Some believe this was a culling of conservative anti-Trumpers at the site. This may indeed be the case. But conservative online media has been in a state of flux for a while, and not only because of Trump. It has been more difficult to get the word out online of late and one wonders if content throttling (the restriction of stories via shadow banning and other methods) by the social media companies has something to do with what we see here. (Maybe not.) Ad blocking software has also eaten into the revenue of many commercial sites, and this is across the board, not just conservative sites.
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.
But a more balanced assessment comes from The National Review via a former RedState writer Dan McLaughlin.
The rise of Trump and Erick’s departure to focus on his radio career began to erode the site’s influence, but under the leadership of Leon Wolf and then Caleb Howe, it kept a lively voice and presence – and traffic – throughout 2016 and 2017. But many of the site’s veterans – Erick, Leon, Caleb, myself, and others – took vocal stances against Trump, and that generated controversy and division, just as it has at many conservative media outlets. The sad reality is that there may be more supply of quality conservative writing skeptical of Trump than there is demand for it. More than a few prominent writers on the Right seem to have felt it necessary to bend in one direction (compromising their doubts about Trump to cater to conservative audiences) or the other (compromising their conservatism to cater to anti-Trump audiences).
Today’s spate of firings, apparently instigated by Salem, had obvious cost-cutting motives and do not seem to have been strictly about enforcing a new editorial line on Trump; some stridently anti-Trump writers, like Sarah Rumpf, have remained with the site, and few of the remaining contributors are unskeptical Trump cheerleaders. But it is hard to miss the pattern that Caleb and nearly all the others let go were loud Trump critics, while those remaining behind included basically everyone at the site who had made their peace with Trump to one extent or another. Even if there’s no company edict to support this White House, that suggests a top-down chill that will be ever harder to resist. As Erick has noted, it’s consistent with the pressures on the network’s radio hosts.
For the record we at AC2 News will continue to write about what we want and about what we think our readers care about, whether that puts Trump in a positive or negative light. We believe that there is a place for honest, pro-market, pro-liberty, political and economic analysis. We look forward to serving you in the coming years no matter what curve balls the world chooses to throw at us. God willing.