BuzzFeed: Conservative New Media Lost the Election
For a website that was leading with the story "27 Everyday Things You Never Knew Had Names" at the time of this writing, BuzzFeed has a surprisingly tenuous grasp of irony.
Earlier Tuesday, editor-in-chief Ben Smith's top political reporter, McKay Coppins, went after the Breitbart News team again with a piece literally titled "How The Conservative Media Lost The Election." The social media site seized the opportunity for an online conservative movement reeling from GOP loss piece, but Coppins operates from a surprising assumption. He frames it as though the conservative new media, still in its infancy, already had the power to win the election for the GOP, but we just didn't do a good enough job.
If you think of it that way, it's quite flattering. After all, Breitbart News launched its first group blog, Big Hollywood, the day after Obama's 2009 inauguration. The pathologically left-wing Washington Post, for example, was founded in 1877.
Breitbart readers are aware that BuzzFeed Politics is to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the author of this particular piece was the same BuzzFeed reporter whom Breitbart News embarrassed when a hot mic caught him badmouthing Romney on the campaign trail.
The core of Coppins's article is an attempt to mock Breitbart and other websites for failing at our allegedly stated goal: to knock out Barack Obama. Coppins writes:
The new online right came roaring out of 2008 convinced that the only reason Obama won was because John McCain's weak-stomached campaign — cowed by the aura of the first black presidential nominee — had failed to document his ties to the radical left. Their mission would be to "vet" the president as McCain hadn't, and convince the American people to reject him.
This is a not-so-veiled critique of our "The Vetting" series, which exposed Obama's ties to socialists in Chicago and radical racialist academics, and uncovered the likely origin of "The Birther" movement, among other things. While it certainly would have been nice if Obama wasn't reelected, I was personally unaware that this was our "mission." (I was Andrew Breitbart's first hire back in January of 2008.) The goal of "The Vetting," if nothing else, was to give the American people the information about the man who holds the nation's highest office that the mainstream media wouldn't.
Andrew was no fan of Obama's, but he said, "I want to destroy the Democrat media complex" not, "I want to destroy the President."
Coppins acknowledged that possibility in his own article. "My impression from the outside was that the target of the vetting effort was always the mainstream media, not really the president," said Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger and cofounder of the long-running conservative blog RedState.com.
Yet the tagline at the top of the piece definitively states: "The plan was to unmask Obama."
Essentially, BuzzFeed argues that the conservative movement is doomed because Breitbart bothered to raise questions about the origins of the ideas of the President of the United States. In Smith's world, that means we're only interested in irrelevant minutiae, not real news from real journalists. Yet here's a sampling of posts on BuzzFeed's homepage right now:
While Breitbart was undertaking the serious business of trying to understand Barack Obama, Buzzfeed was trying to tarnish Mitt Romney with silliness:
There's plenty more where that came from. But again, it was Breitbart News that was wasting time--nay, damaging the conservative movement--by vetting the President.
Finally, Coppins rounds out the piece by marginalizing massive traffic growth across the online right. He approvingly quotes conservative blogger Dan Riehl, who states: "I don't give a shit about all these people talking about their page views. Look at the results. We did something wrong."
If BuzzFeed is hoping that Riehl's quote is accurate, they're doing some wishful thinking.
If you polled the people around the Breitbart virtual news room and asked why we lost in 2008 and in 2012, not many of us would first blame the candidates, the party, or even the incompetent consultant class who botched the Get-Out-the-Vote effort so badly. Most of us would probably say that we lose elections because the left has a foothold in the core American institutions: entertainment media, news media, and academia.
Ben Smith understands this as well as anyone. In new media, greater traffic almost invariably correlates with greater influence in the world of ideas. A progressive activist in his core, Smith took a job at a website that builds a baseline readership with entertaining countdowns of "Saved by the Bell" facts so that when it's time to wage war on (ahem) the online right or pump up Obama, he already has a massive audience.
BuzzFeed is the horse and the staff of BuzzFeed Politics are the Trojans.
Ben Smith and his team are confident (or dishonest) enough to put words in our mouth and state that, "The plan was to unmask Obama. It didn't work." But the plan, as Andrew said, was to unmask the media who wouldn't report--let alone dig for--scoops that could damage the reputation of their beloved One.
BuzzFeed is a fan of Obama, and Obama won, and they took a victory lap. That's their right. But we're stronger than ever, building our institutions, and collecting new readers from those dissatisfied with faux-neutral left-wing alternatives by the millions. And Ben Smith knows that, which is why he published this piece.
Alexander Marlow is Managing Editor of Breitbart News. Follow him on twitter @alexmarlow.