A High-Brow Breitbart Wants to Become the New Home of Trumpism

A High-Brow Breitbart Wants to Become the New Home of Trumpism

Ben Schreckinger is a reporter for Politico. A block away from the former Capitol Hill headquarters of Breitbart News — known in Washington as the “Breitbart embassy” — sits a second-floor apartment its occupant calls “the Consulate.” Here, surrounded by memorabilia of the British empire, two right-wing entrepreneurs — a protege of Steve Bannon’s and a social media activist — are rebooting a dilapidated conservative publication from around a dining room table.Story Continued Below This month, the duo relaunched the 75-year-old Human Events, once Ronald Reagan’s favorite newspaper. Their efforts to reinvent it as a thriving digital media enterprise driven by “tabloid intellectualism” represent the latest test of whether President Donald Trump’s haphazard insurgency can mature into a durable political movement. “It’s Trump as a philosophy, not Trump as a man,” said co-founder Raheem Kassam — the posh, bespectacled, former editor of Breitbart London — of the publication’s guiding light. “Where is the movement going after Trump? How do we keep the good — the pugilism? How do we tie up the fraying ends? Because remember: This was not supposed to happen. Trump was not supposed to get elected.” Kassam’s publishing partner, Will Chamberlain, a 33-year-old former litigator turned activist — also bespectacled, with a no-nonsense demeanor — bought the moribund publication for $330,000 this winter, announcing the purchase during the Conservative Political Action Conference. Now, the duo are positioning it as an alternative to what they derisively call “Conservative Inc.” — the movement conservative heirs of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan — who are more accepted in the cultural mainstream and make up the right’s shrinking, anti-Trump intellectual vanguard. The disdain is mutual. Conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, who serves as the editor-in-chief of the new Never-Trump publication the Bulwark — the spiritual successor to William Kristol’s shuttered Weekly Standard — called Chamberlain and Kassam “woolly conspiracy mongers,” and expressed doubts that their venture will get very far. “Isn’t the crackpot lane already kind of crowded?” Sykes asked. David French, a senior fellow at the National Review, another outpost of pre-Trump movement conservatism, said he was unaware of the relaunch, and expressed his own skepticism about the publishers’ vision of a publication built around some sort of Trumpist philosophy. “Trumpism is solely defined as advancing the interests of the man Donald Trump,” French said. “People are trying to put some sort of intellectual frame around the ambitions of this one guy, who doesn’t even have a particularly coherent ideology himself.” He added, “If they can make something that is utterly incoherent coherent — more power to them.” Since launching at the beginning of this month, the new publishers are claiming some modest early success. Ten days in, the group had amassed roughly 600,000 pageviews and more than 750 paying members, or “Founding Fathers.” The early ranks of members — who pay $17.76 a month — include Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney. Kassam ran into Giuliani at the Trump Hotel last week and helped the former New York City mayor purchase a membership on his iPad. Giuliani said this fixation on de-platforming has drawn him back to the publication, which he became a fan of in the ’80s . “I like making the issue of censorship relevant and educating everyone that free speech even includes people right of center,” he said. Members get access to an invite-only chat room on Discord — a private messaging app favored by the alt-right — and to exclusive insider content. Most of the outlet’s articles will be freely available, because the publishers hope to influence public discourse, a goal that has pushed them towards a Twitter-centric strategy that caters to the chattering classes. To that end, the new Human Events has taken up social media censorship, a hot-button issue on the pro-Trump web, as its first cause célèbre. Among its first articles was an essay by Chamberlain titled, “Platform Access is a Civi
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