The Freak Show

I recommend listening to my interview with Mark Halperin and John Harris at PajamasMedia on their really interesting new book The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008. What is really striking about our conversation is Halperin and Harris' pessimism about today's media. Here are two powerful figures in mainstream media, Halperin the Political Director of ABC News and Harris the National Political Editor of the Washington Post. Yet both have very dark interpretations of the way in which egalitarian bloggers and other players in the democratized electronic media are undermining the credibility of the news business. They call the contemporary media circus the "Freak Show".

And their star in the Freak Show is Matt Drudge, whose success they explain sociologically, politically and culturally. For Harris and Halperin, Drudge is the archtype outsider, the nerdy high school kid who is now getting his revenge on the world. The irony, of course, is that Drudge is a Republican -- supposedly the party of the powerful, but increasingly the party of the outsider, of the resentful and angry.

Harris and Halperin argue that the only way out of the Freak Show is through mainstream media. As they conclude:

People in Old Media are eager to end the Freak Show. Most journalists would prefer to work in a profession in which Matt Drudge has less influence and Jim Lehrer more.

There you have it. The choice is Lehrer or Drudge. Responsible news journalism or the hyper democracy of the Freak Show. As Harris and Halperin explain, this is a choice with much more at stake than purely who wins the White House in 2008.