The Green Room: Where Every Surfer Wants To Be Fear and loathing in cyberspace

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The Independent Culture
PRESIDENT CLINTON calls him "sludge" (according to Monica Lewinsky's evidence in the Starr Report). Penthouse calls him "the most dangerous man on the Internet", and US media journal Brill's Content cites him as a latter-day Tom Paine, a pioneer of the new journalism. Matt Drudge's website continues to upset the establishment, despite a pounds 30 million libel suit being brought against him by White House aide Sidney Blumenthal, accused, by the cybercolumnist, of serial wife-beating. Access the Drudge Report, and you will get the scandals other media are too lawyered-up to report.

Drudge, an erstwhile shop assistant, posts his contents daily from a cheap computer in his one-roomed apartment in Los Angeles on to his new server, America Online, who are paying him for the privilege. Interestingly, AOL has just clocked up its 13,500,000th subscriber. His latest "exclusive" is hearsay of Hillary Clinton's adulterous relationship with former colleague and suicidee Vincent Foster. With only one witness, a Little Rock state- trooper with a grudge the size of Arkansas, Drudge does not offer legally ratified facts, but the Internet, unregulated and a devil to censor, is where news junkies are finding today's hot stories.

For some, this is a cause for grave concern - there's no time for fact- checking and the spelling's certainly a bit iffy - but Drudge is determined to devolve the power from the traditional news institutions, and demoralise the processes of the journalistic medium. His message is loud and clear: anyone with a modem can have a shot at the big guys.

The latest coup from the man who calls the Oval Office "Clinton's little love lounge" is a leaked ("exclusive to the Drudge Report") internal memo titled "Elections Results Screw-up Debriefing" written by an unnamed producer at ABC News's website, It appears that the night before the good people of the United States went to the polls, ABCNEWS posted the results of the mid-term elections. The memo explains that they'd published pre-election test data from a voting service "without a disclaimer".

Drudge gleefully goes on: "The fake results appeared on ABC News's site for up to seven hours on Monday." Even worse, the unfortunate producer tries to see the bright side of what Drudge calls "one of the biggest embarrassments of the Internet Age". Since Drudge had pasted ABC's screw- up on to his own website, "The pages are still carrying our ad-banners and ad-traffic links, so we are continuing to get ad impressions from these pages even though they are not on our site." And get this for hubris: "The Drudge Report is getting so much traffic its server is responding very slowly and has gone down at least twice in the last hour."

Drudge is pleased to end his report with a statement from an ABCNEWS spokeswoman that "the person who drafted this was terminated earlier today (4 November)".

Watch out, Matt: Mr Blumenthal is campaigning for AOL, who insist on being perceived as a "passive carrier", to be held to the same legal standards as any newspaper.