Over the past two decades, an immense amount of journalistic energy was spent exploring the right-wing media ecosystem—from talk radio, to Fox News, to Breitbart and beyond—and documenting its growing influence on mainstream GOP politics. This turned out to be a worthy and prescient pursuit, and if any doubt remains about that, I’d present “President Donald Trump” as Exhibit A. While serious Republicans in the political class spent years scoffing at the “entertainers” and “provocateurs” on the supposedly powerless fringe, the denizens of the fever swamp were busy taking over the party.
But 2017 poses the question: Could the same thing happen on the left?
It’s a prospect that deserves more serious attention and debate than it’s gotten this year. The Trump era has given rise to a vast alternative left-wing media infrastructure that operates largely out of the view of casual news consumers, but commands a massive audience and growing influence in liberal America. There are polemical podcasters and partisan click farms; wild-eyed conspiracists and cynical fabulists. Some traffic heavily in rumor and wage campaigns of misinformation; others are merely aggregators and commentators who have carved out a corner of the web for themselves. But taken together, they form a media universe where partisan hysteria is too easily stoked, and fake news can travel at the speed of light.
Before we go on, let me try to quiet the cries of “False equivalence!” before they begin: No, these personalities and publications do not yet wield the same influence in the Democratic Party that their counterparts do in the GOP. But ignoring them would be a mistake. In recent months, some of the most irresponsible actors in this world have proven alarmingly adept at influencing venerated figures of the left—from public intellectuals, to world-famous celebrities, to elected officials.
What follows is an attempt to map the topography of the left’s modern alternative media landscape. It is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it provides a useful start to the kind of exploration and anthropology that’s needed.
Katie Martin / The Atlantic Updated for clarification at 12:15 p.m. ET Last month, Democratic Senator Ed Markey delivered what seemed like an explosive bit of news during an interview with CNN: A grand jury had been impaneled in New York, he said, to investigate the Trump campaign’s alleged […]