Former Congressman Allen West Now Runs a Conservative Clickbait Empire

You won't BELIEVE how well former South Florida Congressman Allen West's Breitbart-style conservative clickbait website is doing!

Frankly, we can't believe it either, since a site West runs apparently has more followers on Facebook and Twitter than New Times Broward Palm Beach and its sister paper, Miami New Times, combined. According to one web-traffic ranking site, West is basically dead-even with the Miami Herald in terms of homepage visits. 

West was an early Tea Party star, having commandeered Florida's 22nd Congressional District — which stretches along the beach like a gerrymandered snake from Riviera Beach down to Fort Lauderdale — from 2011 to 2013. He was a conservative cartoon character, a man who claimed Muslims wanted to eradicate Western society and that congresspeople who wanted to pull troops from Afghanistan should be shot. In a recent book, West hilariously referred to himself as an "American ronin" — if by "American ronin" he means "Army lieutenant colonel who was fined for kinda-sorta torturing a guy." Naturally, Glenn Beck wanted West to be president.

Since losing his 2012 reelection bid — the most expensive congressional race in history — to Patrick Murphy, West's career prospects have dimmed, but he hasn't exactly laid low. He's a regular Fox News contributor, who said in the wake of last week's mass shooting in Orlando that Islamic leaders preaching "calm, peace, and tolerance" after the shooting ought to be blaming their own religion for the violence. West also runs a Dallas-based conservative think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis. But in the meantime, West is now playing the part of lowly news editor to a right-wing click-traffic empire.

Once you follow West on social media, it becomes clear he's not really running his own accounts anymore. Instead, each post links back to AllenBWest.com, which purports to be some sort of "news source" trafficking exclusively in aggregated content. West re-posts pieces from Fox, Breitbart, the Daily Caller, and the like, except with headlines that scrape the absolute lowest of the clickbait barrel. He occasionally adds commentary.

"BOOM: Ted Cruz SHREDS Democrats on gun control [Watch]" one headline on Friday read.

Another article, set to an image of a weeping Statue of Liberty, reads: "Dems now going after THIS constitutional right after Orlando..." (Hint: It's the Second Amendment.)

While West does appear to contribute to the site from time to time, he's also got a cadre of "content creators" working at his disposal. He's apparently got a team of editors, led by Editor-in-Chief Michele Hickford. (Hickford has not responded to our messages.) The site, which includes a sultry photo of West with the words "Steadfast and Loyal" at the top, is crammed with banner ads and pop-up videos.

The insane thing, however, is that West's little site appears to be doing extremely well.

For starters, he's absolutely crushing it on social media, likely because he seems to have converted his pages from his congressional days right into clickbait-printing machines. He's got more than 508,000 Twitter followers and more than 2 million people following his exploits via Facebook. (Our sister paper, Miami New Times, is running a healthy business with 100,000 Facebook fans.)

According to the web-traffic ranking site Alexa.com, West is quite good at milking those people for clicks. Alexa says West runs the 1,331st most-popular website in America — he's doing better than us, sure, but also than Local 10 News, the Sun-Sentinel, the New York Observer, and the Denver Post, among many other media outlets.

According to Alexa, he's just about even in reach with the Herald, one of the nation's most storied newspapers. The Herald is just 76 spots ahead, at number 1,255, though that probably says more about the Herald than it does West.

We were able to dig up an old press release from the bowels of the site, which says West turned himself into a news brand in October 2013 by joining an outside company called the Liberty Alliance, which runs a slew of conservative news pages. Among them: ConservativeVideos.com, FightingForTrump.com, a site called "Girls Just Wanna Have Guns," and the Godfather-themed "Liberty Mafia," among many others. The Alliance also runs the personal websites for ex-Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson and former Growing Pains actor Kirk Cameron, both of whom have morphed into ultraconservative pumpkinheads as their acting careers have waned.

Multiple folks at the Liberty Alliance have yet to return our messages, but the Alliance's website does list some basic rules as to how to join their truth-busting empire:

In order to be considered for Liberty Alliance membership you must meet one or more of the following criteria:

1. A Facebook page with at least 50,000 likes
2. A Twitter following with 100,000 or more followers
3. An Email Database of 25,000 + Subscribers
4. Existing website with at least 150,000 pageviews a month
Such is life in the brave new world of social news, where one habitually misinformed ex-politician can command more eyeballs than most of the nation's legacy media outlets.

West hasn't returned our messages, which makes sense, because he clearly doesn't need us anymore.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli