The Trump era hasn’t been kind to America’s right-wing media. In fact, President Trump’s most prominent media cheerleaders have been falling like flies, including the following incidents:
- Online troll and provocateur Milo Yiannapoulis lost a lucrative book deal and his gig at Breitbart following the release of old footage in which he appeared to defend pedophilia.
- Tomi Lahren, the social media sensation known for her clickbaity headlines, was fired from The Blaze following her admission that she is actually pro-choice (the evidence suggests otherwise).
- Conspiracy theory-peddler Alex Jones discredited his own reputation when he labelled his work “performance art” during a custody battle over his children.
- Fox News fires Bill O’Reilly due to mounting sexual harassment allegations. (O’Reilly’s former boss Roger Ailes was forced out for the similar reasons earlier.)
So why is the right-wing media struggling so much in the Trump era? It’s a paradox. You would think they’d be thriving. But it turns out there’s an explanation.
The role of the “Resistance”
Trump’s ascendancy created a ferocious backlash, informally known as the Resistance. The Resistance has led to massive protests, townhall disruptions and advertising boycotts, including the anti-Trump “Grab Your Wallet” campaign led by Shannon Coulter.
This Resistance has also targeted right-wing media, and played an important role in O’Reilly’s ouster through protesting and the pressuring advertisers. An anonymous group of anti-Trump conservatives were responsible for uncovering and disseminating Milo’s old controversial videos, whice led to his downfall.
Viewed under a microscope
When Trump became the President, people started to take formerly fringe tactics like Breitbart and Infowars more seriously. Trump gave legitimacy to these sites by appearing on and boosting them. He even appointed former Breitbart boss Steve Bannon as his campaign chairman and chief strategist.
The added attention hasn’t been good for many right-wing media figures, who thrive on misinformation and loose facts. Take Alex Jones, for example, who had to apologize for his role in spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy.
Then there’s Fox News’ Judge Napolitano, who alleged that Obama had ordered British intelligence to spy on Trump during the presidential campaign. Napolitano has said stuff like this before, but this time everybody was watching. Fox News didn’t defend him.
But one cannot blame the Trump presidency for everything. People like Milo, Lahren, Jones, Ailes and O’Reilly are primarily responsible for their own poor behaviour and reckless attention-seeking tactics. Milo’s provocative trolling made him a target. Jones’ conspiracy peddling translated into real-world harm. Lahren’s click baiting headlines were insincere. The combative O’Reilly and his boss Ailes created and thrived in a toxic work environment.
Donald Trump isn’t responsible for the actions of these now damaged media figures. But his rise did create the perfect environment that would help lead to their ultimate downfall.