How Breitbart Used Conspiracies and ‘The Left’ To Attack Their Real Enemy: The Center

This site was created as a random place for me to put all my abstract nonsense. Then it became a blog about centering consensus as an approach to our current political moment. Now it has returned to its original self, what it was always meant to be.

If for some inexplicable reason, you’re curious about the political interlude… well, I’ve left it all out there for you. But I recommend neglect.

It’s easy to see why so many people think Breitbart is at war with ‘The Left’ when so much of their coverage is aimed at vilifying the most vocal extremes of opposing media. On closer examination, it quickly becomes obvious that Breitbart needs the left, mostly as a prop in their war against the real threat to their long-term agenda: the American Middle.

This is abundantly clear from their coverage last year during the Republican primaries. Even when scary leftists should have ostensibly been out of the picture, they were still needed as a foil to attack moderate Republicans, who were then the main obstacle to Trump’s ascension within the party. It might surprise many to see that their chief enemy in this period was not CNN or MSNBC, but the relative “centrism” of Fox News. During the primaries, Fox provided the only natural forum for discussion of conservative objectives and principles, which is why the right-wingers in the coalition needed to curtail this space for debate so that Breitbart’s harsh brand of raw anti-immigrant rhetoric could take hold.

A survey of Breitbart’s most popular articles from that period reveal this unsettling strategy. Instead of a principled debate around the ideas and policies that should drive the Republican party forward, we see a conspiratorial mindset that portrays any attempts at centrism as a nefarious betrayal:

The common threads here are blatant. In this framing, Fox News is suddenly aligned with the classic bogeymen of ‘The Left’ (the NY Times, ‘Open Borders Groups,’ Google, ‘Muslim Advocates,’ and Mark Zuckerberg), painting the picture of a hidden conspiracy to let in ‘dangerous’ immigrants. This same conspiracy strategy can now be seen playing out in the general public, with Fox now more naturally positioned out of the line of fire.

The aim here is to basically evaporate any room in the center for reasoned discussion, cornering anyone who participates in such discussion as a “traitor to the cause.”

The thing is, ideas and policies don’t have traitors. But cults do.

Somehow, we now need to find a way to have difficult conversations about American healthcare, tax reform, infrastructure spending, military budget increases, immigration enforcement, refugee programs, etc. These are the real politics that have an impact on real people, millions of lives at a time. But how are we supposed to tackle that in this current environment? I honestly do not know.

The sad thing about what Breitbart is doing is the clear success of the strategy. By amplifying the most fever-pitched voices on the left and the right, they effectively silence the center. They are certainly not alone or original in this; it’s a process that’s been unfolding for decades, in varying degrees on both sides of the divide. Breitbart is only the most prominent member of the current wave. When people catch on, Breitbart will likely fade away and another outlet will take its place. But all the tactics and strategy will be the same. The next wave, same as it ever was, but only more so.

Of course, American consumers are not entirely innocent, either. After all, we choose what outlets to consume. Unfortunately, until Americans on both extremes are ready to step up to a more mature debate, this is what we’ll get.

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