Hi there. How are you today? Me? I’m doing alright I suppose, and I hope you are too. It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog but there’s been a big culture thing going down over the last few days that caught my attention and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. For the normal folk out there who aren’t into the political scene, allow me to fill you in a bit.
What’s Going On?
Right now two of the biggest Right Wing, conservative, commentary platforms are in a heated and very public exchange. In one corner is Steven Crowder, host of the very popular morning show Louder with Crowder. He’s loud, brash, obnoxious and can be quite funny at times, though his shock-jock style of humor can be off putting to some. In the other corner is The Daily Wire, one of the largest conservative brands out there. I’m pretty sure they’re second only to Fox News at this point, though I could be wrong about that. DW employs some of the more well known conservative figures out there including Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Candice Owens, Michael Knowles, Brett Cooper, and Andrew Klavan and they’ve recently gotten into the Entertainment business producing theatrical films and have announced a kids TV brand coming in the future.
Back in December Crowder announced his departure from The Blaze, another big conservative news and commentary site and began talks with other outlets for his show. Well, a few days ago he released a video showing the redacted contents of a contract that was sent to him with what — to normal people like us — sounded like a lot of money but with some pretty harsh penalties for content violations and strikes from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The contract, which from all accounts I’ve seen and heard appears pretty standard in the media industry (ownership of your likeness and content produced with funding by the company and the like), sparked a pretty heated back and forth. After Crowder released his video, DW outed themselves as the company behind the contract and co-CEO Jeremy Boreing published a 52 minute video going through their reasoning on the contract. Additionally the majority of the DW staff addressed the issue to varying degrees on their individual shows. The next day Crowder responded with another video claiming “It was never about the money.” The gist of Crowder’s last response was that pay wasn’t the issue, it was the control over his content, the restrictions on what could be said or done in order to comply with big tech corporations whose rules are designed by the opposing worldview to their own, and the implications that contracts like that have for future talent just coming up. It sounds reasonable, if you ask me, but a lot of people are talking about it because of the way he did it. He recorded a private phone call with Boreing and played excerpts of the call in the video and then released it to the world; and that’s where we are now.
A Few Thoughts
As far as the contract goes, I don’t want to spend much time on that. I don’t like the idea of a corporate entity owning the intellectual property of a creative type. That’s why I’ve never tried to pursue a publishing deal, and if a publisher ever approached me for a writing deal — mind you, I’m not saying that would happen — my demands would include that I maintain complete creative control over my work. They could suggest changes or edits, but ultimately it’s my work and my ideas. With that said, I respect Crowder’s stance on the issue. Does that mean up and coming personalities like Brett Cooper shouldn’t have taken the deal DW gave her? No. Clearly she saw a lucrative deal that made sense for her and, to be honest, her content that I’ve seen is pretty mild and stays well within the YouTube rules.
However, I can also fully understand where DW is coming from. From a business perspective it makes sense as to why you write out contracts that way. You need to consider your ROI (return on investment) and you need to CYA (cover your a**). Crowder is very popular in conservative circles. He brings in a lot of money in ad reads, and he has his own subscriber base that follow him. He’s also loud and abrasive. He’s frequently getting strikes, suspensions, and bans on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (well, pre-Elon Twitter). He’s often a lightning rod for the cathedral and so anyone who works with him need to consider the pros and cons of all that.
In his last video Crowder said it’s never been about the money, and I’m inclined to believe that. Between his mug club subscribers and sponsors he’s making plenty of money, and frankly I think there’s a lot more audience crossover between Crowder and DW than he had with The Blaze. Their styles are very different, but they’re much more abrupt in their takes and talks than someone like Glenn Beck. So if it isn’t about the money, then why is he doing this? Well there are a few ideas I have.
Maybe he’s just trying to get more attention. In media it doesn’t really matter if you’re getting good press or bad, as long as people are talking about you it’ll bring more views to your work. It could be that simple, but going scorched earth like this is pretty stupid just to get some attention. The conservative news sphere is relatively small, and a lot of people like all of these characters. Why burn these bridges and risk losing your own cross-over fans that don’t like that you betrayed this other person they like who they think are doing good work for “the movement”? Perhaps, then, it’s actually to try and disrupt the establishment and change things.
I tend to like people like Crowder in this regard because they are trying to disrupt the systems that favor the people in positions of power. This analogy came to mind yesterday when I was thinking about what to write here. It’s a bit nerdy, and may go over some of your heads, but just follow me here:
If we look at the media landscape as a Star Wars story from the Right’s perspective, the mainstream media outlets (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NYT, LAT, WaPo, etc) are like the Galactic Empire. They hold all the keys, they control all the doors, they have all the trust and sway of the population. Conservative media then would be like the Rebel Alliance. Now in Star Wars the Alliance is just that, an Alliance of different factions opposing the Empire. The mainstream Rebels are the ones we see Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia working with in the original movies and this would be companies like The Blaze and The Daily Wire. Then you have other groups like Saw Gerrera’s guerrilla fighters (he’s the guy Forrest Whitaker played in Rogue One). The mainstream Rebels saw him as effective, but also an extremist. He was fiercely loyal to his unit and to the cause they fought for even at the expense of public opinion and conventional wisdom. I see Crowder like that. He’s on the same side as the people at The Blaze and DW, but he’s willing to burn the system down to break the system’s control over the country.
I know it probably sounds like I’m shilling for Crowder, and that’s not my intention, but I do appreciate him being a whistleblower on this, just like I appreciate guys like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, Manning and Winner for their work as well. The world needs more transparency and the Cathedral can’t stand for that. What is the Cathedral? Well there’s no shortage of definitions floating around out there, but I’m referring to the broader superstructure of our society’s established order; it’s conventions and norms. And in the media sphere, a little more disruption might just be a good thing.