In a profile of former Red Sox pitcher turned Breitbart media personality Curt Schilling, The Huffington Post detailed how “angry white men” who confronted failure in their own lives turn to fringe, right-wing media that persuades them to blame “the political system writ large” for taking “their country” away from them. The profile also outlined how those media outlets encourage them to perceive “women, minority groups and immigrants” as the “undeserving beneficiaries of their troubles.”
According to the piece, Curt Schilling’s descent into the fringe was marked by his embrace of outlets like Breitbart and Infowars. Though his transphobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories were ridiculed by traditional media, right-wing personalities defended him, and eventually, Breitbart rewarded his offensive commentary with a radio show.
In an April 15 profile, The Huffington Post examined how Curt Schilling, who was once a self-identified independent who tended to campaign for “establishment” Republicans, sought validation in “unapologetically ‘politically incorrect’ magazines, radio hosts, and television shows” after his video game startup failed. The article noted that failure was a life event that left Schilling “point[ing] fingers” and blaming the Rhode Island government, which gave him a loan for the startup. Social scientists have called this phenomenon “aggrieved entitlement,” or “the belief that America is ‘their country’ and that it is being taken away from them.” In search of “validation for their worth,” the aggrieved turn to conspiracy theory and fringe media outlets that help them shift blame to others. Schilling, for example, “sought out and found answers in the angrier and more paranoid corners of political thought” and “began to shift further right.” From the article:
After Obama was elected the nation’s first black president in 2008, social scientists and journalists noted a growing counter-phenomenon: “angry white men” who feel “they have been screwed, betrayed by the country they love, discarded like trash on the side of the information superhighway,” as sociologist Michael Kimmel wrote in his 2015 book.
The defining characteristic of angry white men ― aside from being white and male ― is that they suffer from what Kimmel called “aggrieved entitlement”: the belief that America is “their country” and that it is being taken away from them. Although they’re angry at politicians, bureaucrats and the system writ large, the primary targets of their ire are women, minority groups and immigrants ― the people they perceive as the undeserving beneficiaries of their troubles. Seeking validation of their worth, they turned to “unapologetically ‘politically incorrect’ magazines, radio hosts, and television shows,” Kimmel wrote. And their rage only intensified when Obama was re-elected in 2012. That contest represented “the demise of the white American male voter as a dominant force in the political landscape,” Kimmel wrote. (They showed otherwise in 2016, when Trump won in part because of his strength with white men.)
Schilling regularly called local radio shows during his playing days to urge fans not to trust sports reporters. After [Schilling’s video game company] 38 [Studios] collapsed, he moved on to the idea that news reporters were also peddling “fake news.” Judging from the links he shared, he was reading right-wing sites further and further from the mainstream. And he was isolating himself: “I don’t seek out people I disagree with,” he said in a 2016 interview. “I don’t seek out the content they create. It’s a waste of my time.”
Kapler, Schilling’s old sparring partner in the Boston clubhouse, noticed the shift in 2013, when Schilling posted a link to a story on InfoWars.com, the conspiracy-driven site run by Alex Jones.
Although Trump never brought the former pitcher on the campaign trail, Schilling became something of a faux surrogate, appearing occasionally on cable to defend the candidate’s positions ― a role he seemed to earn for no other reason than that some viewers might remember him as a ballplayer.
In October, Schilling landed a daily morning show at Breitbart, which had grown into an online behemoth by stoking the fears of the same white voters that politicians had once used the pitcher to reach. Schilling had long believed that someone else ― Red Sox management, the media, Chafee, ESPN ― was standing in the way of his ultimate success. Breitbart was the place where that kind of belief is a founding principle.
The site, which was practically a house organ for the Trump campaign, pushed the idea that the American system was broken, especially for white working men, and it blamed immigrants, Muslims, feminists and Obama. In the words of its former chief Steve Bannon, Breitbart was “a platform for the alt-right” ― the white nationalist and racist movements that were supporting Trump.