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‘You’re Scumbags’: We Went to the GOP’s Annual Confab and Had a Nice Chat With Seb Gorka

FORT WASHINGTON, Maryland — Scary myths of socialists parading around as living, breathing Democrats may be the focus of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (aka CPAC), but the real monster here is the mainstream media. That’s all thanks to President Trump, who’s spent years fanning the flames of conspiracy theories large and small. The…

‘You’re Scumbags’: We Went to the GOP’s Annual Confab and Had a Nice Chat With Seb Gorka

FORT WASHINGTON, Maryland — Scary myths of socialists parading around as living, breathing Democrats may be the focus of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (aka CPAC), but the real monster here is the mainstream media. That’s all thanks to President Trump, who’s spent years fanning the flames of conspiracy theories large and small.

The birtherism Trump peddled back when Barack Obama occupied the White House gave way to accusations of a “deep state” of unelected bureaucrats implanted inside the federal government. Conspiracies like that – and worse – are now commonplace within formerly traditional conservative circles.

But even conservatism itself seems to have been sacrificed at the altar of Trump.

“Go to hell,” Seb Gorka — a mere former deputy assistant to President Trump and alt-right provocateur — said, cutting me off as I approached. “You work for VICE? Go to hell.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Go to hell,” the former low-level White House official shot back from his podcast booth in the CPAC hall.

“Because we’re bad?” I replied.

“Because you’re scumbags,” Gorka yelled. “You’re not journalists, and you can quote me.”

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While he doesn’t have a basic understanding of the First Amendment — which allows journalists to ask questions, just as it allows ex-White House workers with oversized egos to yell at reporters — he does have an audience for his “America First” podcast.

And he’s only one of thousands of has-beens and fringe-right pundits who’ve made their way into the mainstream. At CPAC, Gorka, along with the likes of James O’Keefe of dubious (at best) Project Veritas fame, Islamophilic British commentator Katie Hopkins, alt-right whisperer Andy Ngo, and even Diamond and Silk (I don’t know what they do, and they might not either), is a hero.

Far-right conservatism – from radical to insanely conspiratorial – now counts as the mainstream of GOP politics. That includes the president himself, along with some of the top advisers he’s poached from Fox News and even Breitbart, who have echoed and amplified Trump’s signature “fake news” soundbite. His meme-driven politics, though routinely mocked by comedians, pundits, and even journalists, are now mimicked by a fleet of conservatives who are more trusted by hundreds of thousands of Americans than the nation’s traditional journalists.

That’s why, to a lot of Republicans, the press is now the enemy, or at least not to be believed.

“I think everybody’s seeing it now,” according to Ben Bergquam, whose social media posts go out under the banner of America’s Voice News (I had to look it up: They boast about making the internet interactive for their conservative hosts). He’s a self-described “social conservative” who says he believes “abortion is murder, homosexuality is sin, and transgenderism is insane.” And he says his viewership has gone up under Trump.

1582910572268-AP_20058763885918 A supporter of President Trump poses for a photo next to a figure during Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“You can’t deny the fact that there is a paradigm shift, not just in media but also in culture in America,” Bergquam said. “Conservatives used to always accept the idea that we had to compromise. And now we say, ‘No, we can win.’”

“Conservatives used to always accept the idea that we had to compromise. And now we say, ‘No, we can win.’”

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