'Non-Partisan' RealClearPolitics Has Been Secretly Providing Far-Right Memes To The Relatives You Don't Talk To Anymore
RealClearPolitics is supposed to be a "non-partisan" political site. They aggregate all the polls into handy-dandy charts and maps and they aggregate political opinion articles from "both sides."
They've also, since 2016, secretly run a completely batshit Facebook page called "Conservative Country" that aggregates a whole bunch of violent, racist, Islamaphobic and just plain stupid far-right memes and articles, of the variety you might have seen from the weird relatives you don't talk to anymore before you blocked them all on social media. Prior to simply being a Facebook page full of memes about "My bacon can beat up your avocado" and "stupid things Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez never actually said," it was the official page of a now-defunct right-wing news website established in 2014, ConservativeCountry.net.
Reporters Max Tani and Kevin Poulsen of The Daily Beast uncovered the connection between ConservativeCountry.net and RealClear through the Wayback Machine and Google Analytics, and then confirmed it through former staff:
The Daily Beast connected ConservativeCountry.net to RealClear through archives on the Wayback Machine, which show that the website had RealClear's Google Analytics tracker code and that some of the site's images were served from the WordPress account of RealClear's chief technology officer. Interviews with former editorial staff of ConservativeCountry.net confirmed that it was a stealth RealClear property.
"It was a site put out through RealClear Media," said Kevin Whiteley, who in an interview with The Daily Beast recalled coming to RealClear in April 2016 by way of a Craigslist help wanted ad. He worked out of RealClear's Chicago headquarters, and at first his job was writing for the publisher's branded websites. "And then they launched Conservative Country to do conservative politics," he said. "Once they started Conservative Country, I was just writing for Conservative Country."
According to a fairly bizarre statement from RealClear, the site was simply created as an "experiment," to help them better understand social media and political websites:
"The Conservative Country website was created as part of an effort to understand the flow of traffic from social media—particularly Facebook—to political websites," said RealClear CTO Anand Ramanujan in an email to The Daily Beast. "There are no other non-RealClear titles out there."
This would make sense if the RealClearPolitics site did not also have a Facebook page, which they obviously do. Also, if the bizarre assertion that they built an entire website and staffed it to see "how does Facebook work" were their true goal, it is very likely that a decent number of political sites would have allowed them to see their Google Analytics data. That would have cost them a whole lot less than designing and building a site and paying an entire editorial staff including line editors — a thing almost no smaller site has. If there is anything I know about online media, it is that even large sites like Real Clear Media are not lining up to pay an entire editorial staff for an "experiment," for two years, only to then do absolutely nothing with that "data."
Like most news sites, Conservative Country suffered from some serious traffic problems after the great Facebook algorithm change of 2016, and instead of sticking around, they shuttered the site entirely and continued on as a Facebook page only — a pay-for-play Facebook page in which other sites could give them money to share their articles to their 800,000 followers. They also directed their followers to various Macedonian "fake news" sites during the 2016 election.
And, of course, they share memes like these as well.
And also for some reason they seem to really love memes bragging about trying to get food poisoning, because tough guys fucking LOVE salmonella. Liberal pussies are always trying to deny people the choice to puke their faces off!
This is not, as Tani and Paulsen point out, the first time Real Clear has been linked to right-wing media:
A 2017 SEC filing listed RealClear co-founder John McIntyre as a director at FDRLST Media and put both companies at the same Chicago address. FDRLST Media is the parent company of The Federalist, the conservative news site behind last month's false story claiming the deep state secretly revised official whistleblower regulations to allow the Trump-Ukraine whistleblower to provide secondhand information.
None of this would actually be a big deal were RealClearPolitics not attempting to position themselves as a non-partisan news source. If it were Breitbart doing it, no one would bat an eyelash. There is a reason why they haven't advertised their connection to this weird, fake-news- and racist-meme-publishing Facebook page, and it's because they know it would discredit them.
Being "non-partisan" allows them to put op-eds about "Western self-hatred" or whatever from noted phrenology site Quillette right alongside more legitimate sources, thereby lending legitimacy to said phrenology site.
It's a stealthy way of lending credibility to outrageous bullshit, and now that we know what RCP's deal is, we can probably continue our long history of ignoring them.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse