RedState’s Culling of Trump Critics *UPDATED*

RedState

*UPDATE*
Some of the departed RedState writers talking about their situations to The Atlantic, a publication with recent history regarding controversial firings.

But sources I spoke with were skeptical of that explanation. “I think the ones who were shitcanned—and this is just my opinion—could probably be easily defined as the loudest and most vocal Trump critics,” Ben Howe said.

“There’s a clear pattern that the people who were let go were all critics of Donald Trump,” said Patrick Frey, a lawyer who blogs as Patterico and whose contract was also terminated on Friday.
“It was a complete surprise,” Frey said. “There’d been rumors of contract changes but being fired was a complete surprise.”

Jay Caruso, a former RedState editor, now works for The Dallas Morning News but maintained a contract with the site until Friday morning. “When you look at he names across the board, the people that were let go had a clear bias against President Trump,” he said.

Caleb Howe pointed out that RedState is keeping some Trump-critical writers. But he emphasized that one of those fired was Susan Wright, an anti-Trump writer who, he said, had consistently been one of the highest-trafficked writers on the site. “The most Trump-critical people, the most vocally critical were on the list, especially Susan Wright,” he said. “Susan also happens to be the number one traffic draw at RedState, so it’s sort of weird if it’s a monetary decision.”

“Over the last two years I’ve been working for them, I’ve consistently been one of their top three writers,” Wright told me. “More often than not their top writer … They can’t say it’s a money issue.”

Several RedState writers are pushing back on the earlier reporting by CNN and others:

Original Post Follows unchanged:

RedState.com parted ways with several editors and writers today, but it was the editorial bent of the people let go that is raising eyebrows.

CNN:

Bloggers were locked out of their accounts — some just temporarily, while the cuts were made, and others permanently.

Erick Erickson, the site’s longtime editor who left in 2015, tweeted about what he called the “mass firing” on Friday morning.
“Very sad to see, but not really surprising given Salem’s direction,” he wrote. “And, finally, after all these years, they’ve turned off my account.”

Multiple sources told CNNMoney that they believed conservative critics of President Trump were the writers targeted for removal.

“Insufficiently partisan” was the phrase one writer used in a RedState group chat.

“They fired everybody who was insufficiently supportive of Trump,” one of the sources who spoke with CNNMoney said, adding, “how do you define being ‘sufficiently supportive’ of Trump?”
But if it was about politics, it was also about money.

RedState writers work on contract and are paid based on the amount of traffic to their posts.
“Those who had been under a contract with a higher per-click rate were mostly all tossed, only keeping those who were pro-Trump even if their traffic was comparable,” another one of the sources said on condition of anonymity.

“Of those who make less under their contracts, they mostly tossed those who had been openly critical of the president,” the source said. “It seems to have been a cost saving measure, but the deciding factor between any two people seems to have been who liked the president and who didn’t.”

Salem had no immediate comment. But an internal memo obtained by CNNMoney confirmed the housecleaning.

Redstate was one of the more visible right-leaning websites that consistently featured writing that was challenging, and often openly critical, of President Trump from conservative/libertarian perspectives. Speculation quickly turned to parent company Salem Media as the source of the change.

CNN:

RedState, a 13-year-old blog that was founded by Erick Erickson, is one of several sites in Townhall Media’s portfolio. Townhall, in turn, is owned by Salem Media Group, a conservative media company that also operates radio stations and publishes books.

Salem has previously been scrutinized for its treatment of radio hosts who weren’t toeing a pro-Trump line during the presidential campaign.

A source with ties to RedState said bloggers had been “wondering if this was going to happen at RedState,” meaning “anyone who wasn’t a big fan of Trump would be dumped.”

RedState has been reflective of the divides within the GOP and the conservative movement, with a spectrum of writers with varying reactions to Trump’s political choices and personality conflicts.

Salem, like The Atlantic with the Kevin D. Williamson situation, is a private company free to hire and fire as they see fit. Same goes for their editorial content. And some decidedly non-Trump supporting writers remain, at least for now. But the fact is, being pro-Trump in the new right media is big business, much more so than being anti-Trump.

The question now is, what conservative outlets will remain open to criticizing the President, despite the dollars to be made in not doing so? What market, if any, is there for a loyal opposition from the right to the President and his hardcore followers?

Erick Erickson wrote this in The Washington Post back in January, which seems pertinent now with today’s news about his former site:

It is safe to say many of the president’s supporters have concluded that arguments and debates no longer work, so they will take what they can get as quickly as they can before the tide rolls in and washes this administration away.

He was referring to President Trump and his policies, but the same applies to media outlets who have become full-throated supporters of President Trump and his agenda. At least in Salem’s case, they have calculated that the views and click will come in not having dissent prominently displayed along with support. MAGA-land is as engaged a political group as we have ever seen, and where there is engagement, there are clicks, views, and plenty of money to be made. And principled opinion, honest dissent, and the long view of what comes for such outlets after Trump is gone, is a calculation for another time.

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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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26 thoughts on “RedState’s Culling of Trump Critics *UPDATED*

    • For what it’s worth, I got banned (like, within a few months) of the Obama election in 2008.

      I got the feeling at the time that everybody was pissed off that not only did Obama win, but he had coattails. And he not only had coattails, the Republicans had their backsides *KICKED*.

      And I was insufficiently able to walk upon eggshells following that devastating loss.

      I will say that if I see a pattern, it’s in the whole thing where it’s more important to support people with an (R) after their name than it is to support people who support Conservative values.

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      • I see the same thing. And it no longer is just the (R) after the name, is support for Trump himself that is the line of divergence now. Trump is temporary, either 4 or 8 years and he will be gone. All these people changing who they are and building business models and brands around Trump seems very shortsighted to me. Once he is gone, then what? You cashed in and made hay while the Trump sun shined, good for you. But what are you going to do once he is gone and your left with a pro-Trump business with no product to sell?

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        • If you make enough now, you can buy paper assets and live the rest of your life off of the profits to be made by shuffling them about. This is not an original plan.

          Back in the mid 1990s there were many people in tech whose plan was (a) build a version of the software that’s better than whatever Microsoft is doing in the space, then (b) be acquired by Microsoft. For a while, that was the venture capitalists’ first question: “What are Microsoft’s plans in this space?” Note that this didn’t mean MS was going to replace their product or piece of product with your software. MS bought up a whole bunch of little video compression companies and tossed the code (kept the patents, though); the goal was to eliminate tech that worked better than MS’s own compression algorithms.

          (Off topic: The result was a lost decade in improvements in the codecs available. The content business standardized on MPEG, which promptly froze the technology in that industry due to the need to put the algorithms in hardware and the lifetime of consumer electronics. Things are moving again due to display resolutions making old MPEG compression obsolete, and some of the other big tech companie’ interest in putting money into new codecs that are license-free.)

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        • Good Lord. After Donald we get Ivanka, then Trump Jr, then Eric Trump. They’ve got enough Trumps to govern for at least forty more years, and Trumps tend to have pretty big families, so it’s entirely conceivable that it will be more and more Trumps into the 22nd century.

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        • Andrew Donaldson: I see the same thing. And it no longer is just the (R) after the name, is support for Trump himself that is the line of divergence now. Trump is temporary, either 4 or 8 years and he will be gone. All these people changing who they are and building business models and brands around Trump seems very shortsighted to me

          They built their brands around George Bush, and now have shamelessly pivoted o Trump. Why wouldn’t they just do that again?

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          • That pattern results in a 4 year ass kicking, followed by Democrats deciding it’s all fixed now and staying home, and then a GOP resurgence in a mid-term year, followed by 6 years or so of gridlock, followed by a tight election with an electoral vote/popular vote mismatch, followed by a few years of deep unpopularity, then an ass kicking, then deciding it’s all fixed and staying home…

            Wow, it’s like I’ve seen this pattern a lot.

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          • There are two strands: The, lets call them “professional Washington” group, that are going to mind meld with whoever is in power at any given moment out of expediency. You will always have them. But then there are some of the folks Trump has brought along, many who always aspired to be in the first group but never got in for various reasons. Those are the ones that are reveling in the Trump moment but will find themselves in no-mans land afterward other the whatever remains of MAGA-land post-Trump.

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      • I will say that if I see a pattern, it’s in the whole thing where it’s more important to support people with an (R) after their name than it is to support people who support Conservative values.

        What is your definition of “conservative values”? Because I hear so many people yelling about them while vehemently opposed to each other that I honestly don’t know what it actually means.

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        • Its a fair question and point because like a lot of terms it really has lost its meaning and even those demanding purity to “conservatism” could mean kissing the Donald’s ring or opposing him fully and both mean it. Just using myself as an example I’ve always considered myself a conservative. But today, and this happens almost daily, I can send out a tweet on a political matter and get accused of being uber liberal from the conservatives, tyrannically right wing by progressives, be called a total c@#$ by the MAGA-land folks all for same thought. I haven’t changed a core belief on anything; its tribalism and fealty to personality Trumps (pun intended) all right now and if you don’t totally agree with someones niche beliefs you are the enemy. I can put verbatim on a tweet, as I did yesterday with the GOP piece we ran “I don’t agree with this but conservatives should read it”, meaning hear the other sides points and then where you disagree refine your answer to them, and these giants of intellectual thought start in with that silliness. As if hearing a differing opinion is going to infect you with it. They treat contrary thought as if its small pox. And it leads them to some silly places. To be fair many on the left have the same problem, but with being nominally in power the right really is full of this right now. So what does the term mean? Who knows because the terms are just used to categorize now, not really to define beliefs.

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        • That’s a really good question.

          *I* was fully into the whole Libertarian/Fiscal Conservative thing around 2006 (when I joined up) through 2008 but my arguments with them were around limits of government power, stuff like Wickard, and questions about The Drug War/Gay Marriage.

          They did a thing where they said something to the effect of “We won’t allow any people who aren’t pro-life to be Front Page Writers!” and this was, like, right after the bailout and I said something to the effect of “you should do that for fiscal conservatives” and that started a food fight (though, granted, not the one that got me banned).

          But I think it comes back to “Conservativism” as the official name for the side that ain’t the progressive one. And vigorously so.

          I’ll quote myself because I used to not be as dumb as I am today:

          Conservative, in this case, seems to mean “the type of liberalism that was mainstream in 1986 or thereabouts”. A good, straightforward, Walter Mondale/Mike Dukakis tax and spendism, a return to a less vigorous foreign policy, embracing the welfare state and shoring it up (but not *TOO* much, of course), and otherwise being staid and genteel.

          Well, plus gay marriage, of course.

          The liberalism of 30 years ago.

          Now, of course, back in the 80’s, you’d still have conservatives (or “conservatives”) who argued that we needed to abolish this or that Federal Department of This Or That. (Remember when “We need to abolish the Department of Education!” was something that presidential candidates said? Good times.) Now, of course, those Departments are no longer fairly new and getting rid of them is no longer “going back to the way we were before” but “let’s change this thing that we’ve had for a long long time”.

          Conservatism as a brake, as a voice that says “let’s do things the way my parents did them (but not my grandparents, because that’s crazy talk)”. A conservatism whose job it is to lose every battle, but lose it slowly, and with dignity.

          I can see why we’d want those people to be like that.
          I just don’t see why they’d agree to it.

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  1. For what it’s worth, James Joyner writes at Outside The Beltway that RedState wasn’t founded by Erick Erickson, but rather by Josh Trevino, Ben Domenech, and Mike Krempasky. Since he was invited to write there in early days, I assume he knows.

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    • It’s a fair point and a good reference link. Domenech is probably the highest profile of those three but all of them are worth looking into if you are not familiar. There is actually quite a bit of background on RedStates rapid rise from teaparty blog to it’s sale to Salem, to the now infamous uninviting of Donald Trump from the 2015 RedState gathering. That last one has a lot of tentacles that extend into this current situation but folks can judge for themselves how far into that they want to delve. In the interest of fairness here is what Erickson wrote today: Whatever you think of the man, I found his openness about taking a financial lost but not regretting doing so refreshingly honest, if nothing else.

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  2. Dan McLaughlin, former Redstate writer (left 2016), writing at NR:

    The sad reality is that there may be more supply of quality conservative writing skeptical of Trump than there is demand for it.

    OTOH, dismal as the Trumpian/SJW age is, I have found a minor silver lining in finding a few (more) right of center writers who are worth reading in terms of challenging my own worldview and/or steelmanning a hypothetical present-day USAian conservatism worthy of respect (albeit only rarely worthy of adoption).

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    • Well … point 1 is that Trump isn’t a conservative. (He’s a paranoid narcissistic sociopath.) Point 2 is that I agree with you about Trumpism sortamaybe *compelling* me to find a new batch of conservative writers expressing compelling ideas. Today I read something to the effect that all national politics is theater and real political change largely takes place locally. That’s a conservative idea, seems to me – at least in the current timeline – and a compelling one. Advocates for US (partisan) liberalism, and Dems, as well as moderate conservatives, need solve that puzzle from the outside in while the rest of us watch white evangelical Tea Party Trumpist grievance politics take us under the waves.

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    • The sad reality is that there may be more supply of quality conservative writing skeptical of Trump than there is demand for it.

      I’d add that there’s probably a greater supply of labor economics writers than demand for them as well. Demand in media is a funny thing. Hard to make sense of. See, for example, CNN.

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