This dissertation has shown how Breitbart’s populist business model has proved immensely successful for them as a company, and as a political force. They have helped to turn the western political climate into something akin to a battlefield, where the use of the collective power of the internet is a decisive factor in success. By strategically deploying information, and misinformation, they have effectively mobilised the disenfranchised—whether said disenfranchisement is imagined or not. Deepening divisions, perpetuating conflict, feeding paranoia and promoting their own interests, Breitbart News manipulated their fanatical audience to the personal cost of their supposed enemies.
To counter their influence, it is necessary to move past conventional politics, understand the structure of the modern internet, and engage with audiences on a personal level. Factual accuracy need not be compromised, nor personal attacks instigated; by understanding and implementing the principles of openness, user participation, and network effects, political parties and news outlets will be able to counteract populist, post-truth politics more effectively.
By exploring the mentality and actions of members of GamerGate, this dissertation has shown the difficulties of arguing facts with a reactionary audience that hold facts to be of less value than emotion. The incident demonstrates how contesting beliefs can cause audiences to disengage themselves from the offending parties, using conspiracy as a defence mechanism.
In examining the relationship between Breitbart and Gamergate, the dissertation has shown Breitbart’s populist business strategy in action. By comparing their tactics to those of natural medicine outlets during the height of the anti-vaxxer movement, the paper has identified Breitbart’s application of Web 2.0 principles in exercising influence over an audience. It has also served to establish the importance of such methods in the modern political climate.
Analysing the rhetoric of two Breitbart figureheads in relation to the Alt Right movement, this dissertation has established how a populist business model can radicalise an audience and attract positive attention from extremists. It showed how appeals to racism and other forms of prejudice can serve to repel moderates and enhance existing echo chamber effects in a community.
With an overview of the actions taken by the Trump campaign and ensuing presidency, the dissertation demonstrated the effects of Breitbart’s strategy on a larger scale in the political sphere. It showed Breitbart’s unique position of power and influence in the US presidency, and how conventional politics have been undermined.
The importance of understanding the techniques of alternative media is evident in the case of Breitbart. This dissertation has provided an important function in the exploration of those techniques; it is also a call to further research. Due to its recent emergence into the public sphere, little academic material exists on the Alt Right movement which Breitbart has ingratiated themselves with, and the movement’s ties to white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The concerns raised by the practices of Cambridge Analytica, and their ties to Breitbart, the Trump campaign, and the Leave campaign in the UK, merit further examination. The Alt Right and the methods of Cambridge Analytica are of deep relevance to the state of modern politics, and this paper thus calls for further study on both subjects.