April 20, 2024

For Trump Jr., Field Ethos is mostly a passion project, and he said he thinks of it as totally separate from his political work. “It’s probably one of the least political things I do,” he told me when I asked how Field Ethos fits in with his other right-leaning business ventures. In his publisher’s note from the second issue of the magazine in 2022, Trump Jr. struck a wistful tone at the prospect of the politics-filled year ahead, portraying Field Ethos as a haven from the campaign fray: “The next 12 months are going to be interesting for me and my family ,and it’s great to know I can pick up one of our journals when I just need a break from it all.”

But a deeper dive into the project shows that the campaign trail runs right through those journals.

It’s not hard to find signs of the publisher’s anti-“woke” sensibilities and his “unapologetic” — a word that comes up frequently in conversation with his co-founders — delight in tossing partisan bombs. The Field Ethos online shop is full of meme-y merch (for $20, you can purchase three rubber bracelets that ask: “What Would
Roof Koreans
Do?”, a reference to the Korean business owners who shot at looters during the 1992 Los Angeles riots), the podcasts regularly feature MAGA politicians such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and, especially recently, Trump Jr.’s publisher’s notes have included culture war-inflected diatribes against Joe Biden, drag queen story hours and “taxpayer-funded mass migration” on the southern border.

As much as Trump Jr. presents Field Ethos as a break from his political work, it’s part of a bigger project that’s been ongoing on the American right of building a conservative parallel economy and bringing the culture wars of politics to consumer habits. Rather than building and protecting an apolitical space with Field Ethos, if you look a bit closer, it’s clear that Trump Jr.’s magazine is an extension of his father’s political strategy to business and almost everything else.

Trump Jr. was introduced to the outdoor life by his maternal grandfather, Milos Zelnicek, an electrician who took the young New York-born Trump on camping trips in then-communist Czechoslovakia. Trump’s passion grew when he was at boarding school in Pennsylvania, where some friends taught him how to use a shotgun and took him deer and pheasant hunting.

“I literally just fell in love with it; I read every book there was on the subject,” Trump Jr. said, including Ernest Hemingway and the author and big game hunter Robert Ruark. (Hemingway’s great-grandson, Patrick Hemingway Adams, now contributes to Field Ethos.) “All of those things, I think, are getting lost in today’s instant gratification society. You know, kids sit there on a video game. Everything’s … instant gratification.”