I’m not a good businessman.
I can make viable content, deliver clever one-liners occasionally, write something that goes viral, or land a big interview. But for the life of me I have no idea how to monetize the content I produce. I leave that to those who are good businesspeople.
There are a handful of popular internet personalities and commentators who have proven to be brilliant businesspeople. This is the era of filthy rich video game commentators, don’t you know, not to mention the countless independent outlets and podcasts that have sprung up over the past decade.
Many of these podcasts are hosted by people who were once completely engulfed inside conspiracy culture. The official story of 9/11 helped to create a conspiracy movement known as Truthers. These were decidedly left-wing people, speaking out against government corruption, musing that the terrorist attack was an inside job, tacitly accusing the Bush Administration and other right-wing intellectuals of using the attack to launch a cleanse of the Middle East.
Alex Jones was there too, on the side of the truthers. While I don’t recall any specific moments that said he was a proud progressive, all of his content was geared towards the left. The Bilderberg meetings, the silly crashing of Bohemian Grove, the claims that piles of dead Americans would be placed inside alleged death camps – all of these issues were championed by the unhinged left. Jones saw a business opportunity and exploited it.
Then Barrack Obama was president, and everything changed.
The Republicans obstructed the Obama Administration from Day 1, utilizing congressional processes to their advantage, filibustering, and legislatively blocking meaningful bills from reaching the floor. Out of this chaos sprang The Tea Party, those lovable Cletuses and Betty-Sues who wanted the government to keep their hands off their Medicare, a government program, and cast Obama down to Satan’s depth because 22% of the GOP said they thought he was the anti-Christ.
According to a 2013 poll, 61% of Romney voters thought climate change was a hoax. 38% of Romney voters believed a secret globalist elite (or New World Order) was conspiring to rule the world. 22% of Romney voters thought Obama was the Antichrist.
— Seth Cotlar (@SethCotlar) December 2, 2021
Alex Jones could no longer grift the left, so he turned to the hard right instead, shrieking about 1776, liberty, freedom, and how the Sandy Hook Massacre was really just a bunch of actors getting paid 20 bucks an hour to pretend a bunch of kids got shot. Right wing tropes about guns being taken away, or Christmas being attacked, or unconstitutional taxes were produced specifically for the angry Tea Party types. Once again Jones found a market, and quietly adjusted his views, as batshit as they are.
Fast forward to 2015 before Trump was elected, before Hilary Clinton’s emails, and before Pizzagate, you can see a trend emerging. I noticed it myself when Trump was still trying to win the primary. While the mainstream media mimicked the polarization of the electorate via FOX News and MSNBC, often at the expense of actual journalism, independent freelancers, writers, reporters, and podcasters began to drastically adjust the content they were producing. There were a bunch of reasons why this adjustment took place, but the main reason is the old cliché – it was for money.
Obama spent 8 years unsuccessfully fighting the poisoning of his personal brand among American conservatives. The GOP and talk radio fed the right-wing base so much meat that its nickname could have been Jenna Jamieson. All of a sudden, the Tea Party was raising millions of dollars. Conservative pundits finally started to become internet savvy.
But Trump was a glitch in the pattern. Normally, with an alleged right-wing hardliner in office, the conventional wisdom was to direct news content to the disgruntled, or in this case people who hated Trump and his MAGA followers. 80% of the mainstream media focused only on sick burns and wacky theories about Russia instead of thoughtfully examining his presidency and delivering impartial, objective information. So, Trump became the victim, energizing his hillbilly army who were both fiercely loyal profoundly stupid.
When a trump supporter was shot in the chest and killed leftists cheered
when a child rapist was shot and killed after attacking a teenager they mourned
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) November 22, 2021
Some journalists responded to the Trump era by pivoting to the right. Tim Pool, the freelancer who became infamous after covering the Occupy Wall Street protests via livestreaming, and who also worked at the progressive magazine Vice, made a career decision in 2019. As a moderate, centrist, rationalist, Pool often criticized members of the left for the usual shortcomings; political correctness, Clinton corruption, and in doing so created a group of new readers – his very own MAGA crowd. So, rather than attempt to stay true to his principles, Pool realized that his audience had changed. Instead of covering news like a person who isn’t ideological, the analytics demonstrated something else. All Pool had to do was always hit Trump and his followers with kid gloves and he could appear objective. He isn’t objective, but nobody seems to care. However, if Pool decided to alienate his new MAGA audience, he’d lose all the gains he made.
And then there is Joe Rogan, the podcast overlord of OMG and WTF who is being encouraged to dispense medical advice, as if he should replace Anthony Fauci as America’s top doctor. I used to be a regular listener of Rogan’s podcast. He is a skilled conversationalist, speaks with interesting people, and appeals to a wider audience than most media personalities. Well, he used to anyway. Rogan’s stubborn neutrality used to be what infuriated some listeners, and fostered viewer loyalty in others. Eventually he harvested the MAGA audience not just by criticizing the left, but also sparing the Trump-ish from being on the receiving end of any actual worthwhile criticism. Rogan’s move to Spotify was supposed to be a savvy decision, but in hindsight Rogan’s deal also represents a rebuke of the force-fed morals from Big Tech. Spotify has proven to be something of a trailblazer by refusing to fire or suspend Rogan after he said benign comments about gender dysphoria. Between Spotify’s call for creative freedom and Netflix standing with Dave Chappelle, maybe we can start to have nice things again.
— Herb Leonard (@Herb_650) December 15, 2021
But like Pool, Rogan adjusted his content so he wouldn’t lose his new demo, something unheard of before he was on Spotify. His content has incrementally creeped more and more towards the neo-libertarian, conspiracy cultured, digitally lobotomized, surface-scratchers in order to keep the core of his audience happy. And by the way, the Ivermectin/kitchen sink approach to Rogan’s COVID infection was never the problem, it was the stubbornness displayed afterwards, how heated he was when explaining there is a human medication containing Ivermectin. The old Joe would have just said, “Everyone is making horse jokes because it’s funny. People are literally going to farm retail stores and buying horse medicine off the shelf, which is fucking stupid and you should never take any type of medication without speaking to your doctor.” Instead, he badgered a CNN reporter like he was the new host of Inside Edition.
Joe Rogan destroys Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN over vaccinating children.
— STATE OF US ALL (@StateofusAll) October 16, 2021
Rogan, and a growing list of other independent podcasters, are abandoning the strategy of not being left or right, pushing content towards a MAGA demographic that is helping to destroy the guy who used to not wave a flag for either side.