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Conservatives Lead Mass Exodus to Parler...Again
The election results have sent the far-right into self-imposed social media exile, for now anyway.
Before you read, let me apologize in advance if the following newsletter sounds a bit snarky or annoyed. I have watched Trump supporters and other conservatives like Ted Cruz complain about the “censorship” and “bias” of social media platforms while they invest tens of millions of dollars into these platforms for far too long, and my patience has run out. So be aware of this as you read. My lack of patience comes through in this newsletter, but I found it important to leave it in as the exasperation is considerable and communicates that this is not new. Thank you for understanding.
On Saturday morning, every major media outlet in the United States projected that former Vice President Joe Biden would win the electoral votes from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which allowed them to project that he would win the election and, on January 20th, 2021, become the 46th President of the United States of America.
Following the announcement while the streets of many major U.S. cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York City were filled with the song and dance of the multitudes, supporters of President Trump tapped and swiped their weekends away claiming the President had been cheated out of the election.
By Sunday, though, there was another disturbance in the force among Trump loyalists, one having less to do with the outcome of the election and more to do with the social media platforms on which Trump’s biggest supporters had been expressing their disdain for President-elect Biden and the election their favorite son had lost.
Dan Bongino, who is perhaps the most popular Trump supporter on social media, tweeted this on Sunday:
It’s true! Parler became the most downloaded free app in the Apple app store this weekend.
Parler bills itself as the “unbiased social media platform.” It is also the social media platform famous for its antisemitism, conspiracy theories, and large Saudi nationalist user base. It has been, in its short history, the social media platform to which users run when they are banned from Twitter or Facebook for repeatedly violating their hateful conduct policies.
So let’s talk about this! Why are Trump supporters abandoning Facebook and Twitter for Parler and another app called “Rumble”?
Conservatives Are Concerned About Censorship
The main reason Trump supporters and some Conservatives are bailing on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other mainstream social media platforms is because they are concerned about these platforms censoring them. Here is a tweet retweeted by Bongino expressing such concern, with that same article as before:
Bongino and tens of thousands of other Trump-supporting Conservatives believe social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are biased against conservative ideologies and are unduly censoring them. There are lots of problems with this idea, but perhaps the most blatant of them is that Dan Bongino himself regularly dominates the top 10 most engaged pieces of content on Facebook. He doesn’t lead among just conservative personalities. His Facebook page gets more engagement than any other page in the entire country. More than every “mainstream media outlet.” Bongino, you could say, is mainstream social media.
Here’s a list of pages who had the top 10 links posts on Facebook on October 30:
And on November 2:
And on Election Day, November 3:
And on November 4:
And November 5:
So, yeah. Bongino and other Trump supporters believe Facebook and Twitter are censoring them. That’s a difficult case to make when you see this data. And I didn’t just cherry pick these days. Throughout the election season, which is as long as I’ve been following the @FacebooksTop10 Twitter account, Bongino, Fox News, and other conservative personalities regularly dominate the top 10 of this list.
Now, there is some validity to the fact that social media platforms “censor” Trump supporters when they break the rules of the platforms. Tactics such as sharing others’ personal information, threatening violence, sharing false information, and others are regularly deployed by some of the most vocal supporters of Trump on social media. And, as a result, these platforms have to label the content, hide the content, or ban the user altogether sometimes. This isn’t censorship as much as it is effective policing, which I think these folks can probably support.
Trump supporters are picking up their toys and skulking to Parler, Rumble (a YouTube clone for far-right content), and surely other platforms because despite their wild success on Facebook and Twitter, losing the election was the final straw for them to endure the persecution of these social media platforms. No longer! (Or so they say.)
Bongino, Dana Loesch, Maria Bartiromo, and other influencers who are Trump supporters are just some of the many who began promoting their Parler accounts on Facebook and Twitter this weekend. Many Parler users were reporting the servers were down because it couldn’t handle the number of people flooding into the app. I can confirm—I tried to create an account on the app to see what all the fuss is about and was unsuccessful due to a server timeout error.
On top of all of this, it should be mentioned, that Bongino purchased an ownership stake in Parler earlier this summer. So it’s fair to say the Conservative King of Facebook has a bit of a financial incentive to use his wildly successful page on that persecutory social media platform to promote his account on the platform in which he has serious financial interests.
So is this the end of Facebook and Twitter? Brad Parscale, the former digital strategy operations leader for the Trump 2020 campaign tweeted in June:
Can Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube survive without the activity of Trump supporters who believe they are censoring content? We won’t have the chance to find out, because these folks won’t stay off the platforms they hate.
This Will Not Stick
No matter how much they whine today, Trump supporters and others who claim to be leaving Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for Parler, Rumble, and their other preferred social media platforms will not stay off of the platforms they claim shadowban and censor them.
Vocal, combative Trump supporters need mainstream social media platforms in order to have any influence at all.
If all of the Trump supporters who believe Facebook and Twitter are censoring their content left those platforms and set up shop at Parler, they would quickly realize they made a HUGE mistake. Why? Because there is no one on Parler but people who agree with them!
Vocal, combative Trump supporters like Bongino and others have a parasitic relationship with conflict. Bongino and other firebrands like him need enemies to fight or they lose their most potent content. When all of these vocal Trump supporters concerned about censorship realize that the only thing they can do on Parler is sing Kumbaya with other Trump supporters, they will quickly get bored and leech back onto the platforms they hate. Why? Because they can’t live without them.
And honestly, they would be foolish to leave the platforms they believe are censoring them! When your entire message is built on conflict and standing up against the “elites” what better opponent is there to set up and knock down than the actual platform itself?
The other reason this won’t stick is because Bongino and others tried to lead a mass exodus to Parler just this summer after Twitter labeled one of President Trump’s tweets for the first time ever when he made the “looting and shooting” remark in regard to the George Floyd protests and riots.
An article on CNBC back in the summer when the first attempted exodus happened contains an interview with the CEO of Parler, John Matze, who is offering tens of thousands of dollars for liberal voices to join the app.
Matze, a computer scientist who founded the company in 2018, is grateful for the growth even if all the new verifications are creating a lot of extra work for his 30-person team.
But Matze doesn’t want the app to be just an echo chamber for conservative voices. Personally, he says he doesn’t like either political party and he wants to see more healthy debate. He’s so intent on getting some liberals onto the platform that he’s offering a $20,000 “progressive bounty” for an openly liberal pundit with 50,000 followers on Twitter or Facebook to start a Parler account.
The company will judge the best one, based on engagement with the community, and pay that person the reward. Matze said there’s been such little response that he increased the original proposed payment from $10,000 to $20,000.
“The whole company was never intended to be a pro-Trump thing,” Matze said. “A lot of the audience is pro-Trump. I don’t care. I’m not judging them either way.”
Matze recognizes what the angry conservatives haven’t yet: they need progressives in order to function.
Perhaps Parler will become the home base for conservative, Trump supporting social media mavens. Eventually, though, they will get bored with the peace, and they will trudge back onto the platforms they hate if for no other reason to argue and feel something again.