Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2008

DRUDGE STILL, INEXPLICABLY, RULES THEIR WORLD.... The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has an odd item today, arguing in support of the notion that the Drudge Report is "the single most influential source for how the presidential campaign is covered in the country."

In the banner headline spot for most of the day was a picture of entertainer Barbra Streisand touting a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Barack Obama -- not exactly the sort of headline that the Illinois senator wants as chum for the cable channels 49 days before the election.

Two other stories never merited attention from Drudge: a claim by a senior aide to John McCain that the Arizona senator had invented the BlackBerry and a statement by McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina that neither McCain nor Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be equipped to serve as CEO of a major U.S. company.

As Cillizza describes it, Drudge picks stories to highlight, the media follows Drudge's lead, and cable channels use his site as a de facto assignment editor. Except in this case, Cillizza probably didn't pick the best examples to bolster his case -- as Greg Sargent explained, the networks didn't care about the Streisand story at all, and news outlets were all over the Fiorina story.

The Post's Cillizza added that Drudge has been aggressive in casting the Republican ticket in the most favorable light possible, which Cillizza says is a direct response to the media trying to scrutinize Sarah Palin's qualifications for national office. Heaven forbid.

Cillizza quotes anonymous Drudge readers praising Drudge for challenging media "bias," and then cites a Karl Rove acolyte lauding Drudge's "nose for news."

Reading Cillizza's piece, I'm just not sure what the point is. Maybe it's because I've never read or cared about Drudge, but I have no idea what Cillizza is driving at. That Drudge is widely read by television producers? Yes, I suppose that's true, but we knew that. That Drudge readers think Drudge is really important? Sure, I suppose they do. That Drudge thinks news outlets have a liberal bias? Yes, Drudge apparently does think that, as do countless other conservative bloggers. So?

I wonder if Cillizza is failing to connect the dots -- how is it that media outlets are being driven by Drudge, and being skewered by Drudge for their so-called bias, at the same time? In other words, if the cable networks are getting their ideas from Drudge, what is it, exactly, that Drudge is rebelling against? How is he speaking truth to power if he's helping call the shots in the first place?

There are interesting questions to be considered in this media dynamic, but I can't help but think Cillizza missed them altogether. Greg Sargent has a better idea, suggesting it might be a good time for "Drudge-ologists" to question whether media figures are wise to "take their cues from a confirmed serial fact-inventor."

Is this, you know, a bad thing? What does it say about the business? Don't the same reporters and editors who proclaim Drudge's influence make editorial decisions to follow him when they do? Isn't one of the dirty secrets of the profession that reporters and editors on occasion actually tailor their stories to get Drudge links?

If Drudge is going to consume our attention, how about a real discussion of Drudge and what the Drudge phenomenon says about the journalism profession -- one that goes beyond the narrow question of how influential he is?

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Steve Benen 12:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

I heard Hillary Clinton was blindsided for a scheduled appearance when she found out Palin was invited also without her knowledge. She cancelled the appearance. Is this true? Rove is trying to make it look like they are campaigning together.

Posted by: coral on September 17, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

How is he speaking truth to power if he's helping call the shots in the first place?

I can answer this. It's the same mindset that led to, say, the Party of Bush railing endlessly against "big government" and "free markets" two weeks ago while the Government of Bush engineered the largest governmental intervention of the economy in our nation's history.

I think a man named George Orwell talked about it in one of his books.

Posted by: Joshua on September 17, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Drudge... Come on. Who cares what Drudge is blasting. This is like, inside the Web Way, like Broader is inside the belt way.... Yawn.

The only story in town is this...

Wall Street is in tatters. Wall Street banks are teetering on the brink of collapse. Millions of people’s pension funds are crumbling as investment firms go under. Consider what would have happened to your retirement if John McCain and George Bush had managed to privatize your Social Security?

That would prolly stir up some votes in Florida.

Posted by: troll_bait on September 17, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's the WaPo first of all. What a worthless rag.

And Cizilla has proven time and again he is a smarmy douchebag follower.

Posted by: bubba on September 17, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

How did Drudge get to be influential? I remember when he'd just spam usenet newsgroups with *star* gossip he gleaned from other sites. He's a creep.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 17, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if you guys are gonna write about Politico's business model, it'd be helpful to mention the name of the publication.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on September 17, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

By yesterday afternoon, the Streisand story had picked up steam on CNN and MSNBC. If they were as focused as much on Steve M.'s Nomoremisterniceblog, they might have balanced it with this McCain fundraiser.

Posted by: Danp on September 17, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

"In other words, if the cable networks are getting their ideas from Drudge, what is it, exactly, that Drudge is rebelling against? How is he speaking truth to power if he's helping call the shots in the first place?"

This is exactly, exactly right. The article is self-contradictory. Either Drudge is rebelling against the "authority" or he is the "authority". He can't be both.

Which is it, Cizilla?

Man, just another example of how your average blogger is better than some of the people who get paid to do this stuff for a living.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on September 17, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

the networks didn't care about the Streisand story at all

It should be noted that when the Dow was in turmoil and when all hell was breaking loose, Drudge kept this Streisand headline up (as the major breaking story) for about 48 hours. He was desperate to change the subject.

Thankfully Steve's right. Other stuff was covered more.

That said, to their disgrace, I did see the Streisand story reported on The Today Show yesterday morning and on NightLine last night--as if McCain didn't do the same exact thing without fanfare (he held a Hollywood fund raiser with Republican celebrities)...and as if celebrities aren't citizens/voters too.

Posted by: CJ on September 17, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Bad link at 12:58:

Try this one:

http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Danp on September 17, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I have visited Drudge I notice that I have already heard about all the stories at the top of the page.

But is too painful to scroll down, I think McCain must be the webmaster of that site. Basically unusable.

Posted by: tomj on September 17, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

To call Drudge slime would be an insult to one cell organisms.

Posted by: anon on September 17, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Here in Boulder, CO. someone called my mother a nigger lover yesterday for having an Obama bumper sticker. Who the hell uses that phrase in 2008?

Posted by: Bill Hopsch on September 17, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

This whole Drudgeotropic media phenom is disgusting. It should be actively combatted tooth and nail. In the Palin case, his maybe-"girl"friend (dep. on the extent Drudge is gay) Mann Coulter is likely putting pressure on him to boost Palin, whose snarky meanness and arrogant emptiness drives her ecstatic with lipsticked-piggy delight.

BTW troll_bait, of course the current crisis is more important but Drudge has a massive and mostly degrading effect on news reporting and the elections. His slant certainly can and surely has made the difference in recent very close elections etc. - consider how that has affected us all.

Posted by: Neil B on September 17, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Hopsch: Plenty of those right wing dittohead types, look at thread postings all around at common news outlets instead of eggheadish blogs.

Posted by: Neil B on September 17, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Drudge used to be good source of freaky news stories. News from around the country you could laugh at when local news was too depressing with the shootings, hit and runs and government corruption.

But anyway, it's good idea to see what the otherside is up to now and again.

Posted by: amy on September 17, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

So the corporate-owned mass media takes cues from a blatant right-wing shill for the Republican Party. This is a surprise to people?

The corporate-owned mass media is just doing what they did in 2000 and 2004: working hand-in-hand with the Republican Party and the openly-partisan right-wing media (Fox, Limbaugh, Drudge, etc) to glorify the Republican candidate and character-assassinate the Democratic candidate.

Inexplicable? Please. The ruthless, rapacious class warfare of America's ultra-rich corporate aristocracy against everyone else is best served by having right-wing Republicans in power. So America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. deploys the mass media which they almost entirely own and control to propagandize the American people towards that end. What is "inexplicable" about that?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 17, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered how someone with such an offending name became so influential.

Drudge literally means "a person who works in a routine, unimaginative way."

How could a pundit's name be more fitting?

I suppose if Rush Limbaugh were named Drugbot M Shitsnacks, the third.

Or if Hanity was Chinsbig McKneeburn.

Dick Morris is Toesuck L Whorelick.

And Bill O'Rielly could be Prison Bitch.

Posted by: doubtful on September 17, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

BTW Niel:

CB is not usually so far a field. Right now we are working on polls in swing states. Who cares what Drudge is up to... This site will not change that dude's blog, nor are we likely to change internet opo-research and who consumes it in the MSM before the election.

Lets stay on target...

What we can do, is what Drudge does, and push stories up into the MSM. Right now, one of Obama's weakest spots is with older Americans. Lets push a story into the MSM that will make voters in Florida, see how Obama is a MUCH better choice then McCain. This story needs to be screamed far and wide, so retirees get it.

Wall Street is in tatters. Wall Street banks are teetering on the brink of collapse. Millions of people’s pension funds are crumbling as investment firms go under. Consider what would have happened to your retirement if John McCain and George Bush had managed to privatize your Social Security?

Posted by: troll_bait on September 17, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Why was Cilizza, the Post's election columnist, writing about Drudge? Because yesterday was a terrible day for McCain/Palin (already hybridized as McPain). It was either write about that or nothing, so he chose nothing. Pretty much what you'd expect from Neocon Central (see this week's Doonesbury); Oz-like sleight-of-hand. "Don't look there, look over here! If Drudge hasn't said it, it doesn't exist!"

Posted by: ericfree on September 17, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

OK troll_bait I'm glad to see you are working on things that matter, my critique was of course thread-contextual about focus on its subject and influence of same. One thing, everybody, push everyone you can to vote and offer to drive them, etc, even free coffee etc. (C'mon, you can spare a few dollars to buy a vote ;-) ) I like your refrain, keep repeating it.

Ericfree, dead-on about the Con-Post's likely machination. Who owns that crap, what happened to the older crowd? Yeah, "Own the media, and count the votes yourselves."

Posted by: Neil B on September 17, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

How did Drudge get to be influential?

Because the blind squirrel once found a nut called Monica Lewinsky. That, and the fact that he has major right-wing institutions behind him. When Sidney Blumenthal sued Drudge for libel, David Horowitz and his little right-wing pals got together to try and bankrupt Blumenthal.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on September 17, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Bill H:
Isn't Boulder an End Times hotbed? Focus on the Family is only one of numerous fundie outfits that set up shop around Colorado Springs and Boulder. Lots of endtimers believe The Rapture begins via race war. They're just not sure whether its gonna be the Jews vs. Arabs war, the America vs. China war, or the white vs. black war coming in the US. They favor war on multiple fronts to improve the odds that Jesus will be back soon.

Your mom's critic is likely one of the Christianist End Times war cheerleaders--one of whom, BTW, is Sarah Palin. Wonder if she'll be asked any questions about THAT by our disgraceful MSM.

Posted by: W Action on September 17, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

For the sake of the country, we should perhaps for once listen to La Diva Barbra, and save our ridicule and scorn for the likes of Chris Cillizza and Matt Drudge, of whom neither have proven themselves able to carry a tune without hitting a succession of very sour notes.

Posted by: Out & About in The Castro on September 17, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Drudge = Spam News style from the past and is being drowned out from real news blogs and is looking for attention with help from a few friends. Enough!

Posted by: Den on September 17, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Drudge's 20-point headline on the day Limbaugh pleaded no contest to doctor-shopping:

NOT GUILTY!

Posted by: Noam Sane on September 17, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Having thought about this for a minute, I wonder whether the Right inflates his importance and influence, since he's such a handy way to float talking points and point the press in certain directions.

Posted by: The Pop View on September 17, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Someone said in a post above that Drudge is now bordering on the Orwellian and that's true. Drudge used to drive news cycles because he did have solid news judgement -- reporters and editors hit his site to see the headlines he had aggragated so quickly. Now he wants even more power over the news cycles -- he runs only those headlines that he wants everyone else to cover. Anything else he pretends simply never happened. In his greed for even more power over news cycles he's trashed that very quality of his postings -- his solid news judgement -- that gave him power to drive news cyles in the first place. Watch his influence continue to deteriorate as a result.

Posted by: Carmine on September 17, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

I realize this is off the point of this post, but Cillizza writes:

a picture of entertainer Barbra Streisand touting a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Barack Obama -- not exactly the sort of headline that the Illinois senator wants as chum for the cable channels 49 days before the election.

Why the hell not? Indulging in some gross generalization, I'm going to say that people either see Streisand as a big talent, or as the punchline to a joke ("like butter"). But her being seen as political poison? By who?

Cillizza has swallowed some right-wing nonsense hook, line, and sinker, and doesn't even realize it.

Posted by: a.l. on September 17, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, if you actually follow drudge, which I do, he often has blinking headlines that are very obama centric. He seems to be a political athiest, with a nose for news. But follows the MSN model for what is news. And so.... They also follow him.

Assume he is a nonpartisan that is only after clicks. And will follow the clicks wherever they lead him. So push news stories he thinks are juicy.

Thats all he does.

Posted by: troll_bait on September 17, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

One thing I've noticed about Drudge is the prediliction to throw stuff up, including wild rumors and then when the facts shoot down the rumor, just delete the item. No retraction, no "what we published was wrong". For this reason I tend to ignore Drudge. I suppose editors need to consider all sources of stories, but Drudge should be categorized with The Star, The Enquirer and other bird cage liners.

Posted by: Jim W. on September 17, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't rocket science.

Per Matt Yglesias: "I wonder if [Cillizza]'s failing to [connect the dots] because he doesn't understand what's happening, or because he understands what's happening perfectly well and just thinks it would be better for his career to write the story the way he did."

Per me: the "smart" writers know that most of the sugar daddies are on the right. Follow the money.

Posted by: cmholm on September 17, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Most people outside of Hollywood have no idea where Matt Drudge came from. He is a failed actor who is the kind of "Hollywood wannabee" who never let lack of talent get in the way of self-promotion. He is a perfect example of the low cunning of the perennial wannabee who has no shame in picking whatever it is that will give him the fame he craves.

That the otherwise-unemployables of the "media" think he is someone to pay attention to says more about their intellectual failure than his success.

Posted by: TCinLA on September 18, 2008 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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