Dan Savage: What I Read

The sex columnist explains his masochistic addiction to National Review and how the Internet became one big alt-weekly

This article is from the archive of our partner .

How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts, and the literary world, to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with Dan Savage, author of the syndicated sex advice column Savage Love and protagonist of the new MTV docu-series Savage U.  

I'm one of those people where the last thing I do at night is close my laptop and the first thing I do in the morning is open my laptop. I start out reading Andrew Sullivan, Joe My GodThe Guardian, The Los Angeles Times and then I do something so 19th century: Walk onto my porch, pick up The New York Times and read everything I already read yesterday online but at greater length. I think Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day: Having a New York Times subscription is a short-term memory retention test of everything you read yesterday. That's definitely true for me.

For blogs, I read Blag Hag, Towleroad and Queerty, a gay blog that loves to beat the shit out of me. When I'm in the news, I avoid Queerty to keep my sanity. When I'm not in the news, I check it to find out who else they're beating the shit out of. I also read National Review's The Corner to see how the other half is devolving. People like Jonah Goldberg. Clearly, I have a masochistic streak that goes back to my childhood. Goldberg just gets the blood going and it makes you want to get out there and start swinging. Same goes for Kathryn Jean Lopez.

I read Gawker and Jezebel and Slate and Salon every day. Dear Prudence may be my favorite advice columnist that's not talking to you on the phone right now. If I had to choose between Salon and Slate, I'd choose Salon because they spent a lot of money keeping me out of prison when I infiltrated Gary Bauer's presidential campaign. If I had to choose The Onion or The AV Club, I would choose The Onion. Where would we be without headlines like "Trophy Wife Mounted"?

I'm not privy to the media gossip backchannels but I loved Keith Olbermann's show. One thing that annoys me about the left is how we abuse our polemicists and demagogues. If you want to be a good lefty, the first thing you have to do is slam Bill Maher, slam Michael Moore and slam Keith Olbermann. That pisses me off. You don't see people on the right proving that they're reasonable by slamming Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity. So why should we disavow our Mahers and our Olbermanns and our Moores? I like what Keith does. I like what Maher does and I want them to keep doing it. We need our bomb-throwers. 

I love British newspapers. They're done pretending that newspapers don't have biases. I think The Guardian and The Independent are shining examples to American newspapers of how they could and should be. American daily papers have these two anvils weighing them down: Objectivity on one arm and being a family newspaper on the other arm. If they let both anvils go, they'd find it a lot easier to swim.

I remember when George W. Bush called a New York Times reporter an asshole and the Times said the president used a "rectal" epithet, a description that's way grosser than "asshole" ever could be. It felt patronizing that they didn't trust us with the word and so I find it refreshing when I see a big British paper include the word fuck in the 14th paragraph of a story and not worry that some teenager is going to read it and scream it at a nun at the top of his lungs.

I came late to Twitter but I'm using it now. I follow David FrumThe DishNational Review Online, Slutty Girl ProblemsRon Paul's Drag Race, Angry Black Lady, E.J. Graff, Thomas Roberts, John Fugelsang, and Frank Rich, who I miss. You have to go out of your way more to read him but it's always worth it because he's such a brilliant writer and a devastating punch-in-the-face machine. I also love Jack Shafer. He's just hilarious. He's bitter and funny and comes in at things from an unexpected angle. Usually by the time you're done reading him you're convinced he's right.

For TV, I watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews though I'm not a big fan of Rev. Al Sharpton, whose show seems to be blasting onto my TV set from Mars. The way he declaims from the teleprompter is just not good TV. And you'd think MSNBC would err on the side of not hiring someone over 50. They've got Chris Matthews. They've got Lawrence O'Donnell. They've got all these old guys and they add Al Sharpton? It doesn't work.

For alt-weeklies, there are still a lot of great ones left. The Stranger is doing fine. We got on the Internet early and created a strong community. SF Weekly is still good. Chicago Reader is turning around. Tony Ortega at the Village Voice. The Georgia Straight: I think they'll make it. The Westword under Patty Calhoun is still a kickass fucking paper and they have a good online presence too. In the new media era, an alt-weekly's self-conscious identity is diminishing in importance. The Stranger doesn't even feel like an alt-weekly anymore. What are we alternative to? When you go online, 90 percent of the media is alternative. 90 percent of the media is not daily newspapers. It almost seems like the dailies are becoming alternative.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.