New York

Right Thinking


Growing numbers of people get their daily dose of news not from newspapers, radio, or television, but from breaking-news sites on the Web. These sites offer the appeal of your own personal wire service—all the news, up to the moment.

But what about the political leanings of these increasingly popular news sites? Well, progressives can read them and weep. With few exceptions, the highest-rated and liveliest sites are run by conservatives. And if you’re not checking them out, you’re missing half of the story.

Here are a few of the zippiest right-wing rags on the Net.

Still the best bet for breaking news, the Drudge Report is a remarkably accurate tip sheet for what’s going down during the day. Its passionate screeds must make mainstream editors cringe and froth. Chris Ruddy’s hot site is up-to-date with a wide range of breaking news, from Chinese missile threats to Madeleine Albright’s sloppy security system at the State Department. Last month, gossip columnist Carl Limbacher speculated whether the smile on little Elián’s face was “genuine or the product of drug-induced euphoria” caused by a Cuban doctor. Ruddy, the preeminent conspiracy reporter, delves into Clinton administration scandals, including Ron Brown’s weird fatal plane crash in Croatia, the strange suicide of Vince Foster, the travails of President Clinton’s alleged girlfriends, the fallout from Waco, and the mysterious crash of TWA 800. Sample headline: “Reno’s Parkinson’s: Is She Suffering From Dementia?” Still the best bet for breaking news, and full of hype, this is a nonetheless remarkably accurate tip sheet on what’s going down during the day. Never leave the house without checking Matt Drudge’s updates. At the very least make sure you aren’t missing one of his developing megascoops, signaled by whirling police lights at the top of the page. Drudge’s own reports are a hoot, often passionate screeds (like one on the recent Seattle protests) that must make mainstream editors cringe and froth. For news junkies who don’t live in Washington, this is the single best source of info on the right-wing congressional leadership, covering programs, dreams, internal bickering, and gossip. The site offers hysterical fulminations from venerated conservatives such as Cal Thomas, spunky veterans like the Voice‘s own Nat Hentoff, and former New York Times honcho, geezer A.M. Rosenthal. Editor Wesley Pruden writes a sullen column reminiscent of the dregs of the New York World Telegram, making you thank God that at least it’s gone. The online version of Rupert Murdoch’s tab is loaded with New York stories. If you can’t buy the Post, it’s the one place you can read Deborah Orin, the paper’s sharp Washington correspondent. Home of great breaking news on the margins, this site once wrote that Governor Clinton rigged the phone system in Little Rock to hide the source of incoming calls, just as he blocked the White House phones. It posted onetime Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung’s previously untold story, and a review of the book Why Intellectuals Embrace Tyranny. Jon Utley reports AIDS in Africa isn’t really AIDS, but a bunch of diseases that have always plagued poor parts of the world. This self-proclaimed “online gathering place for independent, grassroots conservativism” is a great place to test the whirlpools of conservative thinking. Its excellent archives and links traverse the labyrinthine byways of the right wing, from the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute to Citizens for a Sound Economy to the National Rifle Association to the right’s godmother, Lucianne Goldberg. The best feature is the posting of responses to breaking news stories, like one from the reader who heard Elián’s impending return was brought on by a Santeria deal aimed at keeping Castro in power.

By contrast, the so-called progressive sites are knee-jerk predictable, with one big exception. That’s Sam Smith’s Progressive Review ( From a neat but tiny garret a few blocks north of the White House security wall, and within sniffing distance of the World Bank and the IMF, longtime community activist and journalist Smith puts out an independent-minded news feed called Under News from sunup to sundown, bridging right and left, with a doff of the hat to the anarchist. Smith tells stories, admonishes you to read his books, goes over the top with the Dixie Drug Conspiracy. Nowhere on the Web, short of Drudge, is there a man who so heartily enjoys following a hot story.

You can also try, a well-intentioned effort that does its level best to promote worthy “progressive” ideas by linking to various columns, but there’s no red meat here. For intelligence, nothing beats, an absolutely first-rate rundown on hot spots around the world, usually containing both analysis and regional wire coverage.

Other articles from Take Back the Net (Special Section)

LEFT BEHIND by Ward Harkavy
The Radical Right Got Wired Fast. When Will Progressives Catch Up?

Finding Documents the Man Wants to Hide

Fight Back Online

At Pho, a Thousand E-mails a Month Track the Great Digital Debate

Excavating Stoned Metal From the Internet

Archive Highlights