February 21, 2005

Intellectually Depraved

Depraved: Worse than dishonest.

The Strib's editorial on the Gannon/Guckert affair certainly qualifies.

The unsigned editorial starts:

Heard about the Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert muck-up in Washington? If you are an aficionado of the blogs, you've heard plenty. They're having a field day with it.
Actually, most significant blogs have written it off as the tempest in a teapot that it is.

Heard about the Eason Jordan flap? If you are an aficionado of the mainstream media, you've heard next to nothing. The Gannon/Guckert "kerfuffle" (there's a word that's gone from cute to intolerable in record time) has gotten all the coverage from the leftyblogs and the mainstream media they ape.

But underneath all the fun lies a serious problem that hasn't got its due from the mainstream press: This White House employs a lot more kinds of fakery than the budgetary smoke and mirrors described in the editorial above.
And the Strib proceeds to show none of it.
Here's a summary: For more than two years, a reporter named Jeff Gannon turned up at White House briefings and press conferences, where he asked softball questions with a decidedly pro-Bush bent. For example, at President Bush's Jan. 26 press conference, Gannon asked how Bush could work with lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Hillary Clinton, "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality."
Good heavens.

Did Helen Thomas or John Roberts have some sort of union entitlement to ask all the absurd, leading, ideologically-based questions?

Gannon/Guckert was like any other reporter for a marginal news outlet - who gets in on a Day Pass, which almost anyone who works for any sort of news organization can get.

Well, it turns out that "Jeff Gannon" is really Jim Guckert, and he was a reporter for an online outfit called "Talon News," which was associated with the online group GOPUSA. com, owned by Texas Republicans. It also turns out that Guckert, in addition to reporting for a phony Web site, has no real journalism training and is a $200-an-hour gay prostitute.
So far so good. We'll come back to this.
He ran numerous Web sites like militaryescortsm4m. com. The photos of Gannon that were displayed on those Web sites left nothing to the imagination about his physical attributes.

So the question becomes, just how did this character get White House press credentials, despite supposed post-Sept. 11 security requirements? Bruce Bartlett, a conservative columnist who worked in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, says that "if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover."

The problem, of course, is that even those who originally posited that Gannon/Guckert had used a fake name have retracted their story. It didn't happen.

It's a good thing the Strib are "legitimate reporters". We'd hate to have the Strib's readers getting bad information, like from all those biased, unregulated bloggers.

In other words, the White House wanted him at those briefings and wanted him to ask his softball questions, most likely to divert attention when legitimate reporters were getting too pushy.

Really. So what? Even if it's true - and there's no evidence whatsoever that this was a considered action on the White House's part - why on earth would Ari Fleischer not be entitled to a rhetorical palate-cleanser after dealing with Helen Thomas' bilious bloviation?

This is part of a pattern by Bush's minions to construct a phony reality in news coverage.
Which, we'll discover, was a "pattern" in the same sense that Paula Abdul is a "linebacker":Consider:

To promote Bush's Medicare prescription bill, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paid for phony "newscasts" that were distributed to television stations nationwide.A lousy idea, certainly - but unrelated to a reporter getting a day pass to the White House.

Columnist Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the Department of Education to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.
Again, wrong on both the White House's and Williams' part - but again, it has nothing to do with the proce of vetting reporters.
Columnists Michael McManus and Maggie Gallagher were paid to "advise HHS on the Bush administration's marriage policies."
At least in Gallagher's case, it was a typical consulting deal (you year me knocking, Kos?), like many like it; Gallager erred in not disclosing it.

Again, it has nothing to do with reporter getting a day pass.

Every Bush "town hall" forum during last fall's campaign was carefully limited to supporters who would ask fawning questions. No demonstrators -- indeed, no one wearing an offensive lapel pin -- were allowed in.
Which is garbage; I attended (indeed, I MC-ed) one of Bush's Town Halls last fall. I saw a Democrat shirt in the audience...

...and even so, what of it? It's a campaign stop, not a debate with the audience. There is no requirement the President cede his expensive campaign time to his opponents!

The Bush Pentagon launched an Office of Strategic Influence to provide "news" to foreign media. When it became known, it was shut down in embarrassment.

The pattern is clear: This administration will do pretty much anything to shape reality to fit its agenda.

As opposed to having a pack of media sycophants shape it for them, the way the Clintons did.
Another powerful tool in its arsenal is intimidation. This is by far the most vindictive administration since Richard Nixon's. Ask the wrong question or write something the White House doesn't like, and your access is cut off. Unfortunately, too many of the real journalists have gone along meekly.
Well, let's be fair; they got plenty of practice going meekly along with Saddam Hussein. Ask Eason Jordan.
As columnist Michael Kinsley observed, if this White House said two plus two equaled five, there would be no shortage "of media to report both sides of the question."
Right. The media are Bush lackeys. Let me sit toward the front of the bus, sir.
Once it was fairly easy to distinguish real reporters from hacks and charlatans, objective news from partisan rant.
Then, all us peasants started getting uppity. That has become increasingly difficult, thanks in part to a Bush White House that finds the confusion useful, to its everlasting dishonor.And thanks also in part to a fifth estate that is confused about its own role - for example, thinking it's part of the political process rather than just reporting on it.

Posted by Mitch at February 21, 2005 05:02 AM | TrackBack

While Guckert certainly advertised himself as an escort on these websites, I have yet to see any proof that Guckert ever kissed a guy, let alone turned tricks as a gay prostitute.

Think of all those 900 number advertising on late night TV. Do you really think you would be actuallytalking to those actresses if you called? I hear alot of those phone operators are actually men.

Whats more, there seems to be a shortage of sightings of Guckert at any DC gay bars. Seems pretty curious, that.

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