Afterthought: The Profitability of the Alt-Right’s Cults of Personality

Making money off of ignorance isn’t new, but linking it to hatred and outrage can be dangerous

Gavin McInnes, the right-wing co-founder of Vice Media and contributor to The Rebel Media. He also created the Proud Boys group. (flickr/lisaeeeee)

Thinking for yourself is hard, and it’s getting harder these days. Technology is a double-edged sword—it’s given us access to more information than ever before, as well as a platform to distort and disseminate that information without being held accountable. The internet has become a rhetorical battleground for the “SJW” hegemony and the “Alt-Right” crusaders to wage war across the ever-expanding territories of the comments section.

Social media has learned to profit off of this with a simple business formula: the more people you can get to engage with your platform, the more money you can make. It didn’t take long for some media-savvy professionals to realise that one of the best ways to do this is to piss people off.

Ezra Levant, kingpin of The Rebel Media, has turned his publication into a business based on misinformation and hate. Gavin McInnes, VICE co-founder turned Rebel Media associate and creator of the “Proud Boys” group, is also well-versed in this business. He has published contentious remarks on social media, but his articles and videos (with titles like “10 Things I Hate About Jews”) draw clicks, which translate into ad revenue.

Levant is notorious for bombarding his audience with petitions for readers to sign in pursuit of various sensationalised causes. Once they sign a petition and hop aboard the Rebel train, it becomes much easier to convince them to donate money to the network.

Lauren Southern, Margaret Wente, and even the controversial Jordan Peterson all profit from pandering to a specific demographic like this. Beside their use of media as a podium to misconstrue arguments and spout uninformed opinions (a podium they covetously protect while reciting the dead-horse Alt-Right mantra of the right to free speech), they all have one thing in common: profiting from their followers’ aversions to critical thought.

When you realize that they stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from their cushy column positions or their legions of crowd-funding supporters, it becomes harder to believe that they aren’t just fanning the flames of public outrage in order to make a quick buck. Wente writes for The Globe and Mail, a publication readers usually characterize as being left-leaning, though her opinion pieces are usually anything but. Larger Canadian news organizations like the Globe are sinking businesses, and it doesn’t sound outside the realm of possibility that the reason Wente is still a featured columnist is that they need to appeal to the demographic whose only draw to their website is Wente’s anti-PC squawking.

These personalities have little else to offer the public but their image. They barge into public discourse, loudly decrying long-established principles like basic human rights, disputing objective facts, ignoring criticism, and riling up their audiences.

People are happy to be strung along, to be duped by these schemes, because these personalities are giving them what they need: elucidation of thoughts and ideas that they are too lazy or ignorant to explore for themselves, as well as validation for their feelings of hatred and outrage and justification for their growing fear of being ostracized.

So what do we do about it?

Do your own research. Have your own discussions. Diversify your media diet and take the time to think about these issues for yourself. Fight the commercialized spread of ignorance.

It matters more than you think.


On Dec. 11, 2017, PIPS received correspondence from a Crossroads, Texas lawyer, Mr. Jason L. Van Dyke, writing on behalf of the Proud Boys and its founder, Gavin McInnes, requiring that The Runner immediately cease and desist all false and defamatory publications concerning both Mr. McInnes and the Proud Boys and that The Runner retract and correct the below statement that appeared in the above article:
 
“Gavin McInnes, VICE co-founder turned Rebel Media associate and creator of the racist Proud Boys group, is also well-versed in this business. He is an openly anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynist, and transphobic dumpster fire of a human being, but his articles and videos (with titles like “10 Things I Hate About Jews”) draw clicks, which translate into ad revenue.” 
 
PIPS retracts the above statement and has corrected the statement as follows:

“Gavin McInnes, VICE co-founder turned Rebel Media associate and creator of the “Proud Boys” group, is also well-versed in this business.  He has published contentious remarks on social media, but his articles and videos (with titles like “10 Things I Hate About Jews”) draw clicks, which translate into ad revenue.” 

The revised version of the story appears above.

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