In March 2019, former Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam announced that he and a conservative lawyer named Will Chamberlain were going to resurrect the storied right-wing journal Human Events, which had been muddling along for years. Two years later, the historic magazine has become yet another right-wing click factory, pumping out trumped-up investigations and snarky rewrites just as Breitbart did before it. The renaissance of the magazine provides the perfect capsule summary of the conservative movement’s long downward journey from pages to pixels.
A former Washington Post editor founded Human Events in 1944 to serve as a mouthpiece for conservative ideas. Over the next 40 years, it hosted a number of prominent right-wing political personalities—Murray Rothbard, Phyllis Schlafly, Spiro Agnew, and later such luminaries as Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. It was Ronald Reagan’s favorite magazine. According to one of Reagan’s biographers, his staffers often sought to hide it from the president, lest the articles sway his view on some already-settled issue of taxation or Soviet détente. But over time its influence waned. By 2013, its owner, right-wing book outfit Eagle Publishing, put the magazine up for sale, citing financial difficulties and the ascendance of the 24-hour news cycle. A Christian publishing conglomerate bought it a year later, but the magazine remained moribund until the arrival of Kassam, a British think tank alum who co-founded the United Kingdom edition of Breitbart. Kassam carried over that website’s mentality at the launch, but left the new Human Events within half a year.
The new owners bought the website at a bargain-bin price of approximately $300,000 using Chamberlain’s disposable income, and relaunched it as online-only. There’s no ostentatious journal this time, nor is there much that resembles the argumentative essays of the old magazine. Instead, there’s just run-of-the-mill news aggregation with a standard right-wing bent—it’s not the Afghanistan withdrawal, for instance, but the “botched” Afghanistan withdrawal. The current anchors of the magazine’s editorial staff include Brent Hamachek, a former Turning Point USA adviser, and Jack Posobiec, a former Navy intelligence officer and conspiracy theorist who is perhaps best known for fueling the Pizzagate conspiracy and disrupting a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Julius Caesar in 2017. Posobiec’s recent fare has included write-ups of “leaked” slides from the CDC and reported dispatches on White House turmoil that may or may not be entirely the result of the author’s imagination. These articles appear alongside anti–cancel-culture screeds such as “THE DUCHESS IS A VICTIM AND FOOTBALL IS GAY,” notable for its commitment to mixed metaphor. Identity politics has engulfed the United States “like a tsunami,” the article says, and “Americans feel like deer caught in the headlights, on a road paved with eggshells.”
More than anything else, though, the revived Human Events feels pointless, yet another mill to churn out the same grist. The vast majority of articles are wispy-thin rewrites of reportage from The Wall Street Journal or Fox News, designed more to serve as fodder for Chamberlain’s never-ending Twitter feed than as material for someone who wants to learn what is going on in the world. When Kassam relaunched the publication, he said he wanted it to represent “Trump as a philosophy, not Trump as a man,” and in a certain sense the resuscitated website has done that, but only in the sense that Trump’s “philosophy” consists of culture-war red meat and conspiratorial chicken feed. No doubt there’s a market for the personalities Human Events is elevating, since it’s the same thing that everyone else on the right is doing—Chamberlain has almost 200,000 Twitter followers, Posobiec has more than a million. Still, there is something demoralizing about the total abasement of the right-wing media space. The old magazine might not have had noble ideas, but it at least took itself and those ideas seriously, whereas the new magazine cares for nothing except conspiracy and provocation. It turns out that the gutter is an ideal place from which to do one’s sniping.