When Big Media Comes to Your Town

The Washington Post last week published a front-page hit-piece on the two-decades-old news and opinion outlet VDare.com, describing the outfit’s new West Virginia headquarters as a “hate castle” in an otherwise quaint, Appalachian hideaway town. And that was just the headline! But the Post’s slanted coverage revealed far more about the shoddy state of legacy media than it did about the supposedly “hateful” outlet.

For the unaware, VDare was started in 2000 by author and former finance journalist Peter Brimelow to promote immigration-control policies and oppose multiculturalism. The site’s name refers to Virginia Dare, supposedly the first English child born in America. The site provides a variety of viewpoints (sometimes prickly, but rarely un-interesting) on these topics and, in its long history (almost ancient for the internet age), has never failed to outrage the Left and generally polite elite circles. 

As such, the group’s been mercilessly attacked by left-wing activists over the years, most noticeably in its efforts to hold conferences open to the public to discuss these issues. Through intimidating phone calls, including threats of violence from Antifa and others, Brimelow’s group over the years has had registered conferences cancelled at venues all over the country. 

So, in the face of such pressure, what’s an organization critical of multiculturalism and mass immigration to do? As the Post reports, Brimelow decided to make a venue of his own, his foundation to buy a property suitable for the types of conferences he was previously blocked from hosting. Around 2020, VDare found a suitable location in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia—notably the historic Berkeley Springs Castle, built in 1891 and now a local tourist attraction.

The Post dispatched properly woke reporter Ellie Silverman to Berkeley Springs to get the lay of the bigoted land. Her story employs a fairly common technique in “mainstream” reporting, in which she concocts a made-up, no-news premise that appeals only to her readers’ ideological prejudices and shoe-horns in the findings of her “investigation” in a way that achieves her premeditated conclusions.

Silverman tries to portray a quaint West Virginia hamlet “divided” by a “hate group.” The trouble for Silverman, however, are the numerous red flags in her own story that suggest there actually isn’t much division over VDare in Berkeley Springs at all. 

Like most of poorer-than-poor and whiter-than-white West Virginia, Berkeley Springs is hyper-Republican. In the 2020 general election, for example, the county encompassing the town voted 75 percent for President Trump (who also won West Virginia by 40 points). Trump’s views on mass immigration, outsourcing, etc., were allegedly formed, in part, by Pat Buchanan advisor and early VDare contributor, the late Sam Francis.

In order to show “division” in Berkeley Springs, Shoehorn Silverman piles on opinions from people clearly not representative of the traditional, conservative and working-class town: a lawyer, Larry Schultz, who organized a Black Lives Matter rally; Ted Stein, who alleged VDare promoted violence at that rally, was sued for defamation, and ended up paying $20,000 and issuing a public apology as a result; a “35-year-old trans woman”; and a Honduran restaurant-owner and a biracial woman, who don’t at all give the impression they know a thing about Brimelow, his background, or his foundation’s work. 

On the other hand, Silverman does relay the observations of locals more typically representative of the place, such as the elderly woman owner of a souvenir shop who tells the reporter, “They are not white supremacists. They’re anti-immigration. They don’t like people just coming over the borders. There’s a lot of people like that.”

Unlike the other residents Silverman highlights, the shopowner has actually met Peter Brimelow’s wife, Lydia. Same goes for another resident, yoga instructor Hiroko Rubin, who has no problem with her new-ish neighbors. Rubin touts the Brimelows’ right to free expression as well Lydia’s personal charm (a “very sweet and down-to-earth woman”). But the problem is, Silverman sinks this comment to the bottom of the piece, around the 70th paragraph; well passed when many readers stop and click elsewhere. Her comment also appears 50 paragraphs after Silverman quotes Eddy Rubin, Hiroko’s husband, who says he can’t stand “what VDare is about.”  

Using childish terms like “hate castle” and effectively “location-doxing” a man and his family an hour away from the Antifa mecca of D.C., Silverman shows what’s increasingly become, in essence, the SPLC-ization of American mainstream media. As I found after looking up Brimelow’s reaction to the piece, Silverman apparently worked with the SPLC in drafting the piece—a collaboration that Silverman does not disclose. Further, the SPLC’s Michael Edison Hayden even published his very own attack piece on the VDare “hate castle” a few weeks before Silverman’s landed. 

Rank alarmist reporting aside, Silverman also apparently put to Peter Brimelow some particularly creepy and overtly hostile questioning over email. For example, “Have you hired any local Berkeley Springs or Morgan County residents to work at VDare or the Berkeley Castle Foundation?  If so, who and in what context?”

Clearly, this wasn’t a good-faith question so much as another doxing attempt. Rightly seen as such by Brimelow, he responded: “So you can sic your Antifa friends on them? Fuhgeddaboutit!”

Silverman’s hatchet job should be a case study in journalism schools on how not to do investigative reporting. Sadly, in a field that now openly condemns balance, objectivity and “whatabout-ism,” it might be a case study that instead finds favor. 

Still, because this sort of inciteful alarmism and doxing does have negative, sometimes even violent consequences—just ask the SPLC—, journalists like Silverman must be thoroughly condemned. 


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About John Kline

John Kline is an attorney in Virginia. His writing has appeared at The American Spectator, Russia Today, and Law & Liberty.

Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia