This review originally appeared in The Washington Post.
By Matt Drudge
Reviewed by G. Beato
In his first foray into the old-fashioned world of book publishing, Matt Drudge, outspoken pioneer of the Internet "wonder wires," doesn't have much to say.
Indeed, while Drudge Manifesto runs 247 pages, it takes a lot of filler to reach that length: 40 blank pages; 31 pages of fan mail; 24 pages of Drudge Report reruns; 13 pages of a Q & A that Drudge did at the National Press Club three years ago; 10 pages of titles and other book boilerplate; six pages of quotes from Drudge's favorite philosophers (Monica, Madonna, etc.); four pages of a chat transcript; three pages that include nothing but a large zero; two pages that include nothing but a large numeral 1; one page that includes nothing but a tiny zero; and one page that includes Drudge's favorite Web sites. Which leaves, in the end, 112 pages of new material, including nine pages of poetry.
That the book is so slight isn't that much of a shock: After all, brevity is one of Drudge's virtues. But while he typically packs some shocks and some muck and some news in his online missives, Drudge Manifesto is guarded and stale. "If I'm not interesting, the world's not interesting," he says preemptively in the book's opening pages. And then, a few pages later: "And if I'm boring, you're boring." And then again: "World: never boring. Drudge: always interesting."
Hey, Matt: Verbs good, too. Also: revelations.
The verbosuction may be the work of Hollywood survivor Julia Phillips, who helped Drudge write this book: Under her tutelage, his clunky, often sentimental prose has grown as taut as Joan Rivers's chin-flesh. But while the style is new, the material's the same-old same-old. First, he includes an unrevealing rehash of the lawsuit that Sidney Blumenthal filed against him for circulating a rumor about the White House staffer's domestic life. Later, he includes an unrevealing rehash of l'affaire Lewinsky. In between, he gives a strenuously perfunctory account of his D.C. upbringing ("I walked the streets. Aimless teen."), which, say, James Van Der Beek of Dawson's Creek fame should be able to do wonders with if Drudge Manifesto ever goes to audiotape.
On the plus side, there is his talking cat, Cat. Granted, this is not as fantastic a narrative device as Joe Eszterhas's chatty presidential staff, but at least it shows a glint of the old Drudge charm. Drudge also includes a winning conundrum about midway through the book: a title page for a chapter on George W. Bush, but no subsequent chapter. Printer's error? Subtle joke about Bush's lack of substance? Drudge: always interesting.
And surprisingly poetic, too. "The reporters the editors the bureau chiefs the columnists the lobbyists the agents of the lawyers of the presidents who share beach houses with the ghosts of Kennedy JohnSrJr who had sex with MarilynMadonna who lost heavy rotation to MarilynnotCharlieManson--" he chants at one point, the muckraking progeny of Allen Ginsberg and Ben Bagdikian. Like unchecked presidential-intern consolidation, unchecked corporate-media consolidation is one of Drudge's big themes, and he rides it hard in Drudge Manifesto. "MSNBCNBCNEWSWEEK- WASHINGTONPOST MARRY!" he declares. "ABCNEWSNEWYORKTIMES MARRY! AMERICAONLINETIMEWARNERTURNER MARRY!"
On the other hand, what of Drudge's own cross-promotional sins? In the early days of the Drudge Report, he routinely ridiculed Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. empire. But then in November 1997, Drudge's coverage of the mega-corporation's many entities started growing more favorable, and by mid-1998 the so-called citizen-journalist was routinely hyping the Fox News Channel's "shocking reports" and "ace reporters" in the allegedly independent Drudge Report. Did this change in attitude have anything todo with a certain DRUDGEREPORTFOXNEWSCHANNEL MARRIAGE that occurred during this time? Hypocrisy: never boring.
Of course, Drudge did noisily divorce Murdoch last November, so now it's easier for him to work the renegade persona again with a relatively straight face. "I'm not beholden to them in any way," he rails to his cat at one point. "I'm not carried on their air. I'm not a byline in their dirty print. I don't use their bandwidth."
Maybe, but as Drudge Manifesto makes exceedingly clear, he sure hangs out with them a lot. Indeed, while he envisions "a din of small voices" who can "write their own accounts--e'ed directly from the scene," his true moments of rapture occur during far less egalitarian settings: cocktail party shmoozing with Warren Beatty, White House news conference kibitzing with other well-connected insiders, late-night nude phone sessions with Arianna Huffington.
In the fan mail portion of his book, Drudge leads with a letter from an acolyte who says, "You are the Thomas Payne of our era!" That misspelling of Paine's name speaks volumes about Drudge's fans, and the comparison is not a particularly apt one. In fact, Drudge is more analogous to Mary Hart and Bob Goen of Entertainment Tonight: Just as they hype imminent movies and TV shows, he hypes imminent news stories. But you have to give credit where credit is due: Drudge was the first person to realize how the Internet had created a market for such reporting, and how well-connected such reporting could make him. And, thus, at the end of his manifesto, when he declares that "Drudge will outlive Clinton," one can't help but agree. After all, he surely has a much better Rolodex.
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