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February 17, 2005

Rich on "Gannon," MoDo on press passes

Frank Rich has a great column today about how Gannongate has collapsed any boundary between "real" news and "fake" news as practiced by John Stewart--with a sensible thesis that fake news is the perfect medium for the times:

The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy - that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances? With real news this timid, the appointment of Jon Stewart to take over Dan Rather's chair at CBS News could be just the jolt television journalism needs. As Mr. Olbermann demonstrated when he borrowed a sharp "Daily Show" tool to puncture the "Jeff Gannon" case, the only road back to reality may be to fight fake with fake.

In more revealing news, Maureen Dowd tells us today about her inability to get a White House press pass. (A propos of my post yesterday, perhaps turning tricks might actually increase her chances!) She starts off in rare form, asking "Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?" But her experience confirms the obvious--that the White House was actively preferential in getting Gannon/Guckert in. She uses this story to its best end--tying together all that we know about the White House's Orwellian and un-democratic manipulation of the media. That's the tragedy. What makes it fun is the opportunity to laugh at the farce of the Gaybasher-in-Chief consorting with a gay hustler.

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.

Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation?

Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers.

At last month's press conference, Jeff Gannon asked Mr. Bush how he could work with Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." But Bush officials have divorced themselves from reality.

They flipped TV's in the West Wing and Air Force One to Fox News. They paid conservative columnists handsomely to promote administration programs. Federal agencies distributed packaged "news" video releases with faux anchors so local news outlets would run them. As CNN reported, the Pentagon produces Web sites with "news" articles intended to influence opinion abroad and at home, but you have to look hard for the disclaimer: "Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense." The agencies spent a whopping $88 million spinning reality in 2004, splurging on P.R. contracts.

Even the Nixon White House didn't do anything this creepy. It's worse than hating the press. It's an attempt to reinvent it.

Posted by jay at February 17, 2005 10:59 AM | TrackBack
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Comments

And the spin goes on...

The Bush Administration and the corporate news organizations will continue to distort the truth in order to completely undermine the public's ability to make an independent decision based upon the facts. They are currently doing it with Social Security and Tort Reform.

This dedication to the spread of misinformation and half-truths as a strategy to nullify the effectiveness of the press and numb the public is what I call the Rove Doctrine. He has been honing it for years in campaigns and the last four years has shown it to be even more effective when you can put the full force and faith of the US government behind it. I am not naive enough to think that all President's haven't done something along the lines of PR and influence peddling but no one has made it a pillar of political success quite the way Karl has for the Bush/Cheney organization.

I hope that the Democrats investigating the Gannon/Guckert press pass take the trail right up to Karl's office door and hurl him out the window. Drumming Rove out of politics would be a signal to the American public that the Democrats are serious about debating the issues and not fighting a rear-guard action against hype, hysteria and miscellaneous bullshit.

Disgracing and discrediting Rove would be a nice start to the "2nd term scandal broth" for the Bushies. Don't you think?

Posted by: terry on February 17, 2005 01:07 PM

See, I am not the only one that thinks this leads all the way to Rove's office -
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/18/opinion/lynch/main675050.shtml

Posted by: terry on February 19, 2005 03:39 PM
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