A Better Conservative Media and a Better Politics


I’m Nick Catoggio, formerly known as Allahpundit and currently known as the newest staff writer at The Dispatch. I’ve spent almost 20 years as a writer in conservative media and many years more than that as a reader of it. I’d like to tell you a little more about why I’m here, what I plan to write and share a special offer to save $20 on a membership.

I’m here because too much of conservative media lies to its audience.

Sometimes it lies by commission. Mostly it lies by omission, through strenuous acts of gatekeeping. It justifies those lies by assuring itself that the other side’s media is worse.

I don’t think so. Not anymore.

The foundational assumption of conservative media is that, because big media is corrupt, its antagonists can never quite lose their moral superiority no matter how irresponsibly they behave. It’s not a coincidence that the mainstream media’s most vicious critics on the right are grassroots conspiracy theorists. The election was rigged, the vaccines don’t work, the FBI planted those documents at Mar-a-Lago. The media lies, so you’re free to reject their reality and substitute your own. Believe what you like without regret. The moral high ground is yours forever.

The former, and possibly future, president of the United States is a member of this tier.

Above that grassroots tier sits another, more respectable tier that eschews crankery itself but dismisses its prevalence among the right. Wherever the base is headed, however deranged and sinister it might become, rest assured that the Democrats are worse and that you should dutifully continue to pull the lever for the GOP. There are many media critics in this tier who are astute about the excesses of the left’s propaganda but have little to say about their own side. That’s another benefit of having the eternal moral high ground. You needn’t worry about what’s being said on a fringe right-wing podcast with millions of listeners; whatever’s being said on CNN to an audience of 250,000 is necessarily worse for the country long-term.

As I write this, the most powerful establishment conservative media outlet in America is being sued for defamation because some of its hosts were too eager to entertain theories that the 2020 election was stolen. Increasingly, the two tiers aren’t so neatly distinguished.

Too much of conservative media defines big media by its worst episodes of ideological bias and information suppression and resolves to live down to that standard. When forced to choose between the truth and the cause, most right-wing sites now unfailingly choose the cause—to the extent there remains any “cause” beyond defending the authoritarian impulses of Donald Trump and his disciples. Many have become the propagandists they once undertook to expose, a facet of the Trump-era ethos that conservatives can succeed only by behaving as badly as their opponents have in their most depraved moments.

But here’s the worst part. Many of their readers want it that way.

Not everyone who caters to a Trump-worshiping audience does so out of ardor. Many do it for grubby reasons of audience capture, because they fear losing the adulation (and remuneration) of their fans. There’s a certain, not uncommon type of activist who reads partisan political sites simply to sate their desire for total war against the enemy. To them, if you’re not fighting dirty, you’re not trying to win. War is war, after all. Alienate that sort of rage-junkie and you might find that any relevance you had within your media niche disappears with them.

Conservative media needs better authorship and better readership. Which is why I’m here.

Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg have built a precious thing in The Dispatch, a publication with the right kind of writer and the right kind of reader. One of the few hopeful notes in conservative media over the last five years is that a new site that prioritizes the truth over the cause might find enough of an audience to grow quickly into the success that this one has become. As a Dispatch reader, I appreciate that the writers on this team aim above all to inform, not to own the libs. (Although lib-owning is often a natural consequence of better information.) And I admire them greatly for having resisted the vogue of illiberalism, the ends-justifies-the-means logic of “better an autocrat than a Democrat.” In a populist age, they’ve held populism to account for its most toxic excesses.

As a Dispatch writer, I’ll do the same.

If you value commentary to the extent it satisfies your partisan bloodlust, if you believe left-wing authoritarianism can only be fought with right-wing authoritarianism, if your first impulse upon encountering political criticism is to issue a threat, you’re in the wrong place. Although, good news: There are many, many sites in this great big country of ours that cater to someone like you.

But if you want a better conservative media and a better politics, if you think the right has slid far too far toward banana Republicanism, if you’re willing to entertain thoughtful opinions with which you’ll sometimes disagree, please join us as a paid member and help us offer an alternative. The only way to get the Republican Party and its enablers off the track that they’re on is by proving that a different model can succeed. This country needs more principled writers—and principled readers.

— Nick


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