Conservative Ben Shapiro’s relentless use of Facebook and far-right ‘outrage’ politics have created a very profitable media empire: report

Conservative Ben Shapiro’s relentless use of Facebook and far-right ‘outrage’ politics have created a very profitable media empire: report

Facebook, along with Twitter and YouTube, is among the tech giants that former President Donald Trump has targeted in civil lawsuits, claiming that Facebook is censoring Republicans and trampling on his 1st Amendment rights — a claim that many legal scholars find ridiculous, as Facebook is a private company and not part of the government. Moreover, countless people on the far right have been using Facebook to aggressively promote themselves, including Ben Shapiro. And journalist Miles Parks, in an article for National Public Radio's website published on July 19, outlines some ways in which Shapiro has been using Facebook to build his media empire.

Shapiro, who was born on January 15, 1984 and is now 37, has positioned himself as a far-right voice of the Millennial Generation — repeatedly slamming fellow Millennials for holding more liberal or progressive views. The podcast host and Daily Wire founder has been mocked unmercifully by progressives for some of the ludicrous things he has said; Shapiro, in 2019, infamously described right-wing British pundit Andrew Neil (an admirer of the late Margaret Thatcher) as a "leftist." In the U.K., Neil has been compared to the late William F. Buckley.

But despite embarrassing moments like the Neil interview, Shapiro has a large and devoted following on the far right — and Facebook has been one of his top promotional tools.

Parks explains, "An NPR analysis of social media data found that over the past year, stories published by the site Shapiro founded, The Daily Wire, received more likes, shares and comments on Facebook than any other news publisher by a wide margin. Even legacy news organizations that have broken major stories or produced groundbreaking investigative work don't come anywhere close."

According to Parks, "Daily Wire articles with headlines like 'BOOK REVIEW: Proof That Wokeness Is Projection By Nervous, Racist White Women Who Can't Talk To Minorities Without Elaborate Codes' regularly garner tens of thousands of shares for the site, and Shapiro is turning that Facebook reach into a rapidly expanding, cost-efficient media empire — one that experts worry may be furthering polarization in the U.S."

Shapiro isn't an intellectual or nuanced type of conservative but rather, comes from the own-the-liberals school of far-right punditry. There isn't a lot of nuance or complexity in his analysis, which is why — during the Neil interview — he reflexively jumped to the conclusion that Neil was a "leftist" when the conservative British pundit asked him some tough questions.

But in the U.S., Shapiro knows his audience — and he thrives on knee-jerk "outrage" punditry. The Daily Wire, Parks notes, "has turned anger into an art form and recycled content into a business model."

Jaime Settle, director of the Social Networks and Political Psychology Lab at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, told NPR, "There's a demand amongst certain subsets of the public for outrage politics. This happens on both the left and the right. But the people who do this on the right have just found a lot more successful ways of doing it…. This has everything to do with the psychology of news consumers and the broader issues with polarization in American culture."

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