covered on Americablog, we have a full-fledged situation
here. It does not yet have the totemic value of the
right-wing’s scalping of Dan Rather, for obvious
reasons, but as stories airing conservative dirty
laundry go, this one has legs. The reluctance of many
Democrats and most of the traditional media gatekeepers
to touch this story with… well, to touch it
at all, has paradoxically added news cycles and attention
as they gingerly weigh in seriatim. I think Gannongate*
is worth every last bit of the churning it is getting,
though not for the obvious reasons.
Gannongate isn't newsworthy because there is something
reprehensible about a "reporter" running
a gay escort service, or even marketing it by displaying
his Johnson on the Internet, though there is considerable
entertainment value in watching the party that has
institutionalized homophobia attempt to portray the
story as a gay witch hunt. And it isn't important
merely because Gannon could be counted on to lob a
whiffle ball to Scott McClellan or his boss on command
-- if that sin got folks tossed from the White House
press room, the room would soon look like The Staples
Center in the 4th quarter of a blowout Lakers loss.
And it isn't because, a la David Dreier, the gay-bashing
Gannon/Guckert/whatever has proven himself to be a
world-class hypocrite, though it sure as hell ought
There are at least two vital benefits to maintaining
the scrutiny on this story that have not received
First, it is vitally important that we keep making
a stink about this not because Gannon is some bizarre
outlier, but because as a “journalist,”
he is virtually indistinguishable from most of his
colleagues. Repackaging White House talking points
and shilling for an Administration that has been universally
hostile to real journalism has become so ubiquitous
that some so-called reporters have begun to actually
define that task as their jobs.
Getting to the real explanation for his presence
in the press room and his relationship with the White
House should allow us to finish the job that started
with the exposure of fellow shill Armstrong Williams.
Shining a spotlight on the Bush Administration’s
brazen purchase of favorable treatment by a number
of columnists put the onus on other columnists and
pundits to demonstrate their bona fides. Making Gannon’s
alleged reporting an object of scorn and ridicule,
and making its sotto voce motivations public may be
one of the few effective ways to shame other reporters,
who have been only slightly less shameless in their
obsequiousness to the Bush machine, into doing their
jobs. We need to embarrass them back into the world
in which reporters make their bones by standing up
to power rather than sucking up to it.
Once upon a time, the press was seen as the antidote
to the abuses of power. But today’s fourth estate
is less predator than prey. The press corps is plainly
motivated by fear of la famiglia Bush. If we can escalate
a countervailing fear -- the fear of being seen as
a RINO (reporter in name only), we just might be able
to make their pathetic herd mentality work for us
rather than against us for a change.
As encouraged as I am at our progress so far, I am
too jaded to expect the press to rise to the call.
But that brings me to the second way in which this
story could be a watershed – the emergence of
the blogosphere as the new watchdog of democracy.
Blogs have only been around for a couple of years.
For most of that time, they have generally functioned
as a sort of echo chamber for sounds that originate
elsewhere. Bloggers commented on the news, debated
policy, and hurled brickbats, but major stories were
broken and investigated by newspapers and, to a lesser
extent, television. Bloggers were more critics than
What is new, weird and wonderful in the Gannongate
saga is the inversion of that relationship: the news
desk, paralyzed by fear and situational ethics, seems
to be leaving it to us to do the heavy lifting. And
as bloggers uncover fact after contradiction after
scandal, it is left to the traditional OpEd page to
cluck and scold.
I’m sure the other hemisphere would argue that
the Dan Rather imbroglio was the dawning of this new
era. While the accusations there also moved from blog
to mainstream, there was a fundamental difference
– in that case, the mainstream feeding frenzy
clearly served their keepers, and their bloodlust
to devour one of their own merely rationalized their
previous unwillingness to cover the underlying story.
In short, Gannongate is the first time the role of
demanding answers from the government, long vacant,
is being effectively played by blogs.
So these are our salad days. We -- primarily those
who did the digging, but also the rest of us who disseminate
the dirt -- are the Woodward, Bernstein and the Washington
Post here. We need to persevere, and remember that
Watergate was a “second-rate burglary”
for months before it gained the gravity and momentum
that took down a dishonest presidency.
*Does anyone think it is a coincidence that Republicans
were so quick to coalesce around “Travelgate,”
and so on? I haven’t yet read George Lakoff’s
“Don’t Think of an Elephant,” but
dollars to donuts he would urge us to frame this story
effectively. And for more than thirty years, “–gate”
has been the suffix of scandal -- a tool the Republicans
effectively appropriated despite its Nixonian roots.
If we are smart, we will shout a single name –
Gannongate – from the rooftops until everyone