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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Meiselas brothers aired their concerns about President Trump to an audience of three: one another. What started as a group text among Ben, Brett and Jordan Meiselas spawned MeidasTouch, a progressive SuperPAC and brand that’s closing in on 1 million followers across the major social media sites.
They’ve also raised more than $3 million in donations; grown from web-only videos to national television ads; turned a limited series on SiriusXM’s progressive politics station into a podcast deal with the digital giant; and are launching a student-run initiative called MeidasUniversity to encourage progressive advocacy on campuses across the country.
While much of the attention they’ve received has been positive — their most loyal fans, dubbed the Meidas Mighty, sent a combined 4 million texts as part of a get-out-the vote campaign — their political foes are starting to take notice too. (Even before they helped the hashtag #DiaperDon become one of the top trending topics on Thanksgiving Day.)
On Wednesday, a lawyer from Wiley Rein sent a threat letter on behalf of Fox News. MeidasTouch on Nov. 14 released a video called “Looting Loeffler” as part of their efforts to turn Georgia blue in the U.S. Senate runoff elections in January. The ad targets Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and features several clips of several prominent Fox News hosts covering stories related to allegations of insider trading against her. The network argues its trademarks and copyrights and “the rights of the depicted personalities” are being infringed, the latter arising from concerns that viewers might think such hosts as Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro endorse MeidasTouch. Fox News said it won’t seek judicial intervention if the group stops using its clips by Nov. 30.
That’s not going to happen.
“Looting Kelly Loeffler and her enablers at Fox want to fight against democracy and free speech,” Ben Meiselas said in a Wednesday statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “They can’t handle being crushed by the truth. They better get used to it. MeidasTouch and our millions of supporters across the country and the world will hold them accountable at every turn.” (Read their lawyer’s official response here.)
THR caught up with the brothers a few days after the election results were first announced to talk about their post-Trump plans, their growing reach and why they’re keeping the foot on the gas well into 2021 and beyond.
How much of your focus is still on Trump at this point versus looking ahead at Georgia, which is the next immediate fight?
Brett: Our priority right now is taking back the Senate. I would say Georgia is our main focus and deploying our resources and really doing everything we can in the same fashion that we did during the general election for these runoff elections. That’s priority No. 1. But we have to remain vigilant as we see Trump and his cronies try to subvert democracy and to subvert the will of the people. I’m not personally too afraid of Trump taking over and claiming that he’s going to be president. I think our institutions are stronger than that, and I think the people would rise up if they really tried to do that. But I think we have to remain vigilant every step of the way, and we need to call out all the enablers as we head toward Jan. 20 and the inauguration. We’ve got to balance both. We can’t take this win and then step aside. There’s still an evil man in the White House who is trying to subvert all the norms of our democracy since the beginning, and we can’t let our foot off the gas. Not for a second.
Who is your audience now? And how does that compare to who your audience was a few months ago when you were first taking off?
Ben: Because we’re all Democrats, we have attracted primarily disenchanted Democrats and progressives who just weren’t excited about politics. That’s been the sweet spot. I think we have attracted some conservatives and Republicans, but that’s been more of Lincoln Project’s lane. People have criticized us for preaching to the choir. Our thesis has always been that our choir is bigger than the other choir. When our choir comes out to vote, we sing louder, and the values of our choir are values that by and large Americans support. The exit poll data shows that I think about 70 percent of the country supports government-run universal healthcare, the democratic view. In conservative states like Florida, raising the minimum wage to over $15 an hour prevailed. Making access to a college education free and affordable, these are all views that Americans, when you take away the D and the R, everybody supports. For a long time, though, I just think Democrats weren’t excited about politics. They weren’t excited about campaigns.
The way I would describe it, and I’ve never described it like this before, I think our base is pragmatic progressives. They recognize the need to compromise in certain places. They understand the coalitions that we’ve had to build with former Republicans. They understood that that was part of a broader mission of pushing forward these progressive views that I think are universally accepted, like healthcare, like affordable education, like raising the minimum wage across the country. Pragmatic progressives, I think we’ve owned that lane.
Brett: I like that term, and I would say the group of people who have joined us has been a very diverse group, all ages. There’s a woman who calls herself Meidas Kassan, and she calls herself the grandma of the Meidas Mighty. And then we have super young people like Meidas Kiesha, who is like the most passionate MeidasTouch supporter on the planet. So it really ranges the gambit. These are people who are willing to compromise in order to get our agenda done, but at the end of the day, we want everyone singing our tune. If you want to join our choir, we’ll welcome you in with open arms. There’s no reason for division within that choir, and we need to build on that and we need to fight toward the values we hold dear.
Getting Trump out of office was a specific goal. You’re targeting one person. Ending Trumpism is more amorphous. So is the strategy different taking on Trumpism than it was taking on Trump?
Ben: In the past, the battlefield used to be physical battlefields, right? Physical spaces where people actually really went to war against each other. Right now the battlefields are digital, and there’s battles for the heart and soul of America, the heart and soul of democracy. As people believed that social media was going to democratize information, what it didn’t account for was the way disinformation could so easily spread on these open channels. We have to be there on this digital battlefield of ideas. There’s going to be a lot of nasty stuff out there and false propaganda and lies. We have to be out there convincing people that “You want health care, right? You want education, right? You want an increased minimum wage, right?” These are things that are good for your family. So that’s the battlefield we entered. In another presidential administration, the thesis behind MeidasTouch existing as such a robust digital force may not even make any sense where people were just interacting and having normal collegial conversations. That doesn’t exist anymore. So we’re out there and we have to get our messages across louder than the countervailing messages of propaganda that is false. As we grow our platform, we just have to win the battle of ideas on these digital platforms because we’re telling the truth. Our slogan is truth is golden and we just have to keep going out there, and we have to be louder.
In terms of our political action committee, that work will persist and continue, but we have to be able to build a countervailing force to the disinformation echo chamber of Fox News. And we as liberal Democrat progressives, we need to have a voice that is loud and proud of our ideas. Looking to the future of MeidasTouch, it’s building that media platform that can compete and speak louder than these voices that have divided us for so long, that have brought us to this place that we are now. So that’s what I’d love for MeidasTouch to become, in addition to a political action committee. With our rapid growth where we are right now, to create our own loud microphone that could resonate in this country and across the world proudly promoting the ideals of democracy and protecting people. That would be a special thing that I think we can achieve. We’re on the path to achieving that.
Brett: Well, you got to shoot high. But I think it’s important because we’ve seen this information that comes from the Fox Newses of the world, and now the OANs of the world. Disinformation even in 2016, for the most part, was stuff that was done by foreign governments. It was stuff that was done in the bowels of the internet, and it was stuff that was kind of hidden. The most disturbing thing to me is while all that foreign interference and everything is likely still going on, now you also have the biggest mouthpieces of the country spewing that same disinformation, including Fox News, including Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. and Donald Trump and Ivanka and Mike Pence and Ted Cruz. They are running with the same disinformation that was being used by foreign governments to tear our country apart. It’s important that there’s a counterbalance to that voice, and it’s important also that we constantly call them out and never accept those lies as fact when they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Going after Trumpism is no small task. This guy is going to be around. I think he’ll lose some of his luster once he gets dragged out of the White House, but there will be people who still hang on to his every word. I think we need to call out all the bullshit. We can never compromise our values. We need to keep motivating our people and get our people out to the polls in bigger numbers and keep growing the party.
What else are you hoping to accomplish?
Jordan: I think we’re going to keep growing. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure MeidasTouch is a force, not just for now but in the future as well. We want to continue to grow the brand and the Meidas Mighty, make our choir as loud and as big as we possibly can. We’re excited. Our foot’s still on the gas pedal, like Brett said. All eyes are on Georgia at this moment. It doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about the larger picture, though.
Ben: Early on in our growth, it was apparent to me that there was this niche that was just missing in democratic politics, this void that we’ve been lucky enough to fill. I remember one of the first interviews that we had, and I said that I wanted MeidasTouch to be one of the largest political action committees in politics. I think the way it was written was, somewhat, I wouldn’t say it was fully mocking of the idea, but it wasn’t exactly fully embracing what I believe the vision was going to be. But here we are just a short six months later and we’ve established ourselves and the MeidasTouch brand as one of the preeminent voices in democratic politics today. So when setting these goals in the future, I want to set audacious goals. I want to set goals that may seem fanciful, but if we could achieve them could really bring about a ton of good in this country and in the world.
What’s your most audacious, fanciful goal?
Ben: I want to be able to build a media network that could rival Fox News one day for Democrats and could really be a counter-voice, a voice for democracy. I want to start focusing on expanding our blueprint in digital spaces and looking at acquisitions. We’re already beginning discussions with investors to figure out how we could build not just a bigger digital platform through acquisitions, but really build out a media network and media platform that is pro-democracy and pro-views and values that I think are universal, such as healthcare, making sure people have a living wage, making college affordable and accessible for all, and believing in science.
Brett: And one that’s going to be uncompromising on the facts. A lot of people in the past week have come to us. We’ve gotten plenty of DMS and comments to our posts that are coincidentally pushing us. Like, you guys need to build the network. You guys need to do something. Because they see, even on the channels that they watch and we watch, they prioritize balance over accuracy sometimes. I watch CNN. I have no problem with CNN, but I’ve had a lot of trouble watching coverage recently because they’ll say, “Rick Santorum, what do you think?” And then Rick Santorum will give his opinion about why the results of the election might not be valid. I’m sorry. If you look outside and the sun’s out, I don’t need somebody to say it’s raining. That to me isn’t news. That to me isn’t honesty in reporting, and it isn’t honesty in delivering a message. So I think there’s a real counterpoint to all that reporting by just trying to say, “Hey, this is objective reality. This isn’t a subjective thing.” Let’s focus on that and let’s build it. People really trust the three of us to deliver these messages in a way that they haven’t seen from other people in a long time. It has been humbling and inspiring to see that, and to have everybody join this ride with us. We’re excited.
Well, I think one of the biggest things you guys have going for you in that regard is people know it’s just you. There’s no parent company pulling the strings.
Brett: It was very important to us from the beginning that people knew who we were. Once we became a PAC and started accepting donations, it became important to us that we have transparency about what we stand for, why we’re doing this, where every single dollar that we receive is going. I think that’s also a really important factor in why people have come to trust us. The fact that we’re three brothers helps that we have this relationship and this chemistry with one another. We always try to lead with honesty and with truth rather than the tactics of the other side, which we considered to be very deceptive.
Jordan: The transparency of it all actually makes it so much easier for us to go on with our day to day. The second you tell a lie, you have to keep lying. We really believe what started out as just a catchy slogan, “because truth is golden,” has almost become like a second ethos where we don’t hide anything. We’re very upfront with people. I try to engage with as many people as I can to just show we’re real people that are just as fed up as you are.
Brett: We, we made it a priority to touch base with these people. That’s why we know a lot of these people by name. There are all these people online who literally changed their Twitter name to be Meidas underscore and their name, like Meidas_Kiesha and Meidas_Jim. We have a private DM group with them where we talk to them every single day. Showing love to those people who supported us is so incredibly important to us. Those are the people who were cranking out 30,000 texts. They were deep in it. It’s so cool. I’m just so overwhelmed with emotion and appreciation for, for all those people. It’s incredible.
Anything else we didn’t cover?
Brett: If I could just leave you with anything is that this is just the beginning for MeidasTouch, and we’ve been thrilled by the growth post-election. It’s been incredible, and we just want to continue to fight for our values and continue to undo the damage of the past four years. We’ve always been audacious and we’ve always shot for bigger goals than we thought were possible. We are very careful and put a lot of thought into our messaging and into everything that we create, but we also don’t sit on it for weeks to make sure that everything about it is absolutely perfect. We need to be current. We need to be provocative. We need to be truthful and on top of it and continuously get the message out. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful, and I think it’s why people with staffs that are tens of, if not hundreds of, people deep have been so blindsided by us in a way, that all of it comes from the three of us. If something happens at midnight, I’m OK coming in this room to cut a video about it and get it out. No one’s going to stop me from doing that, and we don’t have anybody to look up to or any sort of big donor that we have to ask for permission. So I just want to keep pushing forward and keep working every single day. We have the taste of victory, but now we gotta keep it going.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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