How Ben Shapiro Is Leading the Next Revolution in Conservative Media

Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2022
by Shane Harris

AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris

Ben Shapiro speaking at CPAC in 2018.

When William F. Buckley, Jr., passed away in 2008, the conservative media ecosystem lost not only an icon, but someone who many viewed as the founder of the entire movement. At a time when conservatives seemed lost in the wilderness, Buckley burst onto the scene to show them the way. God and Man at Yale, in addition to being the start of a prolific writing career, was a revelation about the creeping influence of leftism over American institutions – an issue that has now taken center stage. Today, no one has taken up Buckley’s mantle, and more importantly carried it forward, more than Ben Shapiro, a nasally 38-year-old from an orthodox Jewish family in Los Angeles who drinks from a coffee mug labeled “leftist tears” and has developed a reputation for dismantling progressive arguments in open debate.

Eager for conflict and unapologetic in his defense of conservative principles, Shapiro has become a wildly popular figure for many on the right, particularly among young people. His catchphrase, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” perfectly captures his ethos of hard-hitting, fact-based analysis delivered with a characteristic zest that has made him the de facto king of “owning the libs.”

Shapiro began to develop his conservative bona fides from a young age, becoming a nationally syndicated columnist by age 17. Like Buckley, Shapiro’s first published work was a critique of the rigid ideological orthodoxy found on college campuses, a 240-page salvo aimed at academia entitled Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth. Shapiro was just 19 when the book was published in 2004, but was already in his senior year at UCLA, soon to graduate summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science. From there he would go on to attend Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude in 2007 while still finding time to write and publish his second book.

Following a stint with Godwin Procter, LLP, a renowned multinational law firm, Shapiro began to expand his involvement in conservative media, bolstering his writing profile and publishing several more books. By 2012, he had become editor-at-large of Breitbart News, under the tutelage of site founder Andrew Breitbart. He would also get his start in radio that year, joining L.A.-based KRLA 870 as a morning talk show host.

It was through Breitbart that Shapiro met Jeremy Boreing, at that time a largely obscure film producer and one of the few out-of-the-closet conservatives in Hollywood. The two became fast friends, and in 2013 founded TruthRevolt, a right-wing answer to the liberal watchdog site MediaMatters. Though the project ultimately fizzled out by 2018, it started the wheels turning for both men to create a next-generation conservative media outlet that would be the natural heir to sites like Breitbart and The Drudge Report.

Shapiro and Boreing took the first steps toward turning that vision into reality in September of 2015 with the launch of The Daily Wire. With Shapiro as editor-in-chief and Boreing as CEO, the Wire began repackaging top news stories with conservative analysis woven throughout, providing a welcome alternative to the overwhelming liberal bias of most mainstream outlets. Shapiro and Boreing also began experimenting with other forms of media, releasing the first few episodes of The Ben Shapiro Show podcast and trying something that was novel at the time – sharing their content in clips on YouTube with eye-catching headlines.

After a public falling out with the then-head of Breitbart News Steve Bannon in early 2016, Shapiro began concentrating full-time on content for The Daily Wire, working with Boreing to expand the reach of the site and bring on more creators.

Fast forward to today, and The Daily Wire – with Shapiro as its dominant public face – has become not just one of the leading sources of conservative news, but one of the chief defenders of conservative values on the internet. Wire articles routinely dominate the top-10 most viewed posts on Facebook, and the site now often breaks stories that mainstream outlets won’t touch, like the cover-up of a sexual assault at a Virginia high school by a male student identifying as female entering female-only bathrooms.

Shapiro himself continues to release content at a prolific rate, cementing his status as one of the top conservative media figures in the nation. Aside from his daily podcast, which has ranked in the top-15 most popular podcasts for three straight years and has now been expanded into a nationally syndicated radio show, Shapiro continues to write columns for multiple outlets and serve as editor emeritus for The Daily Wire, a post he has held since stepping down as editor-in-chief in 2020. He has also continued to publish full-length books, his most recent in 2021 entitled The Authoritarian Moment, a dire warning about the left’s grip over American institutions.

But what has perhaps earned Shapiro the most attention is his speaking tour of college campuses and frequent appearances on liberal talk shows, where he goes toe to toe with leftists on everything from abortion to corporate tax policy. During Q&A portions of speaking events, Shapiro has a rule that if someone disagrees with him, they’re allowed to move to the front of the line. It is from these interactions that most of Shapiro’s viral content emerges, often posted on YouTube with captions like “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS liberals with facts and logic” or “Ben Shapiro EPIC takedown of progressive agenda.”

Unlike most cable news hosts and media pundits who operate in an echo chamber of either right-wing or left-wing ideology, Shapiro has built his brand on conflict and argumentation, willing to get hit and hit back in real time as few other prominent conservatives or liberals are. Even as many other conservatives ceded ground on key social issues, Shapiro refused to back down, calling for a blanket ban on abortion, criticizing the Black Lives Matter organization, denying the idea that people can change their gender, and staunchly defending Western civilization as the bedrock of American society.

This, of course, has made him a particularly hated figure among the left. Liberal outlets have often labeled Shapiro “alt-right,” though he has repeatedly denounced both the alt-right and neo-Nazism, and was in fact the number one target of anti-Semitism from the alt-right in 2016. When Shapiro was invited to guest author an edition of Politico Playbook in January of 2021, staffers at the outlet threatened to resign and demanded an apology from Matthew Kaminski, the paper’s editor-in-chief. (To his credit, Kaminski refused.) Shapiro has even been disinvited from multiple speaking appearances on university campuses after backlash from liberal students and professors.

But even as Shapiro continues to make waves in the world of news and analysis, he and The Daily Wire are now aiming to break the left’s grip on the media and entertainment industry entirely. Shapiro often repeats a line from his mentor Andrew Breitbart that “politics is downstream from the culture,” and has worked with Boreing to go on offense against the left’s dominance of American cultural institutions.

In practice, this has meant a massive investment at The Daily Wire in everything from book publishing to children’s programming, turning the company into a one-stop shop for anyone who wants an alternative to the progressive propaganda oozing from every corner of traditional entertainment outlets. The platform’s growing popularity has attracted big names in conservative media like Candace Owens, while also making podcasters Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, and Andrew Klavan into minor celebrities in their own right.

DW Books has published works like first-hand accounts of the Breonna Taylor shooting and the 2020 BLM riots that expose the dishonesty of the mainstream media narrative, while films like Shut In and Terror on the Prairie promise to provide good old-fashioned entertainment without the woke undertones. After news broke that Harry’s Razors was pulling their advertising from The Daily Wire over the company’s views on gender identity, Boreing launched a razor company of his own called Jeremy’s Razors with the slogan “stop giving your money to woke corporations who hate you.”

Amid the fallout from Disney’s opposition to Florida’s parental rights bill and open acknowledgement of working left-wing ideology into their programming, The Daily Wire has also announced a $100 million investment in children’s entertainment for its subscriber-based streaming platform, promising to provide quality content that won’t push a political agenda.

Through all of these projects, Shapiro and the Wire are betting big that Americans are sick of the woke virtue signaling and willing to switch their providers for everything from kids’ shows to razors to align with their values.

It remains to be seen whether or not that bet will pay off. The powers that Shapiro has chosen to do battle with are both unbelievably wealthy and deeply embedded in many major American institutions. They won’t give up easily. But for the yarmulke-wearing genius from Southern California who has already built a media empire before the age of 40, nothing seems out of reach. At the very least, one thing is for sure – you’re likely to hear a lot about Ben Shapiro in the years to come.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter at @Shane_Harris_.