Looks like Glenn Beck’s dwindling media empire is in more trouble:
Conservative media firebrand Glenn Beck’s multimedia empire TheBlaze appears to be on its last legs after another round of layoffs and after a prospective high-profile buyer lost interest.
The right-wing cable and digital media company—founded by Beck shortly before he exited Fox News in 2011—fired another round of staffers this week, shrinking a workforce that has already been reduced to less than 50 employees, according to two sources who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity. The two sources also confirmed that more than a dozen employees had been laid off over the past several days.
Making matters worse, the company’s hopes for a bailout from a fellow right-wing titan did not go as planned.
“I will vote for him in 2020! Gladly!” Beck said on his radio show. The longtime NeverTrump pundit donned Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hat. Beck pointed to the media’s negative coverage of Trump for spurring his decision.
Beck directed a message to the president: “I will tell you — the things that you have done as the president are remarkable! Remarkable!”
Of course, as with so many right-wing charlatans, it’s highly questionable whether the proclamation was sincere:
However, a person who knows Beck very well (and asked not to be identified) suggested that his old friend’s latest conversion hardly deserves the bandwidth it’s getting, calling Friday’s performance a “desperate and predictable act of a man hanging on to his last shred of relevance by a thread. Trying desperately to woo back the massive number of fans lost when he opposes Trump. Sad.”
Put simply, Beck’s biggest mistake was thinking that he himself had any influence over his audience; instead, his audience only tuned in because he was saying things they wanted to hear—until he turned on The Donald. (He even contributed to National Review‘s “Against Trump” issue.) Beck actually believed that his word carried weight and that his listeners held similar views. But that’s not how right-wing media works.
Adapting an outlet’s output to cater to the cult of Trump is standard fare in the world of right-wing media. Alex Jones readjusted himself from a conspiracy theorist who hated both Democrats and Republicans and who railed constantly against cops to a full-on Donald Trump supporter (who is still a conspiracy theorist). Fox News took a while to come around, but when they did they sapped most of the energy from Breitbart, the original Trump-supporting “news” site. Bill O’Reilly, who used to criticize Trump to his face, now defends everything Trump does from his mother’s basement. Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and one of the original Never-Trumpers, went back and decided that he wasn’t actually Never Trump, and just what the heck does Never Trump mean, anyway?
Right-wing media is not about real principles of any sort; it’s about owning liberals by whatever means necessary. So long as there is a vessel through which liberals and the left can be owned, it doesn’t matter what form the vessel takes. For many conservatives, especially those at National Review and Commentary who take themselves seriously, they’d prefer the vessel be less obviously crass. For the rest, the crassness is a feature, not a bug. The audience for right-wing propaganda is not looking for thoughtfulness, for actual ideas, for principles. They just want to own the libs. Beck was the last among his peers to figure that out.
It’s true that his approval numbers have been creeping up a bit over the last few months, and there are a lot of competing theories among pundits as to why it’s happening. But this much is still true: Rasmussen is not a very reliable polling agency, and Trump continues to be very unpopular in a time when almost any other president (under the same conditions) would have a considerably higher approval rating.
You won’t find much looking at the results Rasmussen posts. Unlike a lot of other pollsters, Rasmussen hasn’t released how the poll breaks down, like the total number of participants, ages, political affiliation, and so on and so on. That information is useful when trying to figure out how the results came out as they did.
According to FiveThirtyEight and The Washington Post, Rasmussen does not use live callers to conduct polls (instead relying on an automated system) and does not make any attempt to contact individuals on their cell phones, thereby limiting their pool to only those with landlines, thus favoring older demographics (an insane approach for any pollster trying to get an accurate picture of what voters across all age ranges think). In other words, it’s not a very reliable poll.
To give you an idea of what other professionals think, here’s the breakdown according to Fivethirtyeight, which gives Rasmussen a C+:
To give an even better idea, here’s a Washington Poststory about what Rasmussen was reporting back in 2012 before the election:
Mitt Romney’s campaign and its allies, though, are apparently huge fans [of Rasmussen].
Even as other pollsters — Gallup, Fox News, CBS News/New York Times, Washington Post/ABC News — have shown the presidential race tilting toward President Obama in recent days, Romney aides and allied Republicans proudly tout the newest Rasmussen numbers, which show their guy actually holding a very small lead: 47 percent to 45 percent.
Rasmussen, like other pollsters, showed an initial bump for Obama, who at one point led by five points in its daily tracking poll. That bump dissipated quickly, though, and Romney now leads again — as he has in its polling for much of the past couple months.
To show just how long they’ve been producing shoddy polls, Nate Silver wrote about their performance predicting the results from the 2010 midterms back when FiveThirtyEight was still a blog at The New York Times:
The 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points, a considerably higher figure than that achieved by most other pollsters. Some 13 of its polls missed by 10 or more points, including one in the Hawaii Senate race that missed the final margin between the candidates by 40 points, the largest error ever recorded in a general election in FiveThirtyEight’s database, which includes all polls conducted since 1998.
Moreover, Rasmussen’s polls were quite biased, overestimating the standing of the Republican candidate by almost 4 points on average. In just 12 cases, Rasmussen’s polls overestimated the margin for the Democrat by 3 or more points. But it did so for the Republican candidate in 55 cases — that is, in more than half of the polls that it issued.
So it’s an incredibly biased and untrustworthy poll that Republicans love because it reaffirms whatever they want to believe. Romney and his crew believed it so much that they actually thought they were going to win despite most other polls indicating they were going to lose (and before any Trumpster brings up the 2016 election, those polls weren’t actually wrong; nationally, Clinton got more millions more votes, so it’s completely reasonable that most polls showed her winning by a couple percentage points). Rasmussen is just another tool in the Republican arsenal to create an alternate reality.
I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy. Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!
Coulter: Yes. This is a different category you’re seeing now: Former Trumpers. That should be terrifying to the president. Maybe he’ll actually keep his promises. Unlike Marco Rubio. Unlike the rest of them. Unlike Mitch McConnell. We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration. If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen.
Steve M of No More Mister Nice Blog has a good post about how Coulter is attacking Trump from the right, so if there is ever going to be a primary challenger, it won’t be someone more soft spoken like John Kasich—it’d have to be someone nastier and more right-wing than Trump.
But I want to home in on that phrase “Former Trumper.” First, Coulter won’t admit to being one herself despite her critiques:
Bruni: Are you a Former Trumper?
Coulter: He can still come back. If he builds the wall, he’ll be the Emperor God again. I’ll throw a huge party. I’ll start a committee to put him on Mount Rushmore. But right now, if I were a betting woman, I don’t think we’re getting a wall.
Second, it’s not entirely clear that no wall is a deal breaker, even among his staunchest supporters. Trump is attempting to create the illusion that there is, in fact, a border wall being built:
But we learned that those photos are from a project that was started in 2009, a project meant to replace a 2.25-mile part of a wall that already exists. Regardless, there are more than enough people who see something like that and think the “Emperor God” has fulfilled his promise.
Third, this isn’t the first time Coulter has started squawking. In June of last year, Coulter complained that Trump had accomplished almost nothing in his first six months. The writer, Ken Meyer, thought Coulter turning on Trump meant a “seismic crack” in his base. So I think Coulter comes out every now and then and hits Trump from the right to keep herself relevant. It’s a lot harder to keep a right-wing audience engaged if you’re not hollering about something, and it’s probably even harder when the president does your shtick on a galactic level.
Fourth, it’s doubtful that there is any meaningful faction of “Former Trumpers” in the same way it’s doubtful that the “Never Trump” camp is at all a meaningful constituency. There is nothing fearful about them. They will never be large enough of a group to pose any serious threat to Trump’s (non)popularity, and they’ll never, ever vote for a Democrat. So please, “Former Trumpers,” stay home and fume on the internet. We beg you.
You had the right to remain silent. Now every word you’ve ever uttered, and every one you ever will, can and will be held against you.
Bret, Bret, Bret. Okay, so, Williamson is a writer. A writer for magazines. The articles for which are consumed by the public. One might say, then, that Williamson is a public figure. And—now hear me out on this, Bret—the things he writes can therefore be criticized. Because they’re public statements. No one snuck into his house, stole his diary, and uploaded the part where he fantasized about hanging women who receive abortions. He admitted that to all of us on his own accord.
Sorry, first, that you have to endure having your character assailed and assassinated by people who rarely if ever read you and likely never met you. Sorry also that your hiring as a writer for The Atlantic has set off another censorious furor in media circles when surely there are more important subjects on this earth.
1) I was never aware that a prerequisite for character assassination was that one had to be overly familiar with the person’s work or, even stranger, meet the person who wrote it. My understanding was that, if you’re a writer and you write something, people are going to read, and those people might object to what you say. No one is taking Williamson out of context or drawing out implicit statements to explicit ends. Williamson has been very clear about what he says. 2) I know Bret Stephens hates people who read and have opinions on the things they read, but it’s not difficult to see why readers across the internet are pointing out why Williamson is a bad hire. It’s not “censorship.” Williamson has had and will continue to have plenty of platforms from which he can spew whatever crappy thought comes into his head.
The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it. You believe “sex is a biological reality” and that gender should not be a choice. And you once boorishly described an African-American boy in East St. Louis, Ill., “raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.”
“Look, I think the things you wrote are horrific, but where do people get off on judging you for the ideas you have and choose to make public?”
Oh, another thing: As a NeverTrumper, you’re guilty of being insufficiently representative of contemporary conservatism. Had you been a Trumper, doubtless you would have been dismissed as a moron unworthy of the pages of The Atlantic.
I’m not aware of anyone saying Williamson is “insufficiently representative of contemporary conservatism.” As outlined above in the views he’s espoused, he’s a perfect model of conservatism. And yes, if he were a “Trumper,” he’d be a moron. That’s not hard to understand.
To be clear, Stephens believes Williamson has written “hundreds of thousands of words of smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary, criticism and reportage,” and the best examples he can come up with are a couple jokes about Steve Mnuchin and Anthony Scaramucci. This is Williamson’s great contribution to the public conversation; not some nuanced case for conservatism in these times but “Scrooge McDuck-style sphincter-clenching.” How is it that Williamson was overlooked all this time!
Shouldn’t great prose and independent judgment count for something? Not according to your critics. We live in the age of guilt by pull-quote, abetted by a combination of lazy journalism, gullible readership, missing context, and technologies that make our every ill-considered utterance instantly accessible and utterly indelible. I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.
What Stephens means here is that what you say only matters if it comes in a form Stephens thinks can be judged. In this instance, Williamson’s tweets about abortion don’t count because they’re tweets. And that’s the argument. I’m sure Stephens and Williamson don’t believe that stating tens of millions of American women should be killed in any way contributes to an already-existing atmosphere in which people feel emboldened to bomb abortion clinics or kill doctors in part because of opinions that are telegraphed and reinforced in right-wing media.
Should The Atlantic foolishly succumb to pressure to rescind your job offer, you’ll still be widely read, presumably at National Review.
The Atlantic is not going to reconsider hiring Williamson, the same way The New York Times is not going to reconsider hiring Bret Stephens (or The Washington Post hiring Megan McArdle). There’s simply nothing to support this. And even if they did, I don’t think it would be a bad move or one that threatened the first amendment. It wouldn’t be a whole lot different if Fox decided to dump Laura Ingraham because her tweet (yes, Bret, her tweet) about David Hogg caused dozens of her advertisers to flee. These ain’t charities, Bret, much as I’d like them to be, so if The Atlantic thought hiring Williamson might be a financial liability because of his unpopular opinions, that would be a pretty legitimate reason (at least in your pro-fee market eyes) to toss him.
That doesn’t mean there ought to be limitless tolerance for every shade of opinion: There are cranks and haters both left and right, and wise editors should not give them a platform. But your critics show bad faith when they treat an angry tweet or a flippant turn of phrase as proof of moral incorrigibility. Let he who is without a bad tweet, a crap sentence or even a deplorable opinion cast the first stone.
I’m not aware of any conservatives who have ever drawn a reasonable line on what should and shouldn’t be acceptable in the national discourse. I’m also not sure why critics such as myself have no leg to stand on if we’ve ever sent a bad tweet. I’m sure I have, but I’m also sure I’ve never seriously advocated murdering tens of millions of people. I’ve got one on Kevin there. I’m also not writing for a national magazine; if I were, I’d probably be more careful about what I tweet, because what I tweet would have a lot more weight than if I were just some schlub with 37 followers.
Conservative thought on issues such as this is clear: Conservatives should not be criticized for the things they say and write. To criticize those ideas is to be censorious. Their idea of free speech is not only being able to say whatever they want but not being criticized for the things they say. If they are criticized, then their right to free speech is being persecuted. Whenever something they’ve said is repeated back to them, it is never honest; the bit is always taken out of context or not recognized for its obvious humor. To criticize a conservative for what he’s written is to silence him, even if he writes for a national magazine, goes on television, and speaks at conferences.
Perhaps one way conservatives could better communicate their ideas is to write about them more often in the national publications to which they have access instead of discussing, publicly, in those national publications, how they’re being censored. But I think they’d rather just write about how they’re being censored and publishing them in well-known publications available worldwide. That’ll show ’em.
The hold that Trump has on the GOP has a lot to do with his mesmerizing circus act, but it’s more than that. He’s been loyal to his coalition on judges, social-conservative causes, and gun rights. His desperation to get a border wall speaks to his genuine desire to deliver on a signature promise. The same is true of his tariffs this year.
The last two items underline Trump’s heterodoxy, although he isn’t as ideologically aberrant as Never Trumpers would have it.
Trump is not seriously engaged enough to drive [these policies] himself, while congressional Republicans lack interest in immigration restriction and oppose Trump on trade. But make no mistake: On immigration and China trade, Trump is closer to the national Republican consensus than his conservative detractors.
So even if Lowry had objections to deporting all Muslims, he’d probably admit that Trump is “closer to the national Republican consensus than his conservative detractors.” As if that’s a good thing.
One reason to object to the term “Trumpism” is that it gives conservatives like David Frum (or Rich Lowry, if he ever decides he needs to distance himself from Trump) an out. It gives them plausible deniability. Calling it “Trumpism” rather than “conservatism” suggests there’s a substantive difference between the two. But there isn’t. Trumpism is conservatism, only dumber, with explicit racism and memes.
There have been plenty of good pieces and posts accumulating all the vile things Williamson has said during his writing career, most of them pretty recent. Like a lot of conservative writers, he can’t stand trans people:
in an anti-trans essay titled “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman,” he wrote, “regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman.”
He likes to write about race as though he’s putting those black hooligans in their rightful place with not-so-subtle references I’m sure he finds awfully clever:
‘Hey, hey craaaaaacka! Cracka! White devil! F*** you, white devil!” The guy looks remarkably like Snoop Dogg: skinny enough for a Vogue advertisement, lean-faced with a wry expression, long braids. He glances slyly from side to side, making sure his audience is taking all this in, before raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge. Luckily for me, he’s more like a three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg, a few inches shy of four feet high, probably about nine years old, and his mom — I assume she’s his mom — is looking at me with an expression that is a complex blend of embarrassment, pity, and amusement, as though to say: “Kids say the darnedest things, do they not, white devil?”
National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson made the real “pro-life” agenda very, very clear, expressing his opinion that women who have abortions should be put to death — by hanging. And not just the women; he says the doctor who performs the abortion, the nurses who assist, and the hospital staff who enable it should also be executed.
To prove that he’s not racist, he wrote a bit about how he hates poor white people so much that he wishes they’d just die off. He couldn’t keep himself from writing this nasty little paragraph about Gabby Giffords after she took a bullet in the head:
You really ought not to bring politics into your getting shot in the face, Gabby.
The reason I suspect others who consider themselves centrists will be tricked by Williamson’s eloquent bigotry is obvious when you see the kinds of arguments, if you can call them that, that are put forth to demonstrate why Williamson is best suited for the cesspool of National Review and doesn’t deserve the paycheck that comes with writing for the Atlantic. They’re not dissimilar to what I have written above. Most are just lists of things he’s said with no commentary added because the awfulness of his viewpoints are supposed to be self-evident.
But the awfulness of his viewpoints aren’t all that obvious to a lot of people. If they were, Williamson wouldn’t have been hired by the Atlantic (or who knows, maybe he would have; it’s run by Iraq War apologist Jeffrey Goldberg). Personally, I think remarks in which a black child is compared to a primate is far beyond a dog whistle; it’s very obviously a racist statement. But there are plenty of people—plenty of people—who think anything other than calling a black person the n-word isn’t racist. This, coupled with the other kinds of comments Williamson has made and continues to make, along with every other dingbat at National Review, is part of what worries me about the traditional “liberal” media.
For some reason, nominally “liberal” outlets have deigned to hiring conservative writers with, at best, stupid ideas in the hope of appeasing critics who believe no proper platform has been given to conservatives (ha!), like The New York Times hiring Bret Stephens or The Washington Post recently hiring Megan McArdle. What do these “thinkers” bring to the table? Climate change denial and the idea that kids should bum rush school shooters, respectively.
And so while outlets like National Review for some reason have no obligation to hire anyone not on the far-right side of the political spectrum, the more “respectable” publications in this country believe it’s a good idea to give the far right a space to air their ideas. Why hire a socialist to pen a weekly column when you can have someone who thinks trans people are icky? Why hire someone who would give serious reasons for opposing capitalism when you can have someone who considers themselves “pro-life” but advocates for the death penalty for women who get abortions?
But let me ask this: for those who would defend Williamson (like Bret Stephens, whom I’ll get to later), is it impossible to find a conservative voice that hasn’t aired views as objectively repugnant as Williamson’s? Why vigorously defend him if there are plenty of other conservative thinkers who haven’t compared black children to primates?
Several companies announced Thursday that they were pulling the plug on advertising during Laura Ingraham’s show after the Fox News host bashed a teen survivor of the Parkland school shooting.
Nutrish, the pet food line owned by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, was the first to tweet that it would no longer advertise during Ingraham’s show.
The list of advertisers who will no longer advertise during Ingraham’s show includes TripAdvisor, Wayfair, Expedia, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Stitch Fix, Hulu, and Jos A. Bank.
As noted in an NPRarticle, Fox is used to having advertisers flee:
Almost a year ago, more than 50 advertisers yanked their spots from Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show after it emerged that O’Reilly, Fox and its parent company had paid $13 million to settle five sexual harassment lawsuits. Fox dropped O’Reilly from the network soon after, though it’s unclear how much the loss of advertisers contributed to the network’s decision.
In November, Fox’s Sean Hannity stoked controversy by supporting Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore despite reports of Moore’s sexual advances toward teenage girls. Coffee maker Keurig initially said it was pulling ads from Hannity’s show, only to face social media backlash from Hannity’s supporters, who posted videos on Twitter of themselves smashing Keurig machines.
I expect conservative commentators to criticize and attack Hogg’s and his classmates’ message of stricter gun control. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But as Ingraham has demonstrated, the right-wing commentariat cannot help itself from delivering personal, ugly attacks, regardless of who they’re targeting. If an enemy can’t be defeated through argumentation (which, coming from the right, is usually disingenuous or poorly thought out), then the next best thing is to taint the character of the enemy by making them look like a degenerate loser, though it’s not like right-wing commentators wait for their arguments to fail before they start making personal attacks against their enemies.
I’ve said it before, but if we can take a step back and look at how conservatives have had to adjust their belief system because of the tumultuous nature of everything happening under the Trump administration, it’s fascinating to watch right-wingers turn their backs on all the things they’re supposed to love. From Jesse Kelly at The Federalist:
If you’ll remember, not too long ago everyone on the right was freaking out because NFL players were taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Naturally, the right—tethered to reality the way they are—took that as a protest of the flag, the anthem, America in general, and the military and veterans. “They hate the military!” these fanatics screamed. “They hate our veterans who risked their lives so that they had the RIGHT to protest!”
But as Kelly lays out, that’s suddenly no longer the case:
Most, no matter their service, come home and spend a lifetime as an example of what an American fighting man should be. They give back to their communities. They help others. They join the workforce, show up on time, and rise through the ranks. They raise families. And raise those families to have a love of country and an appreciation for where they are blessed to live.
Others spend a lifetime proving the last great thing they did in this life ended when they got back from Iraq at the ripe old age of 22. Service to your country is respectable. It is NOT a license to be a world-class scumbag.
You see, there are real veterans, and then there are scumbag veterans.
For too long now, veterans have taken the patriotic respect of Americans and used it like a Get Out Of Jail Free card in Monopoly.
I’d be interested to see when this begins on a timeline. After Vietnam? Gulf War? Or is it more specific to the 21st century? I’d also like to know what examples of this behavior Kelly would share and whether they would wholly be composed of individuals Kelly would describe as “leftist.”
Nowhere is this more evident than the veterans who joined high school kids at the anti-gun March For Our Lives rallies last weekend.
Kelly believes that veterans marching in solidarity with high school students who don’t want to be shot at are abusing the “patriotic respect” Americans have for them. Got it.
Which brings us to veterans. There are roughly 20 million veterans living in the United States today. There are going to be malcontents who don’t understand liberty in there. And nobody can track down society’s malcontents like the Left. So, now they use these veterans just like they use the high school kids. It’s not as if the Left holds some special respect for veterans (though they’ve finally stopped spitting on them when they return home from war). It is done because the Left knows patriotic Americans will be reluctant to criticize them.
That last line is key: “It is done because the Left knows patriotic Americans will be reluctant to criticize them.”
Well, Jesse, maybe if the right hadn’t spent decades venerating the military and calling anyone who didn’t blindly “support the troops” a traitor to America—especially in the wake of 9/11 and the run up to the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan—that wouldn’t be such a big problem. Maybe if publications like The Federalist didn’t run endless propaganda pieces that exalted the political positions of veterans simply because they are veterans—seriously, just take a look through their archives when you search for “veterans”—you wouldn’t have to worry about all these uppity veterans who have ideas diametrically opposed to yours.
Every vet takes an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That oath doesn’t expire when you leave the service. It doesn’t mean you have to carry a weapon on foreign soil fighting our enemies forever, but at least don’t return home and put the Constitution you swore to uphold through the paper shredder.
The funny part about this is that I imagine most everyone on the left (the actual left, not the capitalism-loving Democrats Kelly is referring to) has never believed service in the military gave them or their opinions on subjects unrelated to combat a special status in society that made them untouchable. It’s largely conservatives, and to some degree (though certainly lesser) liberals, who have created the myth of the uncriticizable veteran.
And that’s what upsets writers like Kelly and others on the right in general: It isn’t that these particular veterans are betraying the Constitution—it’s that the right has for so long claimed veterans, the military, and patriotism as a whole as their own that they can’t stand the idea that members of a group they supposedly own would dare have a dissenting opinion. For people like Kelly, it’s not possible for a veteran to simply have a different point of view, because to have a different point of view is to betray the oath they took to protect the Constitution. They are traitors.