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For about 15 minutes, Matt Drudge was the darling of the establishment press.
When it was discovered that he had attracted a fairly substantial audience of news-starved readers around the country, he was the subject of one glowing tribute after another. He was the toast of talk radio for his mini-scoops on subjects not even on the radar screens of the hordes of conventional journalists all beating the same paths to information mediocrity.
They all wondered, “How did he do it?” How could one young guy with no journalistic training create an information system with far more clout than most daily newspapers in this country? What made Drudge tick?
Then Drudge started poking his nose where angels fear to tread — the White House.
I first feared Drudge was being set up for a fall when he broke the Kathleen Willey story. Willey was the reluctant witness for the Paula Jones defense team — a White House employee who, shall we say, was “comforted” by the president when her husband turned up dead, a reported suicide.
He certainly got the attention of the White House with that one.
But it was his next “scoop” that proved his undoing. He reported apparently erroneous allegations that White House press flack Sidney Blumenthal had abused his wife. Within 24 hours Drudge had fully retracted the story.
Nevertheless, with the full support of the White House, Blumenthal has pressed a $30 million civil suit against Drudge and one of his carriers, America Online.
I don’t think it’s money Blumenthal’s after. It’s blood. This is an action, like so many others taken by the White House staff in the last five years, designed to silence the few effective voices of opposition in the press. As an earlier target of those taxpayer-supported attack dogs, I would say Drudge should be both proud and fearful.
Now, I don’t condone irresponsible reporting. But it should be pointed out that Drudge is not a journalist — never claimed to be. Drudge is an Information Age pioneer. He doesn’t live by the same standards as the press. He has never sworn an oath to a code of ethics. On top of all that, I suspect Drudge was set up. Would you put it past this White House? I wouldn’t. And if they don’t like that over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they can sue me, too. It wouldn’t be the first time.
It also bears repeating that Drudge retracted his story immediately when he learned that it was wrong. How many times have you seen the establishment press do that? I can tell you that I have personally proved to countless reporters and editors that their stories were bogus only to have them hide behind the First Amendment and refuse to correct themselves.
Drudge is flying by the seat of his pants in uncharted territory and, in my opinion, doing a pretty good job of it.
Newspaper companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars — perhaps billions — researching ways of effectively distributing their information on the Internet. Drudge, with no resources at all, set up shop with a computer in his Los Angeles apartment and showed them all up. And he did it based on gut instincts — not market research, focus groups and demographic surveys.
With his brilliant use of links, he gave us an easy way to compare and contrast news accounts from all over the United States. And that discovery is scaring the establishment press as much as Drudge’s critical reports have scared the truth police over at the White House.
Did you know that the Washington Post, CNN and other big news organizations have resorted to lawsuits to try to prevent the kinds of news links provided by Drudge and WorldNetDaily? Do you know what their excuse was? They didn’t like the idea of ordinary consumers being able to compare their news accounts to those of other news organizations.
Never mind that Drudge and WorldNetDaily are actually bringing those news organizations more traffic through their links. You would think advertiser-driven
web sites would be grateful for such additional exposure and attention. Uh-uh. They were threatened. They want to play monopoly only. They want to pretend that other news organizations don’t exist.
Well, now the White House, so often in alliance with the establishment press, is trying to make Drudge disappear. Believe me, they won’t be happy with any other result. This lawsuit isn’t about money and it’s not about apologies. It’s about extinction for alternative voices.
If Drudge is silenced by the White House goon squad, the world will be a little less interesting and little less free.
I’ve got my own problems with the government and the establishment press. The White House has done its level best to try to put my organization out of business, too. So, the last thing I need to do is to try to fight other people’s battles for them. But I would encourage all freedom-loving news consumers to support Matt Drudge against attack by the White House.
A defense fund has been established. Do what you can.
Matt Drudge Defense Fund
P.O. Box 67398
Los Angeles, CA 90067