I Spent 11 Hours Inside the MAGA Bubble

By Politico - February 9, 2021

One America News is making a play for the pro-Trump audience, but it’s missing its star player. Here’s what I saw during a day-long binge.

Last Monday in Washington, the news was President Joe Biden’s attempt to pass a massive $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package through Congress, the agita over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s old Facebook posts calling for the assassination of Democratic leaders, the coup in Myanmar.

In my living room, the news was Hunter Biden’s lawyer’s supposed connection to a DOJ official, CNN’s Brian Stelter Biden toadyism, the “pedo money” flowing out of the Lincoln Project, and a pro-Trump beauty vlogger claiming Sephora had “canceled” her.

My assignment was to watch One America News (OAN) for a full day: 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., no turning the television off, no leaving my apartment and no channel-switching whatsoever.

Since the election, conservative networks have been locked in a three-way wrestling match for who gets the MAGA television audience. Fox News has been deemed traitorous by Trump’s fans for reporting that Joe Biden fairly won the presidential election, and is seeing its worst ratings in decades. Newsmax initially ate into Fox’s pro-Trump audience post-election, but more recently the network has alienated many of its fans for the same reason.

Which leaves the truest espousers of MAGAology at OAN—which was founded in 2013, but which didn’t get mainstream awareness until the middle of Donald Trump’s administration, thanks to Trump’s relentless promotion on Twitter. The network has historically played coy with revealing its viewership numbers, but OAN saw record ratings in 2020, according to the network’s president—a boost that came largely in the fourth quarter, in no small part because Trump directed his followers to their unquestioning coverage of his election fraud claims.

OAN is still airing their grievances about cancel culture, and tiptoeing around the cries of stolen elections, even as it faces potential multi-billion-dollar lawsuits for broadcasting conspiracies about voting machine companies. But the network is missing the thing that made MAGA compelling to its audience: Trump and his tweets, which had driven countless news cycles and set their agenda for days. In short: It’s missing its star player.

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