Fo­cus

Big dreams for pro-Trump site Bre­it­bart

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

The far-right news site Bre­it­bart helped send Don­ald Trump to the White House with no-holds barred opin­ions and in­cen­di­ary head­lines that drew fire from main­stream me­dia and pun­dits. Now, it seems, it wants to take that move­ment global. Grow­ing out of its ori­gins as a com­mu­nity of con­ser­va­tive blog­gers, Bre­it­bart News Net­work mir­rored the tone of Trump’s cam­paign with provoca­tive and some­times in­ac­cu­rate claims, draw­ing crit­i­cism as racist, xeno­pho­bic and worse.

Bre­it­bart, whose chair­man Steve Ban­non has been tapped for a key White House post after help­ing to mas­ter­mind Trump’s cam­paign, out­per­formed many me­dia out­lets to get the fourth largest num­ber of “en­gage­ments” by in­ter­net users on elec­tion night, ac­cord­ing to the an­a­lyt­ics group Newswhip. Bre­it­bart has sig­naled its in­ten­tion to ex­pand its global foot­print, with sites ex­pected in France and Ger­many after mov­ing into Bri­tain and sup­port­ing the Brexit move­ment.

The site, cre­ated by the late con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor An­drew Bre­it­bart, makes its im­pact with bare-knuck­led head­lines that mix opin­ion and some­times stretched facts. Some ex­am­ples of Bre­it­bart sto­ries are “Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back in the closet, ”There’s no hir­ing bias against women in tech, they just suck at in­ter­views,” and “Sci­ence proves it: Fat-sham­ing works.” Bre­it­bart was among the out­fits cited for the “worst jour­nal­ism” of 2014 by the Columbia Jour­nal­ism Re­view for er­ro­neously re­port­ing that the nom­i­nated at­tor­ney gen­eral Loretta Lynch had been a lawyer for Bill Clin­ton - and fail­ing to cor­rect the mis­taken re­port that was based on an­other lawyer named Loretta Lynch.

Wel­come to France

Bre­it­bart did not re­spond to an AFP in­ter­view re­quest or query about its ex­pan­sion plans. But a leader of France’s far­right Na­tional Front said Tues­day that she wel­comed re­ported plans by the group to ex­pand and sup­port the party’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. “All al­ter­na­tive me­dia are gen­er­ally pos­i­tive. Don­ald Trump is the demon­stra­tion of that... they’re among the use­ful tools,” said Mar­ion Marechal-Le Pen, whose aunt Marine is the leader of the Na­tional Front. Plac­ing Bre­it­bart’s chief in the White House could cre­ate some awk­ward sit­u­a­tions and po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est, ac­cord­ing to some an­a­lysts. For­mer Bre­it­bart spokesman Kurt Bardella - who quit ear­lier this year - told The New York Times Ban­non’s role will mean Bre­it­bart will be “as close as we are ever go­ing to have - hope­fully - to a state-run me­dia en­ter­prise.”

An­gelo Caru­sone of the left-lean­ing watch­dog group Me­dia Mat­ters for Amer­ica, also pre­dicted Ban­non’s role will cre­ate a dif­fi­cult diplo­matic po­si­tion for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion if Bre­it­bart is “sup­port­ing for­eign move­ments while his govern­ment is en­gag­ing with those gov­ern­ments.” Ken Paul­son, a for­mer USA To­day ed­i­tor-in-chief who is dean of the col­lege of me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment at Mid­dle Tennessee State Univer­sity, said it’s not clear what the rise of Bre­it­bart and other par­ti­san news out­lets means for the main­stream me­dia.

“The real ques­tion is whether there will con­tinue to be a mar­ket for well re­searched and bal­anced cov­er­age that doesn’t pan­der to one side or the other,” he said. Paul­son drew a par­al­lel be­tween Bre­it­bart and early news­pa­pers that were de­signed “to share a po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy and un­der­mine po­lit­i­cal ri­vals. ”The site “feels very 18th cen­tury to me, ”he said.

‘Mas­querad­ing’ as Me­dia

Jeff Jarvis, a City Univer­sity of New York jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor who blogs on me­dia, also de­scribed Bre­it­bart last month as one of sev­eral “po­lit­i­cal move­ments mas­querad­ing as me­dia.” For Caru­sone, Bre­it­bart ap­pears to be “chal­leng­ing global power struc­tures, and the way they do that is by prey­ing on racial anx­i­eties.” While Bre­it­bart of­fers a “ve­neer” of be­ing a me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion, he said, “they have no no­tice­able ed­i­to­rial stan­dards or jour­nal­is­tic prac­tices, they do func­tion like a po­lit­i­cal or­gan­ism.” Bardella this year quit the or­ga­ni­za­tion, protest­ing that un­der Ban­non’s lead­er­ship it be­came “the de facto pro­pa­ganda ma­chine for Don­ald Trump” and filled with “hate­ful rhetoric”. “Steve ran the site and con­trolled the con­tent as a dic­ta­tor, not only lim­it­ing the ex­pres­sion of his jour­nal­ists but also pur­pose­fully chang­ing the nar­ra­tive to in­crease vit­riol, play­ing to the fears of his read­ers,” Bardella wrote in a col­umn in The Hill news­pa­per.

Bre­it­bart has lashed out at crit­ics who al­lege it has links to ex­trem­ists, and has threat­ened to sue one me­dia out­let. In a state­ment to The Hill, the group said it “is pre­par­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar law­suit against a ma­jor me­dia com­pany for its baseless and defam­a­tory claim that Bre­it­bart News is a ‘white na­tion­al­ist web­site’.”

On its site, Bre­it­bart also hit back at claims Ban­non is an­tiSemitic. “The losers of the left have worked them­selves into such a bizarre hys­te­ria over the fact that they lost the White House that they have lost all con­nec­tion to re­al­ity,” said an ar­ti­cle Mon­day by writer David Horowitz. “I can’t think of any­thing stu­pider than the charge com­ing from all quar­ters of the left in­clud­ing a head­line in the pa­thet­i­cally wretched Huff­in­g­ton Post - that Ban­non is an anti-Semite.”

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