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Matt Drudge and the New Media Cynicism: We Could Use a Little Good News

“Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?” Sgt Oddball (Donald Sutherland) Kelly’s Heroes

One of my favorite characters in a war movie is that of Sergeant Oddball played with such great aplomb by Donald Sutherland in the 1970 film Kelly’s Heroes.

Oddball is an unlikely hero. In the midst of war’s desolation he finds purpose, in a decidedly hippy sort of way. He is determined that no matter what happens in the war that he will try to be positive. His attitude is something that I wish most of Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers would somehow whether it be through diligent study or divine revelation discover.

I look at the Drudge Report every day. He is probably the most influential individual in media today. Millions of visitors flock to his website every day. His traffic is off the charts.  Now I don’t know Matt Drudge, I just know that he has a large amounts of links to various stories and websites and I use him to jump off to see what he is reporting. He basically is show prep for most of the conservative media and blogosphere, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Drudge makes no bones about his conservatism. I remember reading him when he helped blow open the Bill Clinton- Monica Lewinski “it depends of what your definition of is is” sex scandal back in 1997. So I have been reading him for 15 years and have seen how his influence has grown.

However as I noted in a previous article called The Drudge Distort he often will twist the meaning of an article that he links to with a headline that does not resemble the actual article. His website is laid out brilliantly to define a number of breaking news subjects and form them in such a way that a reader who does not actually read the articles that he links to, simply sees a salacious, cynical, conspiratorial and just plain negative picture. It is positively depressing to look at his site.  Simply look at the site layout daily. If there is a big story Drudge will have several headlines to links which mold the way a story looks and when you dig deeper you find that the actual articles don’t say what he is saying.

While the site is heavily tilted towards politics which is perhaps one of the most cynical enterprises that one can report about, the cynicism of Drudge appears to me to color everything that he reports about: sports, culture, entertainment and even religion. There almost nothing hopeful on it, unless one is into some dark schadenfruede that rejoices in the misfortunes of others. Thus it is no wonder to me that so much of the country which is influenced by the Drudge Report is so negative about everything.

Personally I don’t care how he breaks news before media behemoths. I think that a free and independent media is important and that Matt Drudge does a hell of a job at breaking news. Admittedly a lot of news is bad now days. Headlines are all that many people read when they go to Drudge and so the way he presents the news is as important or possibly even more important than the actual news

The dark and cynical message of Drudge is echoed by much of the media, both the New Media and the Mainstream media. Coupled with the 24 hour, or should I say the 1440 minute daily news cycle Drudge feeds the angst of the nation which now feeds on negativity and is amplified by cable news and the multitude of “news” services, political pundits and even preachers. Media outlets echo off of each other be they from the left or the right of the spectrum and Drudge helps drive them.

I really think that this dark culture that pervades almost all of the media is quite destructive to any productive political or cultural discussion. This is the kind of media that helped destroy the democracy of the Weimar Republic and pave the way for Hitler whose media gurus Josef Goebbels and Julius Streicher understood this better than almost all of their contemporaries.

I wonder about the mind of someone who can constantly not only dwell on the negative found in any situation but must then ensure that everyone else is infected with this. I worry about people who do that. This is not just a criticism of Drudge, but the whole media complex. One can look at history and see similar whatever media the Yellow journalism of the 1890s and

Yes there is a lot of bad news in the world. But there is also a lot of good news, except those that make the big money in media find that bad news brings in more money than good news. Admittedly some reporters will throw in the obligatory tear jerker or good news story the rends our hearts, but even then for every good news story there are scores of bad news stories.

Anne Murray had a hit song in the early 1980s called Little Good News”  the last part of which said:

http://vimeo.com/5943612

I’ll come home this evenin’

I’ll bet that the news will be the same

Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane

How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a county fair

And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care

Whoa, tell me

 

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today

And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play

And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA

We sure could use a little good news today

 

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town

Nobody OD’ed, nobody burned a single buildin’ down

 

Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain

We sure could use a little good news today… 

I just wish like Sergeant Oddball that Drudge would drop his sky is falling message and actually report something hopeful for a change. The Apostle Paul once said “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

I just wonder what would happen if someone in media, maybe even Matt Drudge actually took that advice. But then maybe I am just a dreamer.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Drudge Distort: A New Feature at Padre Steve’s World

I do most of my business on that dirty Internet that you were just talking about, where I find there is a lot of freedom to report exactly what I want.”  Matt Drudge

I have been noticing for quite some time that conservative media scion Matt Drudge, publisher of the Drudge Report has a penchant for producing sensational and sometimes misleading headlines to articles linked to his site. Sometimes the headlines twist the meaning of what was in the article so completely I have to believe that Drudge’s intent is to stir up and mislead an already paranoid readership who probably will not actually dig into the article to find out the truth.

Today’s entry was Town Considers Banning Smokers From Smoking — Outside Their Own Homes!

The article was from the local CBS News affiliate in Sacramento http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/02/24/rocklin-considering-banning-smokers-from-smoking-outside-their-own-homes/

The headline on the CBS site read “Rocklin Considering Banning Residents From Smoking Outside Their Own Homes.” However the town is not considering that. The council was asked by a citizen to do it but the Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said the city has “no intention of considering the matter.”  This was actually mentioned in the article, but if you just read the headline you would think that the local town council is coming after smokers in their homes. The headline is a deliberate distortion of the story both by the local reporter and Drudge.

 

I look at Drudge a couple of times a day and have been doing so ever since Drudge broke the Clinton Lewinsky scandal.  The site often has great links and the format allows me to quickly scan his headlines to see what some of the major stories are before I start looking through the large number of other sites that I read to see what is going on in the world.

That being said since I returned from Iraq in 2008 I have looked at all news sites much more critically and weigh each of their respective biases when formulating my interpretation of events. When I started doing this I noticed that Drudge was masterful putting sensational headlines to various links, headlines that anyone who studies group psychology and mass movements knows are designed to inflame the passions of his readers by appealing to fear, in this case fear of intrusive government.  It is what William Randolph Hearst did so well in the 1890s, back then it was called yellow journalism.

Drudge is a internet news pioneer and a powerhouse and a lot of times he breaks news that is important or provides links to articles that are sometimes ignored in larger traditional news outlets. I admire the fact that he can get stories out sometimes before other media. Drudge’s presence does make the media more accountable.

That being said Drudge has a political bias and will distort headlines when it suits his purpose. His page will often feature links to several unrelated articles which paint a narrative of what he wants to point out.  He is very good at doing this and it is a reason for his immense popularity. Thus readers need to take that into account before getting too spun up when they see one or several sensationalist headlines on his site.

In the 2012 campaign it goes without saying that Drudge does his best to zing President Obama at every opportunity but he appears to me to be playing kingmaker in the GOP primaries in helping take down Newt Gingrich in Florida as well as Ron Paul and more recently Rick Santorum.

The Drudge Report for all of its prowess is as susceptible to bias and creating bias as is any traditional media outlet or reporter. Unfortunately many of Drudge’s readers can’t see that and as such what is highlighted on the Drudge Report often ends up repeated all over the media, especially the conservative “new” media even if the headline is a sensationalized distortion or outright falsehood propagated by another news site.

So I will be adding a tab at the top of this page called The Drudge Distort and when I notice something terribly distorted I will post a short note about it with the link and any other supporting articles.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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