Enter Stage Right's Third Annual Conservative of the Year

By Gord Gekko
web posted December 1998

For this, the Third Annual Conservative of the Year, the readers sent in some pretty interesting submissions. Politicians like Senator John Ashcroft, familiar faces on the conservative scene like Rush Limbaugh, web site operators such as The Free Republic's Jim Robinson and activists like Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman and Alan Keyes were among the many sent in.

And while all of them were worthy, it was one man who was nominated by readers that in my mind stood head and shoulders above the rest if only for the sheer impact he had this year. In the year 1998, this man was largely responsible for the unmasking of one of the most unethical administrations in America's political history. He put fear into the old guard media by perhaps redefining how the news is reported and became one of the first Net celebrities to become a household name.

He's stated several times in the past that he is not a conservative, but has qualified that by stating he believes in smaller government, personal liberty and truth...attributes I would propose are those of a conservative. He is Matt Drudge. A citizen reporter who practices populist journalism.

Consider for a second that one of the biggest political scandals this century -- one that concretely revealed U.S. President Bill Clinton for the type of man he really is -- was first reported on by Drudge after Newsweek sat on the story, seemingly afraid to upset a political structure they helped to create.

"Mr. Drudge has provided a free medium for information to become accessible for all online surfers. Never since the days of colonial broadsides can truth-packed dissent be so prominently displayed. Of course, the mainstream media is angry that their usefulness is on the way out thanks to the unbiased work of Matt Drudge. What makes them even angrier is that Drudge is no well-funded right-wing partisan, but a self-described libertarian who doesn't trust any politician with power."
- A submission for Drudge

It was Drudge's initial report on Newsweek's failure to print the story that provided the first clues about Clinton's womanizing and subsequent perjury about his affair with Lewinsky that vaulted him to national prominence and a monthly readership of seven million people.

"The true reason big time journalists don't like me is that they think they are the only ones who can tell the American people what's going on in the world."
- Matt Drudge, August 1998

Drudge is, in a way, more of a "new media" publisher than a reporter, for what he often does is take stories from "sources", often other journalists, and publish them at lightning speed. "I've been called a muck-raker, but also the most powerful journalist in America," he says. "That is because I am just seconds from publishing, without having to ask anyone, and with no money."

Drudge is certainly quick but his method has its pitfalls: he is up against a $30 million libel suit for alleging that White House aide Sidney Blumenthal, a friend of both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, had a history of beating his wife. Even Drudge admits there was no truth in that particular rumour and quickly retracted the story the next day.

Though Drudge did make a mistake in the Blumenthal story, he does value truth. Unlike many of today's journalists, Drudge is almost old fashioned in his desire for a good story which exposes the unvarnished truth. While he made his name reporting on Bill Clinton, Drudge can also be found reporting on every stripe of politician, done in the belief that the truth must be free. A very old fashion view considering that most journalists are simply part of the established order, left or right, and report only what helps their cause.

He has his rough spots but Drudge's contribution to the political scene cannot be defined. From a small ninth floor apartment in Hollywood he forced the most powerful man on the planet to admit publicly that he lied to the American people. Armed with just a computer and a modem Drudge shook up the Beltway that the dinosaur media grew complacent in. He proved that the average citizen could make a difference and unmask the lies and half-lies that shroud the highest positions of power.

For that alone he deserves to be our Conservative of the Year. He should also be a model to any activist who thinks their lone voice isn't enough. It isn't the size of the megaphone, only the truth of the speech.

Honourable mentions

Conrad Black, Canadian publishing magnate

Black launched a new Canadian national daily newspaper, the National Post, in October that is unabashedly conservative and well written. In doing so, he managed brush aside all the naysayers and leftists who did all they could to destroy the accomplishment of someone they could never equal.

Jim Robinson, Free Republic web master

Though Enter Stage Right excoriated him this month, Robinson had a great 1998. His web site reveals the mainstream press for what they are and is deservedly one of the most popular. He also organized a march at the end of October on Washington, D.C. to protest "the most ethical administration in history," a march which garnered some attention in the media.

Previous winners
1997 Ron Paul (R-Texas)
Preston Manning (Reform Party Leader)
1996 Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario

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