Why Elon Musk Is the Second Most Important Person in MAGA

One of the most remarkable developments of the new century has been the concentration of right-wing power and adulation in two men. Donald Trump is the obvious one, the unquestioned king of the American right. But easier to miss if you’re outside the MAGA world is the central importance of Elon Musk.

We’re familiar with Trump’s arc, of course. But why is Musk so important to the right? Why is a reported illicit drug user and unmarried father of 11 children by three women, a man whose social media site, X, is overrun with hatred and pornography, celebrated across the length and breadth of the new right, including parts of the Christian right?

The answer is that if Trump is MAGA’s champion, Musk is its gatekeeper. He doesn’t just use his immense reach (he has 174 million followers on X) to fight the left, he owns the right wing’s public square. This is because outside of X, the public isn’t reading the right. And as a result, X now shapes the right as much as even Fox News.

On Feb. 22, a website called The Righting released an analysis using Comscore data to compare web traffic at top right-wing sites from January 2020 to January 2024. The findings are surprising: Right-wing media appears to be struggling even more than mainstream media. Of the top right-wing sites in 2020, only Newsmax gained audience over the last four years. Every other right-wing site lost visitors, and most lost a staggering percentage of them.

For example, The Righting reports that The Washington Examiner lost 66 percent of its visitors. The Washington Times lost 82 percent. Breitbart lost 87 percent and The Daily Wire 73 percent. Aside from Newsmax and Fox News (which lost only 24 percent of its visitors) every other site has lost at least half its visitors in four years. Some have lost so many that The Righting could no longer measure their number of readers.

In fact, the loss is so profound that there are individual articles and columns in The New York Times that get more visitors than all of the content that many of these sites post for an entire month. As a practical matter this means that social media — and principally Musk’s X — becomes the central way in which many right-wing figures reach the public.

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