From the editor in chief of Breitbart News, a firsthand account of how the establishment media became weaponized against Donald Trump and his supporters on behalf of the political left. Alex Marlow was just a twenty-one-year-old UC Berkeley student when renowned media mogul Andrew Breitbart hired him as his first employee. Breitbart began mentoring Marlow on how to fight the culture war one headline at a time and to remain resilient in the face of personal attacks. Now, in this eye-opening and timely book, Marlow explains how the establishment press destroyed its own credibility with a relentless stream of “fake news” designed to smear Donald Trump...
Publisher: Threshold Editions (May 18, 2021) Language: English Hardcover: 368 pages ISBN-10: 1982160748 ISBN-13: 978-1982160746 Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
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To Wynn and Robert
This is not a book merely about liberal media bias. Since Donald Trump descended that escalator and announced his candidacy for president in 2015, “bias” is far too benign a word for the establishment media’s collective tendencies. The notion that our mainstream press is merely reporting the news with a subtle tilt away from a neutral viewpoint seems quaint in the year 2021. No, in our modern media landscape, advancing chosen agendas drives America’s newsrooms far more than fact-finding or truth-telling, and examining newsrooms using a liberal/conservative dichotomy is too simplistic. Leftism, globalism, and corporatism have emerged as the dominant ideologies that drive major content decisions by leading news outlets. More and more, newsrooms in recent years have gravitated toward stories that advance the notion that an interventionist government combined with powerful, well-funded global bureaucracies provides the path forward for America. Rarely do newsrooms, increasingly owned, financed, and operated by the world’s biggest companies, provide a check on the corporations that control so much of our lives and culture.
Yes, our media is on the attack, looking to harm and even destroy the personal lives of their perceived adversaries. And they’ve gotten nastier. Much nastier.
The American media is the principal player in our modern day “cancel culture,” the recent phenomenon where a person is banished from polite society, or at least social media, for offending popular culture’s prevailing consensus.
Their ultimate goal is to cancel America, at least in the traditional sense. Next they’ll replace it with a woke-topia where political correctness, corporatism, and globalism replace liberty, In God We Trust, and E pluribus unum.
Breaking the News is about the modern era of political media. In this book, I track the evolution of the “Democrat Media Complex,” which was Andrew Breitbart’s expression for the incestuous nature of the establishment media elite and America’s ideological Left. I explain why and how certain stories are covered—or not covered—and who benefits from those coverage decisions. I examine the deals cut, the corporate connections, the family ties, and the global ambitions that are shaping the news that you consume every day, even if you can’t always see it in plain sight.
And in the spirit of Andrew Breitbart, I’ll give you some tools to fight back.
And we must act now, because a free American press hangs in the balance.
A Brief Note on Style and Format
While I believe Breaking the News covers more ground than any book on this particular moment in media, it doesn’t cover all of the ground that there is to cover.
This is, at times, a pity. So many of the hundreds upon hundreds of stories I reviewed during the research process are worthy of discussion, but I simply couldn’t make them all fit.
For example, Newsweek published a piece in 2019 suggesting it could be time to rethink cannibalism. It’s undeniably compelling and alarming, but it gets just this one mention.
Another amazing story that didn’t fit elsewhere: CNN legal analyst Areva Martin accused my SiriusXM Patriot colleague David Webb of “white privilege” during a radio interview. If only I could have seen her face when Webb told her that he is black.
And what about when CNN’s Jake Tapper suggested that longtime Trump associate Roger Stone “might like” going to prison; the consensus among some in the Internet commentariat appeared to be that this comment by Tapper was a homophobic joke about prison rape. (A CNN spokesperson claimed the comment was about Stone’s love of attention.) Tapper also anchored an entire television segment on Trump’s penis.
All of these stories cry out for additional discussion, and there are seemingly half a dozen more like them that occur each day.
In the chapters dedicated to specific news outlets, I chose to focus my research and analysis on three “case studies”: Bloomberg News, because of their subservience to China and the uniqueness of Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run; MSNBC, because it was the ultimate media arm of the anti-Trump “Resistance”; and the New York Times, because it was the most influential establishment media outlet in Trump’s America. I think taken together, these three outlets use nearly every tool in the media’s kit that can be used to advance the interests of big corporations, the political establishment, and the globalist left. I believe after reading those chapters, you’ll agree.
That’s not to say that other news outlets aren’t covered in great detail. If you picked up the book hoping for a beat-down of, say, CNN, or the Washington Post, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, but they don’t get the full “case study” treatment.
Maybe I’ll take those on in the sequel!
I mention this at the outset for one specific purpose: just because it doesn’t appear in Breaking the News, it doesn’t mean it isn’t fake news. The corporate media establishment is constantly trying to manipulate their audiences and the world to serve their political, personal, and financial ends. Nearly every major outlet is doing this, and they’ll never stop. Ultimately it is on the citizens of the United States of America to be conscientious consumers of the news media. Only then can we begin to fight back.
THE RISE OF BREITBART AND THE FAKE NEWS HALL OF SHAME
Just after Trump’s victory and his appointment of former Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon as “Chief Strategist,” Breitbart began to receive scrutiny unlike anything we had ever seen before. We’d certainly seen our share of good news cycles and bad, but we were on a roll of late. I had just gotten back from the United Kingdom, where I had spent much of the summer covering the British referendum to leave the European Union, otherwise known as Brexit. Nigel Farage, then the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and figurehead of the anti–European Union movement, said that “Brexit would not have happened without Breitbart.” Reporting on Hillary Clinton by Breitbart staffers, especially Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer, had become imbedded in the consciousness of the American electorate. And of course, Breitbart was the first major American media outlet to take Donald Trump seriously as a presidential contender.
With the elevation of Bannon, the smears were flying at a rate that we hadn’t seen in our history. Here were some of the most common falsehoods that were repeated about our merry band of grassroots journalists:
Breitbart news is anti-Semitic. Perhaps the most oft-repeated smear on us is also the most absurd. Andrew Breitbart and Larry Solov, both Jewish, conceived of the idea for Breitbart.com while on a sojourn in Israel, where they visited holy sites and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The first editor-in-chief of the website and current senior editor-at-large, Joel Pollak, is an orthodox Jew. Many of the top editors past and present are Jews. My mother was raised Jewish. Breitbart News has a Jerusalem bureau where we cover the Jewish state from an overwhelmingly pro-Israel perspective.
The preponderance of evidence against the claim we’re anti-Semitic raises the question, where did the smear come from? Almost certainly it is based on this single headline: “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.”
That’s it. Certainly, that’s an intense headline, and one that normally wouldn’t get published on our virtual pages. But the article, a takedown of apostate Republican magazine editor and “Never Trump” pundit Bill Kristol, was written by prominent Jewish intellectual David Horowitz, and this was his preferred headline. What’s more, in the article, Horowitz criticizes Kristol for not being sufficiently pro-Israel. Israel, of course, is the only Jewish state on earth.
Rarely do media hit pieces on Breitbart give any of this context. So, a single opinion headline from a Jewish thought leader is used to cancel out thousands of pro-Jewish articles written by Jewish writers and editors.
This isn’t bias. This is weaponized political media designed to destroy us.
Breitbart news is racist and sexist. This one is nearly as easy to debunk, if you use the traditional definition of racism (discriminating against people based on their skin tone). As it happens, Breitbart News’ entertainment editor is black (Jerome Hudson), our copy chief is a black woman (Adrienne Ross), our world editor is a Latina woman (Frances Martel), our chief defense correspondent is an Asian woman (Kristina Wong), and our top video editor is also a woman (Amand House). Not to mention numerous Jewish staffers including those mentioned above. And those are just examples from middle management. Journalist Wil S. Hylton reported in the New York Times Magazine that I personally have “a pretty good record of promoting women and minorities.”
Since 2015, Breitbart News has published the Cartel Chronicles. This series is designed to be a channel for citizen journalism and other reporting on cartel activity throughout Mexico, the United States, and beyond. The Cartel Chronicles gives a voice to the Mexican citizens who are the greatest victims of cartel violence, as well as countless Americans who are harmed by the illegal drug and human smuggling trade. We publish the Cartel Chronicles in both English and Spanish.
For years, publicly traded SiriusXM has given Breitbart News between 23 and 38 hours of live national radio a week. At least of those weekly hours are hosted by a black woman, Sonnie Johnson. It would be quite a feat for a racist network to produce two thousand hours a year of original broadcasting without producing even a single racist sound bite, yet we somehow manage!
As for me, my first job in conservative media was with my first favorite talk show host: a black man named Larry Elder, who now hosts a nationally syndicated show for the Salem Radio Network.
So, Breitbart is a pro-Jewish website with a reputation for treating women and minorities well and publishes many articles in Spanish. Yet we were branded racist. Why? It’s because the Democrat Media Complex, which has been weaponized against the Right and traditional American values, has changed the definition of racism to mean, in essence, anything associated with or supportive of Donald Trump or conservative America. Occasionally, even being insufficiently anti-Trump or politically correct is enough to get you branded with the scarlet “R.”
So, everyone on the right is now “racist” to one degree or another. Thus, the Left has to invent new language to distinguish between the really bad people and your garden-variety rubes. Thus…
Breitbart News is “the platform for the alt-right.” The expression “alt-right” is relatively new and if you asked ten people to define it, those who have even heard of it would likely give you differing answers. That said, they would probably associate the term with racism and Jew-hatred.
Luckily for us, this one might be the easiest to refute of them all: professor and noted Israeli-American author Yochai Benkler, who has studied Breitbart with interdisciplinary colleagues at Harvard and MIT, literally told the New York Times Magazine in 2017 that “Breitbart is not the alt-right.”
Case closed, right?
Well, no, because Steve Bannon once told Mother Jones that we are “the platform for the alt-right.” Though Bannon has a genius and a magnetism that is often productive and usually compelling, he is also prone to using declarative language when he is entirely incorrect. Occasionally he’s a visionary; other times he’s a WWE professional wrestler. This was an example of the latter. I wasn’t there for the conversation, nor do I know exactly what Bannon was thinking, but he certainly wasn’t telling a reporter that our pro-Israel outlet, owned and edited by Jews, is also anti-Semitic. Yet, if you read news reports about Breitbart, that’s exactly how the comment is portrayed.
At that point in time, we had published the most thorough reporting on the alt-right and its various factions earlier that year in a piece titled “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” The article was widely read and generally well received; Bloomberg News included it on their 2016 “Jealousy List” of the stories they wished they had written.
So, Breitbart certainly popularized right-wing ideas that were an alternative to establishment conservatives, and we had written comprehensively about the “alt-right,” so it’s easy to see how Bannon could have made this flub.
But a flub is all it was, as confirmed by Harvard’s Benkler. Yet, our weaponized media never let the facts get in the way of a favorable narrative. So, they have used that single phrase to define us instead of examining the tens of thousands of pieces of content or the thousands of hours of radio we produce each year.
All’s fair in love and war, as the saying goes.
And this is war.
Breitbart News peddles conspiracies. Of the smears on Breitbart News, this is the one that has gotten the least traction. But still, it merits a quick review.
Wikipedia in their wildly inaccurate entry on Breitbart News (remember, it’s not bias, it’s weaponized media) lists four total conspiracy theories we have allegedly peddled over the years (remember, Breitbart News was founded well over a decade ago and publishes about one hundred original articles each day). Here they are:
- Wikipedia falsely connects Breitbart News with the “birther” conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. We have always presumed Obama was born in America. In fact, even when we broke the story of what we believe to be the origins of birtherism (a promotional pamphlet used by Obama’s literary agency in 1991 that states he was “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii”), we clearly stated within the piece that we believe he was born in the USA anyway. From a disclaimer we tacked at the top of the article: “Andrew Breitbart was never a ‘Birther,’ ” and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of “birtherism.” In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.”
- Wikipedia claims we promoted Pizzagate, a bizarre conspiracy that key members of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle ran a child sex ring through a northwestern D.C. pizza parlor using coded emails. Wikipedia states flatly that we hyped the absurd story and, as of spring 2020, cited four source links to back up their claim: one to the New York Times, one to Snopes, one to PolitiFact, and one to the Daily Beast, all frequent targets of Breitbart News’s media reporters. 9 Of the four, the word “Breitbart” appears only in the Daily Beast piece; none of the four link to a single article where we promoted “Pizzagate.” Breitbart’s Wikipedia page is “locked,” which means it is nearly impossible to get this blatant falsehood removed from our page.
- The third “conspiracy theory” we allegedly peddled is simply because we quoted Roger Stone accurately. Breitbart transcribed an interview between Steve Bannon and Roger Stone in which the conservative provocateur alleged that Huma Abedin had ties to a “global terrorist entity.” Our reporting does not confirm nor deny Stone’s claims. If reporting accurately on what a prominent figure says is considered an endorsement or even a promotion of “conspiracy theories,” Breitbart is also guilty of pushing thousands of conspiracy theories lobbed by the ladies of The View and CNN hosts we post on a daily basis.
- Wikipedia says we published “claims that Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration supported ISIS.” This is an exaggeration. Breitbart published a single article by a former junior reporter who misconstrued a memo Hillary Clinton received that he believed indicated the Obama administration was supporting ISIS specifically in the chaotic and confusing Syrian civil war against the Bashar al-Assad regime. As it turned out, our writer misinterpreted the memo and we have since retracted the story. It wasn’t our best work, but it hardly makes us “conspiratorial.”
So, the establishment media’s narrative about Breitbart has been wrong the entire time. If you’re taking time to read this book (and an organization funded by George Soros isn’t paying you to do so), this probably isn’t a surprise to you. But what might be a surprise is the extent to which the establishment media has so clearly put their agenda ahead of the truth. Breitbart is far from the only group of people smeared by a belligerent media class. Recall some of these classics from my personal Fake News Hall of Shame:
THE CHARLOTTESVILLE HOAX
The media insists to this day that President Trump said that neo-Nazis were “very fine people” after the protests and riots that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. The lie stems from a press conference held on infrastructure at Trump Tower on August 15; toward the end of the presser, a reporter questioned Trump as to whom he blamed for the violence that day, considering that neo-Nazis were in attendance. Trump reacted as follows (emphasis mine):
Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group—excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
This was all the media needed to claim that Trump is literally a Nazi. Conveniently, they left off the rest of the discussion. Full transcript (emphasis mine):
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
TRUMP: Oh no, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down—excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people— and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats—you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
So not only is Trump not literally Hitler, he flat out condemned Nazis a mere minute after his infamous “fine people” comment. In fact, CNN reported the story accurately in August 2017 but went on to become one of the most prominent proponents of the hoax as time went on. 11 The establishment media echoed this falsehood for years all because, it appears, it helped frame the president as a racist.
Not only was Trump’s answer to the reporter a good one, but it predicted the eventual cancellation of Washington and Jefferson. (“Cancellation” is the expression for widespread ostracism or even banning of figures, past and present, from polite society and social media.) A short time after Trump’s comments, it became fashionable to rename schools that honored Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and even Lincoln. These presidents are simply too controversial for the woke moment in which we find ourselves.
Assemble the renaming committee! We need a few Colin Kaepernick Middle Schools to open up and some Jussie Smollett Highways anyway.
The fake news narrative that Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides followed him around to the end of his presidency. Joe Biden regularly cited the Charlottesville hoax as part of his inspiration to run for the highest office. Biden, himself a white man with a checkered history when it comes to race, rode this smear all the way to the White House.