Independent Bloggers And Social Media Voices Are Scooping The Mainstream Media
Aaron M. Renn, City Journal
The news this week that former national security advisor Susan Rice likely requested the “unmasking” of Donald Trump-related names in intelligence materials promises to upend the narrative about spying and collusion that has obsessed media circles for months. But just as startling as any revelations about illicit domestic political espionage is the story of who broke the news and how: independent writer Mike Cernovich on his Twitter account @cernovich.
Just a week after Cernovich was the main subject of a 60 Minutes report on “fake news,” he took to Twitter and unloaded some real news: “BREAKING NEWS! Susan Rice requested unmasking of incoming Trump administration officials.” The tweet received 6,900 retweets, a level comparable to some of President Trump’s own. The next day Eli Lake wrote about the story for Bloomberg in more detail, breaking it widely into the major media—though some outlets like CNN have declined to cover it, labeling it a “distraction.”
How did an independent person working at home in Southern California, completely outside the traditional media ecosystem, manage to get such a scoop?
Mike Cernovich is by no means the first media outsider to break a major new story. The formative event in the history of new media was Matt Drudge’s revelation of Monica Lewinsky’s affair with President Bill Clinton in January 1998. Drudge went on to build the Drudge Report into one of the planet’s most-trafficked websites, which functions today as an aggregator of links, expressing its right-leaning viewpoint through a juxtaposition of headlines. The earlier years of Internet political commentary were heavily identified with conservative bloggers, including Instapundit and Power Line—voices viewed mostly with disdain by elite media representatives.
The apotheosis of the independent right-wing blogger came during the 2004 election, when documents purporting to show that President George W. Bush had been granted special treatment during the Vietnam War were proven to be fakes. Crowd-sourced intelligence from typographers, military historians, and amateur journalists demonstrated that CBS News had erred in not authenticating these apparent forgeries. Dan Rather’s career was essentially destroyed in the fallout from the controversy, a dramatic chapter in the Internet’s destabilization of traditional media power.