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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

He still rules our world

by digby

I wrote about Drudge's ongoing influence in today's Salon:

Some years back Washington Post reporters Mark Halperin, currently of Bloomberg News and MSNBC, and John Harris now editor in chief of Politico, wrote a book about political journalism called "The Way to Win: Clinton, Bush, Rove and How to Take the White House in 2008." In it they made a famous admission about how beltway journalism works in the digital age:
Matt Drudge rules our world . . . With the exception of the Associated Press, there is no outlet other than the Drudge Report whose dispatches instantly can command the attention and energies of the most established newspapers and television newscasts. 
So many media elites check the Drudge Report consistently that a reporter is aware his bosses, his competitors, his sources, his friends on Wall Street, lobbyists, White House officials, congressional aides, cousins, and everyone who is anyone has seen it, too.
Mitt Romney's former spokesman called him the political media's assignment editor. And in 2012, on the day after the election, Halperin gave credit where credit is due:

I had sort of assumed  that Drudge's star had faded a bit in the intervening years as fresher, sexier right wing sites like Brietbart and The Blaze had emerged. But it turns out he's doing better than ever:
For the first time, The Drudge Report moved into second place on Similar Web's top U.S. Media Publisher rankings, placing just behind MSN.com with about 1.47 billion page view for the month of July. The Drudge Report's traffic beat out the likes of news sites from Disney Media Networks (which includes ESPN.com and ABCNews.com), Yahoo, Google, Time Warner and Fox Entertainment Groups.
In an article last month called, The Man Who Could Have Stopped Donald Trump, Oliver Darcy of Business Insider noted his still dominant role:
Drudge was the top traffic referrer to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and other news outlets in 2015, according to a Vocativ report. The report said the site accounted for a staggering 52% of referral traffic to the Associated Press.
All those organizations are very well aware of the potential for clicks from a Drudge link and they know what kind of stories he wants to flog. The incentives to please him are obvious.

As we approach the last leg of the 2016 campaign it's worth remembering Drudge's original claim to fame:

The original post which went on to name various publications that were allegedly holding the item put journalists at the center of the story, and needless to say they were beyond excited. The rest, of course, is history. Drudge was fed news items for years by the media, which would often launder them through the foreign press and he would feature links with screaming headlines they could use to show "it's out there."

Today these stories are still generated in the British tabloid press but also at right wing conspiracy sites and bigger operations like Breitbart. Recently, Drudge managed to widely disseminate the discredited story of Hillary Clinton's alleged ill health by posting a picture from a fringe web-site showing Clinton slipping on the stairs some months before with this screaming headline:
That story is now part of the campaign, with demands for her full medical records and the press watching her every move like a hawk for signs of brain damage.

With the news this week that Clinton's right hand Huma Abedin had separated from her husband after yet another public humiliation, Drudge used the opportunity to t-up one of the right's favorite rumors: that Clinton and Abedin are secret lovers. Unsurprisingly, whispers among unenlightened right wingers about the feminist harpy Clinton being a lesbian go back decades but the Abedin insinuations, which started in 2007, have taken off in this campaign.

Mainstream publications have fed the notion with click-bait stories like this slide-show from Politico which sat at the top of their "most-read" list for months this year despite having been originally published back in 2013. As it turned out Drudge had been up to his old tricks. He had linked to a British tabloid story in which Abedin was quoted saying that she thought Clinton was beautiful which led to millions of drooling Drudge readers searching for "Clinton Huma lesbian."

There's no way of knowing if mainstream reporters were among those intrigued by Drudge's dirt but we do know that The New York Times found this item worthy of a breathless front page lede:
Among the trove of emails released from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state was this instruction to a trusted aide who needed to brief her on a matter that could not wait: 
“Just knock on the door to the bedroom if it’s closed,” Mrs. Clinton wrote in November 2009 to Huma Abedin, then her deputy chief of staff.
Drudge doesn't even try to find political relevance to his lewd, juvenile innuendo but the mainstream media's reaction to this week's Weiner story was hardly any better.  Attempts to make it into a campaign story were downright embarrassing.

Yesterday, under the headline "Weiner free!" Drudge insinuated once again that Abedin and Clinton are lovers with a picture allegedly showing the two of them hugging with joy now that they've vanquished one of their husbands. As it turned out the picture wasn't of Abedine, it was Burmese opposition leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, but whatever. He made his point.

We can be sure that Drudge's nasty little sex rumors aren't the end of it. The more scurrilous charges of Abedin being a secret Muslim agent are just now breaking into the mainstream direct from the fever swamps, via none other than Donald Trump himself. And publications like The Hill and The New York Post, hungry for Drudge links and eager to give the monster what it wants in return are already pushing it into the mainstream. As long as Matt Drudge is driving the news cycle it will only get worse.

Just think about that a little as you read this story:

Above: A morning headline on the Drudge Report—the right-wing news site that, like a number of other outlets with similar ideological orientations, is crudely obsessed with the idea that Hillary Clinton and her longtime adviser Huma Abedin are involved in a secret lesbian/Muslim relationship. Abedin just separated from her husband, Anthony Weiner; the picture and the caption imply that Abedin has in fact dropped Weiner—and perhaps forgone all penis-related romance—because of her relationship with Clinton.


As it turns out that isn't a picture of Abedin at all. But the point is that this story of lesbian/Muslim brotherhood alliance (in itself totally daft) is pervasive in the right wing fever swamp. And that's fine. They have their little corner of the world where they can say whatever they want to each other.

That report was from August 15th, 2016.

Don't kid yourself, the Villagers still devour this disgusting piece of garbage. If you want to get a feel for the zeitgeist that moves them, read Drudge.

Nothing's changed since then I'm sorry to say except that Drudge's traffic is bigger than ever.