The Jury Talks Back


A Note About My L.A. Times Op-Ed on the RedState Firings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:50 am

In my L.A. Times op-ed about Friday’s firings at RedState, I concluded with this statement:

No one media outlet is crucial to the conservative movement, but RedState did represent a rare place where conservatives were still allowed to express negative opinions about Trump in a freewheeling and robust manner. Now it’s a safe space for Trump supporters. The site is still there, but the ideal is gone.

If I had written the op-ed today, I would have used the term “safer space” and not “safe space.” That’s more accurate, and more fair to the people who still work there.

I wrote the op-ed Friday morning, two hours after learning the news that six of the most vocal critics of Trump at the site had been fired. It was a criticism of management, not of the remaining writers. The point was that management has a goal of making the site a safe space for Trump fans, and by firing a crop of loud Trump critics all on the same day, in a rude and unexpected fashion, they sent their message loud and clear. (As for the “rude and unexpected” part: according to The Atlantic, editor Caleb Howe “got the news while driving from his home in North Carolina to Washington to meet with Townhall Media, the arm of Salem Media which owns RedState, about Facebook strategy.” That’s cold.)

There has been some pushback on Twitter from some of the remaining writers, who point out that there are still Trump critics at the site. That is true. Since the firings, a few pieces critical of Trump have been published. For example: No, President Trump Does Not Deserve The Nobel Peace Prize; Don’t Get Angry About Mean Insult Comics If You Helped Put One In The Oval Office; and President Trump Continues To Walk Back Campaign Promises Regarding Wall’s Funding And Planned Parenthood. I’m very pleased to see that and I have shared the pieces on social media.

However, let’s not pretend that the firings weren’t designed to send a message. The people purged on Friday were some of the loudest critics of the president. And some of the defenses of Salem that I have seen — that the firings were based on traffic, or on the cost of the contracts — are just not true. The people let go included a mix of traffic earners; some were consistently the highest traffic earners, some posted more sporadically and were not. I’ve also learned more about the cost of the contracts, and there are definitely people who remain who get paid more per click than people who were let go.

Nor is it true that Trump criticism killed the site. Ben Domenech made that charge in his newsletter yesterday, but his analysis was laughably wrong. For example:

No, this was an ideological purge. They just didn’t get everyone. But they did get most of the loudest voices, and sent a message to the rest.

In short, if the people at RedState are feeling defensive, it’s understandable — but any defensiveness results from the decisions made by management. Management had every right to make those decisions, but the way they did it was (in my view) unwise, and had a lot of collateral consequences that they didn’t think through. One of those consequences was a very public perception that the site has made a sudden lurch in a pro-Trump direction. If the remaining writers are hurt by that perception, they should blame management’s decision to purge the loudest Trump critics in one day, not the people who pointed it out.

With one exception (a poster who goes by the moniker streiff) I respect the remaining writers at RedState. Some of them are among my favorite writers on the Web, after Dana and JVW. Folks like Kimberly Ross and Jim Jamitis have consistently written pieces opposing hyperpartisanship — and it was pieces like that, more than anything else, that made me proud to be associated with RedState.

Two things are true at the same time. The remaining writers are people of integrity who won’t knuckle under to threats. At the same time, management has sent a shot across the bow: vigorous criticism of Trump is not welcome at RedState. How that tension resolves remains to be seen, although signs since Friday are positive.

Some may think that no message has been sent by management. If so, I think that’s naive. But at least some of the remaining writers seem to understand that the message is to get in line — and they are saying they’re not going to do it.

Good for them. I wish them luck.

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