either remain silent about the valid criticism, or (in many cases) belittle it with breathtaking hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty.

Take the latest example: President Trump placing a phone call to Vladimir Putin to congratulate him, while saying nothing about his attempted assassination of a man and his daughter on British soil. These people know that’s the wrong thing to do. They just got through telling us days ago that Trump has condemned the attack in Britain. They said: why, he’s instituting some of the toughest anti-Russia initiatives in forever! And some of us Trump critics said: sure, he knows how to read a statement and issue some sanctions he’s told to issue, but in his heart Trump doesn’t care about any of this, and you’ll see that when he congratulates Putin. For example, I said this after Putin’s election:

I’m looking forward to Trump issuing his congratulations. My guess is that he’ll use the chance to call the “election” a sham and issue his harshest condemnation yet of the recent assassination attempt on British soil. LOL. Make sure to tip your waitresses, try the veal, I’m here all week.

Hopefully my irony was not too subtle. Now that my prediction has come true that Trump would do no such thing, Trump supporters are in the position of relying on Barack Obama as precedent for congratulating Putin. “Obama did it so it must be good” is something I never thought I’d hear from this crowd, but the need to defend Trump overcomes any cognitive dissonance that arises from uttering that phrase.

And to the trash bin as well with any complaints that Putin used trumped-up charges against his most serious rival — a guy who has done a bang-up job exposing Putin’s kleptocracy, by the way — to bar that rival from even participating in the election as a candidate. Let’s not speak of that. President Putin won and if President Trump wants to congratulate him then dammit that’s the right thing to do.

Relevance!

Take the debt as another example. The “relevant” crowd will be among the first to tell you that, sure, they used to get upset about the debt, but in a world where [insert hastily constructed pathetic rationalization here], you just can’t care about the debt anymore. They’ll even adopt Vox-like leftist theories about how the government can continue to borrow and add to its debt load forever and ever. Anything to defend Donald Trump.

Relevance!

I understand the desire for relevance. It feels nice to have your post or article shared far and wide, and to be mentioned on television or by a widely heard radio talk show host. I’ve had all those things happen and it’s fun and exciting. And, while I am not in this position, some people do this opinionating stuff for a living. Their relevance affects whether they can eat and pay the rent.

So I get it. I understand why people might cast aside lifelong principles to defend a bald orange waste of oxygen. But understanding it is not the same as agreeing with it.

Don’t worry, erstwhile Breitbart readers. There’s still plenty of fact-free propaganda out there for you. For every Breitbart.com that bleeds readers, there’s a Gateway Pundit or a Conservative Treehouse waiting in the wings to scoop them up.

I understand those sites are very relevant these days.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

7 Comments »

  1. As I write this there are 30 comments to this post at 10:44 AM PST. The post has been up an hour and 44 minutes. For those 30 comments, there are 9 different commenters: narciso
    (10), happyfeet (8), harkin (1), papertiger (1), Colonel Haiku (2), Rev Hoagie (2), Allen (1), Nevyan (1), BuDuh (1 – with a pithy “Who cares?”) and nk (4). Only nk agreed with the post. The other commenters seem to agree you need to “take a break” from Trump.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/21/2018 @ 10:47 am

  2. Reason is passé in our current culture. It’s about labels and status for both sides of celebrity/tribe-obsessed Americans.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/21/2018 @ 10:52 am

  3. Rubio has taken the plunge but primarily on emotional issues that Trump might see as Rubio being loyal. That’s politically smart of Rubio but I don’t think it will work in the long run.

    Loyalty to Trump is like an escalator ride. Rubio will either have to go all in or jump off, and the fall could sting.

    Comment by DRJ — 3/21/2018 @ 10:56 am

  4. As I write this there are 30 comments to this post at 10:44 AM PST. The post has been up an hour and 44 minutes. For those 30 comments, there are 9 different commenters: narciso
    (10), happyfeet (8), harkin (1), papertiger (1), Colonel Haiku (2), Rev Hoagie (2), Allen (1), Nevyan (1), BuDuh (1 – with a pithy “Who cares?”) and nk (4). Only nk agreed with the post. The other commenters seem to agree you need to “take a break” from Trump.

    Clearly, I have become less relevant.

    Comment by Patterico — 3/21/2018 @ 12:01 pm

  5. Ace of Spades calls people “cucks” now. I have seen him use the word unironically twice now in the past few days.

    I’m not the one who has changed.

    Comment by Patterico — 3/21/2018 @ 12:38 pm

  6. “Hopefully my irony was not too subtle.”

    A foregone hope for the audience that would most benefit, I should think.

    “They’ll even adopt Vox-like leftist theories about how the government can continue to borrow and add to its debt load forever and ever. Anything to defend Donald Trump.”

    A readily recognizable follower syndrome from the history books of the Euro-Thirties.

    Comment by Luke Stywalker — 3/22/2018 @ 12:04 am

  7. I spent yesterday offline, not on purpose or out of pique but because I was busy with real life things to accomplish. I interacted with about 20 people of different ages, education and economic levels, genders, and probably political views (although I didn’t talk politics all day).

    I live in a conservative town and while I know there are liberals here, they keep a low-profile — probably like conservatives in Hollywood. But we don’t have to agree on politics to get along on a daily basis. We don’t insult each other as we go about our lives. We don’t get angry at every little word, thought or action. We see each other as human beings and we treat each other kindly, even people we don’t know.

    Why can’t online commenters do that? Are they unkind in their real lives (my guess is Yes), or do they only vent their anger online?

    Comment by DRJ — 3/22/2018 @ 7:05 am

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