Way back in 1989 AD, a young man had moved onto the ninth floor of the building.
He was, just, like you know, this guy.
His name was Matt Drudge.
He’d been raised around Washington DC, which was the capital city of the United States of America, and that proximity gave him a fixation on the currents of power.
He bummed around Hollywood for about half a decade. And this was the old Hollywood, the Hollywood of the Yucca Corridor, the Hollywood that existed prior to the infestation of the international capital class’s money laundering.
It was gang territory. It was full of drug dealing. It was full of prostitution.
In 1994, Drudge’s father paid him a visit.
He was appalled by his son’s life.
At the time, Drudge was selling T-shirts at CBS Studios in Century City, which was on the other side of the hills that hold the HOLLYWOOD sign.
The old man bestowed a gift upon his son from Circuit City on Sunset Boulevard: an IBM PC compatible computer.
This was before the release of Microsoft’s Windows 95 destroyed the American West Coast, another psychic cataclysm, and oddly, one that’s never been written about in any meaningful detail.
Drudge’s computer had a modem, which was a stupid little device that connected to telephone lines and allowed his computer to call up other computers.
Using his modem, Matt Drudge discovered the Internet. And this was the old Internet, the Internet of Usenet and #hack on EFnet, the Internet that existed prior to the infestation of the international capital class’s money laundering.
Drudge’s first utterance on the Internet, ever, was three days after Christmas 1994 AD at 1:48PM.
hello from sex drenched hollywood
Drudge replied to himself at 3:31PM. His response said:
we are so sex drenched here in hollywood. 65% of us city dwellers have herpes
And so on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon, on the ninth floor of the Fontenoy, the Twenty-First Century AD was born.
Ashley Lopez had lived in the Fontenoy for five years, performing ceremonial magick and using all kinds of magickal phrases, and she’d never said anything with as much power as the one phrase which had baptized a century.
She’d never said anything as important, or as ominous, as hello from sex drenched hollywood.
No one could have known that Matt Drudge was the only authentic genius of the Twenty-First Century AD.
He was the only person in the world who understood how the Internet really worked.
And he had found his demon.
Not long after he’d written about 65% of people in Hollywood having herpes, Drudge founded an email newsletter obsessed with the currents of power in American life.
The newsletter was about the entertainment industry and politics, which, by virtue of the Celebrity branch of American governance, were the same thing.
The newsletter was called the Drudge Report.
It offered its readers a very gossip-inflected take on the issues of the day.
Everything broke in 1998 AD.
Newsweek, which was a magazine that offered milquetoast political and cultural reporting, decided not to run a story about an alleged affair between the sitting President, William Jefferson Clinton, and a twenty-two-year-old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.
Drudge learned about the spiked story and sent word to his mailing list.
He didn’t know it, but he’d murdered the gentleman’s agreement between news journalists and politicians, which was more or less a tacit acknowledgement that politicians could fuck around in private as long as Washington bureau chiefs were invited to dinner parties in Georgetown.
And Drudge had, accidentally, trashed the American idea of good governance, fostering an environment in which the Republicans would go on to impeach William Jefferson Clinton, and learn that the way to power was through publicity stunts and using the Legislative branch not to govern but rather to obstruct.
After the Lewinsky thing, Drudge’s fame went nuclear, went global.
He got a short-lived TV show. He got a radio show.
His newsletter evolved into a webpage that collated links to articles on other websites, and, on occasion, featured some of Drudge’s own reporting and, in times of emergency, an animated siren GIF.
The links to other websites were written by Drudge himself in an ultra-minimalist headline style. hello from sex drenched hollywood.
The webpage was three columns of black text on a white background.
There was no flash and no glut.
The design never changed.
Not once in two decades.
It was perfect in the way that Steve Jobs, a psychopath who enslaved Chinese children and made them build electronic devices which allowed American liberals to write treatises on human rights, had envisioned perfection: the absolute and seamless melding of form and function.
By the Year of the Froward Worm, Drudge’s website received ten billion visits per year.
In the late 1990s AD, there was an unbelievable amount of bullshit about how the Internet was going to offer new platforms of expression that leveled the playing field, and how computers would produce an enormous flowering of creativity and new opportunities.
What no one admitted, or perhaps even realized, was that while the Internet would indeed create a million opportunities for people to express their ignorant-ass opinions on topics about which they knew nothing, those opinions would not offer any real benefit to the ignorant-ass people who offered them.
The ignorant-ass opinions would only enrich the people who owned the platforms of expression.
And the people who owned the platforms of expression were the same old shits who ruled the world.
Here was the genius of Drudge laid bare: he understood, before anyone else, that the way to make money on the Internet was by monetizing other people’s content.
After Drudge shattered journalism, the international capitalist class gathered up the fragments and ground them into dust.
The noble profession transformed from attempts at a first draft of history into a quest for eyeballs on websites.
In the process, seasoned professionals lost their jobs and were replaced with cocaine-addled children from Brooklyn who worked for spare change.
The international capitalist class didn’t care.
Journalism had always been a pain in their ass.
What they wanted was traffic on the websites that they’d funded.
And Drudge drove that traffic.
Even though Drudge’s website consisted almost entirely of links to other websites, it provided a coherent and linear worldview. The links were like a jigsaw puzzle. If you read Drudge for a week, you could piece together who he was and what he thought.
He made a specific sense of the world in an era when the world had become incomprehensible, and when the traditional arbiters of American life had given up any hope of explaining the global situation.
His website was the unmoved mover of the Internet, just about the most read news site in English, and his millions of daily readers would deluge any site that he linked.
And even more importantly, he was read by absolutely everyone who was anyone in media. He drove entire cycles with headlines that were no more than fifteen words in length.
He was literally the most powerful voice in America.
And if you think that’s an exaggeration, consider this: for all of the explanations floated as to why Donald J. Trump won the Presidency with his impossible victory, no one has ever suggested the most obvious.
Which is that Donald J. Trump won the Presidency because Matt Drudge decided that Donald J. Trump should win the Presidency, and did everything he could to cast the best possible light on Trump’s many missteps.
Donald J. Trump’s impossible victory had come via a very small margin: 77,744 votes cast in the three states had determined the Electoral College.
0.02% of the US population.
By November 6th, 2016 AD, Drudge’s website received that many visitors every two and a half minutes.
If you want to know about the American Twenty-First Century AD, I recommend watching two videos.
One is available on the website of C-SPAN, which is a non-profit organization that hosts an archive of media related to the governance and affairs of public life in the United States.
The other video is on YouTube, which is an expensive attempt by Google to make copyright law irrelevant.
The first video is Matt Drudge’s appearance on November 11th, 1997 AD at the Annenberg School of Communication, which was a division of the University of Southern California, an institution of higher learning that used things like a School of Communication to cloak its relationship with the military-industrial complex.
The second video is Matt Drudge’s incredibly weird October 6th, 2015 AD appearance on The Alex Jones Show, which was a radio program hosted by the eponymous Alex Jones, a disgraceful little man who believed that poisoned water turned frogs into homosexuals, that 9/11 was an inside job, and that clouds were made of Muslims.
The USC appearance occurred several months before Newsweek and Lewinsky, which makes it a valuable document of Drudge before he broke the story that would define his life. It features Drudge on a panel with several high priests of journalism.
The first high priest is Michael Kinsley, who’d been on TV and written for the New Republic, and who was the editor of Slate.com, which was a news website funded by Microsoft with money that they’d made from ruining the West Coast.
The second high priest is Todd S. Purnam, then the Los Angeles bureau chief for the New York Times, which is the definitive American organ of sober judgment, good taste, and quality reporting.
By contrast, Matt Drudge was a guy with an email account.
He got his email from a company called L.A. Internet Inc.
He paid for his own Internet access.
He worked out of the ninth floor of the Fontenoy.
Everyone on the stage can’t imagine that Lewinsky is coming. Both Purnam and Kinsley think that Drudge has already issued the story that will define his life.
Back on August 10th, 1997 AD, Drudge sent a report to his newsletter.
The report quoted an anonymous GOP operative who said that a Clinton aide named Sidney Blumenthal had beaten his wife.
The story was untrue.
Drudge issued a retraction.
Blumenthal sued Drudge for $30,000,000.
Prior to this incident, media coverage of Drudge had been geewhiz! articles about what he was doing, about how the Internet was really strange, and about how strange it was that Drudge was a weird person doing something strange on the Internet.
The minute after the Blumenthal thing, the knives were out.
You can see it in the video of the USC panel.
Kinsley and Purnam suggest that Drudge’s methods are abhorrent, they tell him that he’s a flash in the pan, they say that he’s irresponsible, they repeatedly insult him to his face.
The smugness is unbearable.
It’s actually shocking.
Drudge, meanwhile, defends himself to the best of his abilities and talks about his ideas of what the Internet is going to do to journalism, which is create a nation of citizens who operate the news, unfiltered and without editorial interference, and unrestrained by the social mores of the upper middle class.
When he speaks, he sounds slightly naïve and a little self-righteous.
But think about this: he’s a guy who makes about $3000 a month and he’s being sued for $30,000,000 by a Presidential aide. And he’s on a stage where he is, by any conventional metric, seriously outclassed by his fellow-panelists.
When Drudge speaks, it’s clear that he’s attempting to be understood.
He’s a person asking to be taken seriously.
His exchanges with his fellow panelists are, effectively, Patient Zero diagnosing his own disease, and its symptoms, to aging doctors who don’t read the new research.
And they hate him.
The loathing is palpable.
During the last ten minutes of the video, there’s an audience Q&A.
The only question is asked by a future psychotic named Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart would go on to be Matt Drudge’s assistant, handling the afternoon shift of Drudge Report.
In the Q&A, Breitbart asks why the mainstream media gave Hunter S. Thompson free reign to lie and distort the truth while not allowing Drudge any latitude in his own reporting. Breitbart suggests that this lack of latitude derives from Drudge’s Conservative-leaning politics.
One doesn’t like to praise the devil, but this isn’t the stupidest path of inquiry.
But here’s the real significance: Breitbart is the only person, throughout the entire event, who doesn’t insult Drudge or treat him like a child who’s been caught stealing cookies.
Breitbart went on to found the Breitbart News Network, a website which by the Year of the Froward Worm had become the dominant voice of the Far Right in America.
When Breitbart died in 2012 AD, presumably from a toxic mix of being both a drug freak and a huge fucking asshole, a guy named Steve Bannon ended up in control of Breitbart News Network.
In August of 2016 AD, he became Chief Executive Officer of Donald J. Trump’s Presidential campaign.
When Trump assumed the Presidency, Bannon went to the White House.
When Blumenthal sued Drudge, Drudge didn’t have any resources to mount a legal defense. He was on the wrong side of the Democrats. He was on the wrong side of the White House.
And this was before Lewinsky!
The only people who helped him, and assumed the cost of his legal liabilities, were people on the Far Right.
They did his case mostly pro bono with occasional donations from supporters.
The video of Drudge on The Alex Jones Show is something else.
Because Alex Jones films every episode of his radio show and puts the videos on YouTube, Drudge refuses to emerge from the shadows. He lets Jones interview him, but the image remains fixed on Jones.
Matt Drudge, the only genius of the new century, has hijacked another forum.
For the first, and only, time in the history of The Alex Jones Show, Alex Jones shuts the fuck up.
Drudge talks about many of the same ideas that he expresses in the USC video, but now he’s less nervous, and now he’s embittered.
If, back in 1997 AD, he was Matt Drudge, who was just, like you know, this guy, now he’s MATT DRUDGE, GOD OF ALL NEW MEDIA.
He’s still talking about citizen reporting, but he’s dispirited by the rise of the corporate groupthink and the way that it’s influenced the homogeneity of the news. In a moment of sounding uncomfortably like the present author, he denounces social media.
He boasts of his independence from everyone.
And then it gets depressing.
Drudge sings the praises of Alex Jones. He sees the radio host as a lonely man who wages war against that corporate homogeneity, which is true from a certain perspective, but which ignores the true insanity of Alex Jones, a person who believes that the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley was a robot built by Muslims.
At first, it feels like maybe Drudge is being polite.
But then he starts throwing out his own crazy ideas.
He suggests there’s a cover-up of Hillary Clinton’s lovers, with the implication being that there’s scores of women who’ve had the former Secretary of State’s tongue in their birth canals.
He says that Clinton is old and sick and that there’s a cover-up about her impending death.
He claims there are 80 million illegal immigrants living in the US.
Things are different than back in 1997 AD.
The coherent worldview has changed and encompassed some very dubious thoughts.
There’s an edge in this interview that’s nowhere to be seen in the early days.
This is a person who knows that he’ll never be understood.
While Michael Kinsley sneered at Drudge for an hour in 1997 AD, he was wrapped in a delusion about the nature of his job. He thought that he was a person who offered the world a valuable service, but actually, all he did was lure people into looking at advertisements.
In the video, he can’t imagine that, within about twelve years, it’ll turn out that the Internet is better at advertising than newspapers, and that his colleagues in journalism, all the hallowed practitioners of the art, are going to be chasing Patient Zero’s vision of the future, reducing institutions of sober judgment into op-ed factories that, try as hard as they might, will never be able to compete with the sheer entertainment psychosis of a seventeen-year-old denouncing Jews on YouTube.
Another thing that he can’t imagine: by the Year of the Froward Worm, anonymous and unsupported allegations on the Internet will be the backbone of his entire industry.
And the last thing that Kinsley can’t imagine is that he’s insulting the one person who could have helped.
Drudge was, and is, the only person who understands the Internet.
And he was insulted so badly that he sought refuge with the scum of the world, and he took all of that genius and all of its attendant power, and he befriended the people who were nice to him.
That’s how history works.
That’s how politics work.
You figure out how to get along with people you find unpalatable. You figure out how to make a decent argument that convinces people who don’t agree with you. You don’t throw away people because you think they’re powerless and worthless.
Or you end up like Michael Kinsley.
Totally forgotten and left behind.
Just a smug asshole no one remembers in a video that no one watches.
The following is an excerpt from ‘Only Americans Burn in Hell’, available here.