That’s why your career’s come to an end;
there’s only so long fake thugs can pretend
The alt-Right blogosphere would do well to remember those immortal words which, one last gasp notwithstanding, effectively ended the otherwise illustrious career of Nas, one of hip hop’s most revered lyricists.
We’ve long said that Breitbart (the internet’s alt-Right propaganda machine par excellence) and its progeny exploit uneducated netizens by projecting an anti-establishment, tough-guy image that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the true character of the people who actually run the sites.
It’s a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” type of deal.
That assessment is based not only on our own experience with some of these folks, but also on first-hand accounts of the man Steve Bannon used to be before he became a disgruntled “economic nationalist.”
You’ll recall that according to multiple sources who knew Bannon during his Hollywood days, the man portrayed as the grim reaper on Saturday Night Live was once a “fast-talking, smartly dressed, aggressively fit,” Beverly Hills dweller who “just wanted to make a buck.”
Similarly, Alex Jones was recently forced to admit (via his lawyers during a custody battle) that the man you see ranting and raving on InfoWars is actually just a “character.” In short, when the kids were on the line, Jones was quick to admit that his act is just that – an act. There is no chest-beating, George Soros bashing, angry, anti-hero. There is just Alex Jones – internet profiteer who likes to smoke weed and cash in on the gullibility of his followers.
This is problematic on all kinds of levels, but from the perspective of the people pushing bullshit to the masses, the issue eventually becomes one of credibility and very quickly after that, an issue of revenue.
See the thing is, advertisers are willing to go along for the ride as long as you don’t end up on the wrong side of a treason investigation. Because you know, who wants to be the company serving ads on a site that ends up implicated in a hostile foreign power’s efforts to undermine America’s democracy?
The answer to that question, for Breitbart anyway, is apparently “no one.”
Six months ago, Breitbart was riding the wave of the election, plotting an international expansion to provide a platform to spread far-right, populist views in Europe. But today, Breitbart is facing traffic declines, advertiser blacklists, campaigns for marketers to steer clear and even a petition within Amazon for it to stop providing ad services.
There were just 26 brands appearing on Breitbart in May, down from a high of 242 in March, according to MediaRadar, which tracks ads on websites. Many conservative sites, including Townhall, The Blaze and National Review, have also had declines, although those declines are much less pronounced than Breitbart, according to MediaRadar.
Traffic numbers tell another part of the story. Breitbart had 10.8 million uniques in April, down 13 percent from a year ago, according to comScore.
The site’s decline also coincides with boycotts aimed at getting advertisers to stop running ads on the site. One, Sleeping Giants, a Twitter account started in November, has tracked the number of advertisers worldwide that have committed to stop advertising on Breitbart and its ilk. There were 2,200 on the list as of June 5, according to one of the account’s anonymous organizers. Ad tech companies including AppNexus and The Trade Desk have stopped sending ads to Breitbart.
Of course for Breitbart and all the sites that have piggybacked on the populist wave that catapulted the alt-Right blogosphere into the limelight, an advertiser boycott may be the least of their worries.
Because what goes around comes around, and after spending two years looking on as Breitbart and friends maligned the mainstream media, reporters are starting to ask questions of people who might know a thing or two about the alt-Right’s ties to RT and Sputnik.
Coming full circle, “there’s only so long fake news can pretend.”