What I learned from a week of Breitbart News
Breitbart News: the propagandistic hellscape previously headed by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who declared it “the platform for the alt-right,” and which unleashed right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos onto the world. Over the course of 2016, Breitbart went from being the United States’ 1,000th most active internet destination to the 42nd, with many of its readers getting almost all their news solely from Breitbart. Its content has frequently been called misogynist, xenophobic, and racist, but the boldness with which Breitbart bends the truth puts it in a league right up there with, well, the president.
To find out what it’s like living in the alt-right bubble, I went on a four-day, Breitbart-only media diet. I was shooting for a week, but being limited to such nakedly biased news for that long proved to be grating enough on my psyche.
On Tuesday, the biggest piece of news was Donald Trump’s rollback of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a move that is poised to put a halt on America’s efforts to limit carbon emissions and keep us on a dangerous track toward catastrophic climate change. You wouldn’t know that if you only read Breitbart, however, as its coverage of the executive order neglected to mention climate change even once.
“REPEAL Odildocare !” voiced one concerned commenter.
On Wednesday, I got to enjoy an op-ed by Ann Coulter about the evils of Obamacare. It was around this time that I started to break the internet’s number one rule: I read the comments section. Predictably, the most simplistic and reactionary comments rose to the top of the heap. “REPEAL Odildocare !” voiced one concerned commenter.
A special note on Breitbart’s headlines: They read like rejected alt-right Clickhole pieces. My personal favorite was the attention-grabbing hook on the main page: “Tough Guy ¡Jeb! to Trump: ‘Stop Saying Things That Aren’t True.’”
On Friday, nearing the end of this sordid affair, I was surprised to see an article about ideological bubbles and exposure to alternative viewpoints. I thought this was surely an early April Fools’ joke. This must be a sign of hope, I thought, that nuance and intelligent discourse weren’t dead to the alt-right. Then I looked at the comments. “I don’t trust or respect anybody that was stupid enough to vote for Hillary,” said one of the highest-rated comments. “You got that right,” read a top reply. “Their minds are obviously gone.”