At last Thursday's DeploraBall, Gateway Pundit editor Jim Hoft stepped on to the event podium, smiling wide in a maroon blazer and '70s-style wide-collared party shirt. He had an exciting announcement. "We've been in contact with the new administration and they're doing something different," Hoft said, referring to a Trump administration decision that would award real legitimacy to his popular, ultra-conservative political site. The Gateway Pundit made a name for itself during the election with headlines like "BREAKING: 71% of Doctors Say Hillary Health Concerns Serious, Possibly Disqualifying!" (she had pneumonia), and served as an engine for rumors of Hillary Clinton's poor health during her presidential campaign. And now that coverage, and its set of alternative facts, was being rewarded.
"We got word that Gateway Pundit is going to have a White House correspondent position," Hoft said, whipping up the crowd. "We had 1 million readers a day coming in. And the reason was because I was telling the truth and the mainstream media was telling the fake fucking news!"
The crowd — a loose collection pro-Trumpers gathered to "celebrate memeing a president into existence" — went nuts with a deafening chant of "Real news! Real news! Real news!"
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If you've been paying attention during the long run-up to Trump's unexpected victory, you may have noticed a new dynamic in the already fractured and chaotic political media ecosystem. There is a new new media. Its branding ("news you can trust," "we report the truth"), design (sleek, media-rich webpages), and distribution (heavy social and video presences across Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, YouTube, podcasts) all feel familiar. But its message is very different. It is unedited and unabashedly pro-Trump, and it often posits an interpretation of reality dramatically different from that of the mainstream media.
Welcome to the New Media Upside Down: a parallel universe (think the Upside Down from the Netflix series Stranger Things) that operates as a mirror image of its mainstream counterpart with its own "alternative facts," audience, and interpretation of truth. The New Media Upside Down looks a lot like the media it's trying to undermine and replace, but it's darker in vision — and raw. If you live in the mainstream media world, the New Media Upside Down can be hard to find — the only real crossover between the two worlds is on Twitter, where its leaders lambaste mainstream news reports often with the aim of discrediting them. It's (reasonably) young and hungry, and has risen with Trump all the way to the White House — where Steve Bannon, who helped construct this upside-down media world while running Breitbart News, now holds sway as senior counselor to the president himself.