Speed Reads

'outrage politics'

Ben Shapiro has mastered Facebook 'outrage politics'

Ben Shapiro, political commentator and founder of polarizing conservative website The Daily Wire, effectively "rules" Facebook, NPR reported on Monday, writing that he "drives an engagement machine unparalleled by anything else on the world's biggest social network site."

The Daily Wire has been so successful, in fact, that in May, the site "generated more Facebook engagement on its articles than The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, and CNN combined," NPR writes. Over the past year, its stories have seen more Facebook likes, shares, and comments "than any other news publisher by a wide margin."

But how does he do it? Well, to start, "there's a demand amongst certain subsets of the public for outrage politics," and those "on the right" — like The Daily Wire — are really good at it, said Jaime Settle, director of the Social Networks and Political Psychology Lab at the College of William & Mary.

Although the site proclaims to be "committed to 'truthful, accurate, and ethical reporting,'" The Daily Wire chooses to cover stories that "bolster the conservative agenda" and align with its audience's pre-existing biases, NPR says. For example, Shapiro's site published "at least 25 articles related to critical race theory" in the first two weeks of July. And NPR reports having found "numerous" stories about COVID-19 vaccine side effects in the last two months, but none about the shot's "demonstrated efficacy." 

"They tend to not provide very much context for the information that they are providing," added Settle. "If you've stripped enough context away, any piece of truth can become a piece of misinformation."

Shapiro, for his part, rejects the idea that any of his site's content could be labeled "misinformation." In any case, argues Deen Freelon, professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, "it's hard to deny that [Shapiro is] doing what he's doing well."