After speaking with William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection, an offhanded comment of his that stuck with me was his mildly baffled note that, after Donald Trump’s election, traffic on his independent conservative news site increased by around 25%. It brought to the forefront of my mind an issue that I’ve been growing more and more concerned about since the beginning of the election cycle: the alienation of non-liberals from moderate and mainstream media.
Trump made it clear from very early on in his campaign that the media (read: any media that didn’t fall in lock-step under his banner) was his enemy, and the media has largely accepted that title with a frankly inspiring candor. It seems every news outlet not prostrating at the Trump administration’s ankles has had a near-constant outpour of governmental criticism.
Every lie, mistake, and scandal (of which there are many) is being criticized with a laser-focused unseen in the past several presidencies. However, where does this leave conservative voters who feel warmer about Trump than the popular vote but aren’t quite at the level of God-Emperor worship?
By and large, the consensus seems to be either to face the music or find somewhere else to read your news – namely, bootlicking propagandists like Breitbart or the Drudge Report. Unsurprisingly, in a choice between routinely having one’s political views dragged through the coals and retreating to a warm and cozy echo chamber, people by and large choose the latter. But this isn’t about damning those media migrants – let the first liberal who has never read a Trump-critical article with an air of smug self-satisfaction cast the first stone.
Legal Insurrection represents a now-anorexic portion of the news outlets: ideologically right-wing while still tonally moderate. No Milo Yiannopoulos, no Alex Jones, no Rush Limbaugh, just the even-tempered tone standard of a writer who started in law. As the conservative blogosphere and independent press has had to either constrict or radicalize, sites like Legal Insurrection are going to generate more traffic as conservatives who want a more comfortable publication seek alternatives from the mainstream media – but more will turn to Milo Yiannopulos, Alex Jones, and Rush Limbaugh.
I am not suggesting the mainstream media ease their assault on the Trump administration – it’s needed now more than ever. I don’t know if I can honestly offer a foolproof solution. What I do know is that some sort of olive branch needs to be extended to conservative readers and viewers who haven’t yet retreated to the dankest corners of right-wing/alt-right propaganda. Until that happens, mainstream liberal media is going to become just as much of a self-assuring echo chamber as the right.