Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Gannon/Guckert

Am I the only one who finds this whole Gannon/Guckert situation hilarious? I can’t imagine I am. I mean, on how many levels could one person and one situation be simultaneously ridiculous? Let’s count them.

Gannon/Guckert himself. How pathetic is this guy? First of all, the gay escort personal ads are about the funniest thing I’ve ever read. I mean, who wouldn’t respond to an ad for an “aggressive, verbal, dominant top” who says he “won’t leave marks – only impressions”? For that matter, who wouldn’t pay him $1200 a weekend for it? But hey, I’m a libertarian and as far as I’m concerned, all of that should be perfectly legal. But if you’re going to lie about it, you should certainly lie better than he did. He told a reporter that all those gay porn and escort sites he had just registered for someone else when he was setting up a web hosting business a few years ago. Bzzzt – thank you for playing. Once the pictures of his own escort ads came out, that became a punchline. And the threats of lawsuits for “political asassination” are hilariously ignorant. If I was one of the blogs being threatened with a lawsuit, I’d be begging the guy to sue me. And you have to love this kind of whining:

“‘There are people out there who will turn people’s lives inside out,’ Guckert said. ‘They tried to intimidate me, punish me. Then they tried to embarrass me, and they’ve done a pretty good job of that.’”

No Jim/Jeff, you’ve done a brilliant job of embarrassing yourself, I’d say. Even more amusing than all of that is his desperate desire to pretend to be a legitimate reporter rather than the obvious hack wannabe he really was. How funny are questions like this:

Feb. 10, 2004: “Q Since there have been so many questions about what the President was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda, denouncing America’s racist war in Vietnam? Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam? And did he throw somebody else’s medals at the White House to protest a war America was still fighting?”

Why not just preface the question with “I hope I can read your handwriting, Mr. McLellan”? Which brings us to…

The “news” website he was working for. Well, working is perhaps the wrong term. Unlike Guckert’s escort customers, Talon News, a little webrag that wants so much to be the Worldnutdaily when it grows up, evidently did not pay him. The same person owns gopusa.com, one of the myriad of right wing sites (like bushcountry.org and the inaptly named intellectualconservative.com) that features extraordinarily bad writing and has supplied me with several past Robert O’Brien Trophy winners (Hans Zeiger, Tamara Wilhite and Jen Shroder, for instance). I had to laugh seeing Robert Eberle, the owner of the site, on TV saying that he was against softball questions and that, until the last question he asked of Bush himself, he thought the guy was doing a good job. Uh, yeah.

The reaction from the right side of the blogosphere. This is perhaps the funniest of them all to me. They’re leaping to this guy’s defense like mad. Can you even begin to imagine what Powerline or the NRO would be saying if Clinton was president and his press secretary had been regularly calling on a fake reporter using a fake name who was in reality a gay prostitute so he could ask questions like:

Mr. Lockhart, the Republicans are bringing the President up on charges of lying about his sex life, yet a long list of prominent Republicans including Bob Livingston, Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde and many others have likewise been caught having affairs with mistresses that they hid from their wives and the public for years. Would you care to comment?

One could scarcely exaggerate the outrage that would flow from the very people who are now frantically trying to protect this guy.

Both the pro-blog and anti-blog folks. I’m not sure which is more absurd, the major media types freaking out that an internet hack got into the white house to ask questions, something only “real” journalists (you know, those who have those ever-so-valuable journalism degrees) do, or the ones crowing about how this situation proves the power of bloggers and portends the end of the mainstream media as an institution. Both positions are quite overblown. For the MSM types who are outraged that a blogger might get into the white house to ask questions, I would only note that Guckert/Gannon is only slightly more of a prostitute than most of the White House press corps; he at least got paid to be on top, for crying out loud.

With all the talk we hear constantly about the “liberal” media, the truth is that the media generally acts as a lapdog and bullhorn for the government. Oh sure, they’ll jump on scandals like a shark to a bloody piece of meat, but by and large they credulously repeat whatever they’re told, and most of them have this idea that being fair and balanced means reporting the talking points of both parties even if one of them is demonstrably absurd. Frankly, I would rather have people asking obviously slanted questions like this guy did (I’ll laugh my ass off at them, but at least they’ve made it obvious) than mindlessly repeating what they know is false under the pretense of objectivity. The entire point of a daily press briefing is for the press secretaries to say things they know are not true so the reporters can go on the air and repeat the things they also know are not true. It’s obvious that the public is the one getting screwed, but who exactly is the prostitute here?

To those who, as in the Dan Rather situation and the Eason Jordan situation, are crowing like roosters over the powerful cultural juggernaut of bloggers who will forever change the world and overthrow the corrupt “legacy media”….get over yourself (ourselves?). I’m so tired of this mutual circle jerk among my fellow bloggers about the sheer majesty and power of blogging, praising ourselves for our courage and virtue. Most of what passes for writing in the blogosphere is utter crap and most bloggers are mindless drones, just like most people in the mainstream media. Yes, bloggers can act as important checks on the accuracy of what is reported in the press, but for every time they’ve been right and corrected a story, there are a million bloggers out there who were wrong on the same ones.

The White House’s access procedures. In yesterday’s column, Maureen Dowd recounted how the White House refused to renew her press credentials to attend White House press functions, after she had covered multiple presidents, and then finally after a couple of years decided that she could have them – after she waited for a 6 month new background check. But they gave daily passes to a guy they knew was using a fake identity without doing any sort of background check to turn up that he was actively working as a prostitute? On the heels of the multiple payoffs to conservative commentators to push the administration’s policies in the press, it looks more than a bit suspicious, doesn’t it? I do, however, have to give credit to the press secretary for taking this guy’s questions and answering them with a straight face. But seriously, how bad would it suck to be the White House press secretary? Practically every word you say is a lie and you know it, regardless of what administration you work for (and as all good PR flacks know, it doesn’t matter what the product is as long as you sell it well). How does someone live with themselves doing that job?

So anyway, I just find this whole situation hilarious, from the pathetic wannabe at the center of it, to the handwringing from the media, to the ridiculous proclamations from the guy’s boss, to the fact that this guy got into the White House without being on a tour. And Jeff or James or whatever your name is….please sue me. Please?

Comments

  1. #1 Timothy Sandefur
    February 22, 2005

    Your hypothetical Clinton-worshipping reporter sounds very much like what reporters did say at that time, and very much like what reporters continue to say. Not to defend this Gannon guy, whom I’d never heard of before all this, and whom I doubt I ever read, but it’s disingenuous in the extreme for anyone in the press to complain about biased or shill journalism. It is very far from being true that the media are a “bullhorn for the government.” They are a bullhorn for Democrats, sure, but they are hardly so for Republican administrations, and when someone gives Republicans the same treatment that the media give Democrats, he is (rightly) drummed out of the press corps. Honestly, why did nobody in the “real” media challenge Kerry on the things Gannon asked about? Obviously it would be irritating to hear another reporter ask questions like that every day, but these were at least popular rumors that deserved media scrutiny, and which received little, if any. Why? Why was it up to Republican shills to reveal the CBS fake memos for what they were?

    Unfortunately, Brayton, (and I say this with all love, you know that) you are yourself so eager immediately to see the worst in anything colored Republican, and so eager to see the best in anything a Democrat does or says (and so unable to acknowledge this about yourself), that you are blind to this plain fact.

    Oh, and Dowd is probably at least exaggerating.

  2. #2 CPT_Doom
    February 22, 2005

    Whatever anyone thinks about the so-called “liberal media” (which, BTW, wouldn’t touch this story for about 2 weeks), there is no way ANYONE can argue that a former hooker/car painter, who somehow got a hankering for journalism, took a 2-day, $50 “course” on being a conservative journalist, should have, as his first job, White House access.

    Not to mention this guy has admitted doing no real reporting (he apparently, in 2 years of press briefings and 2 White House Christmas party appearances, NEVER called anyone at the White House for any kind of comment or clarification), and his “writing” consisted of regurgitated White House press releases repackaged as “news” stories. This guy could not ever be considered any kind of journalist.

    Yet somehow, this man had inside information on the beginning of the Iraq war (which began the FIRST MONTH he was in the White House press pool), the Valerie Plame outing, the John Kerry/intern “affair” non-story, the CBS/Mapes National Guard scandal, AND the inner workings of South Dakota politics (he was key “writer” whose stories, many of them unsubstantiated, played a role in unseating Tom Daschle last year). He also managed to get a talk radio program within his first year of journalism.

    It more than strains credibility to think this guy was not connected to the overall attempt by the Bush administration to influence the media.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    February 22, 2005

    Your hypothetical Clinton-worshipping reporter sounds very much like what reporters did say at that time, and very much like what reporters continue to say. Not to defend this Gannon guy, whom I’d never heard of before all this, and whom I doubt I ever read, but it’s disingenuous in the extreme for anyone in the press to complain about biased or shill journalism. It is very far from being true that the media are a “bullhorn for the government.” They are a bullhorn for Democrats, sure, but they are hardly so for Republican administrations, and when someone gives Republicans the same treatment that the media give Democrats, he is (rightly) drummed out of the press corps.

    Sorry, I just do not buy this. Can you find me a single example of someone in the White House press corps asking a press secretary a question as absurd as the ones I reprinted from this guy? Sure, lots of commentators DID take the position that the Republicans were being hypocritical in going after Clinton over the Monica situation, but did any of them actually have the balls to ask the Clinton press secretary such a question? The absurdity of it, to me, isn’t in the bias but in the uselessness. This is the equivalent of “would you care to comment on your opponent’s alcoholism and problem with wife beating?”

    As far as media bias is concerned, I totally disagree on the alleged liberal bias. Obviously there are many who are biased toward democrats (though I refuse to call that “liberal”, as I don’t think they’re liberal at all), and those who are biased toward Republicans (who likewise do not deserve to be called “conservatives”), but when I watch presidential press conferences or press briefings, regardless of which party is in the white house, it’s not the bias that jumps out it’s the spinelessness. Reporter asks a question, press secretary gives an answer that he knows is bullshit and the reporter knows is bullshit – and the reporter virtually never calls it bullshit, or asks a follow up question that would reveal it as bullshit, they just dutifully report it as, “The white house had this response….”. And this is true of both parties equally. Had I been writing this blog during the Clinton years, you would have heard the exact same thing out of me about Joe Lockhart or Dee Dee Myers or George Stephanopolous. Their job is to lie. The job of the press should be to point out those lies, but instead they think their job is to report both the truth and the lie without pointing out the lie. And the reason they do that is because if they say it’s a lie, they know they won’t get any “leaks”, they won’t get any exclusive interviews, they won’t get any access and they likely won’t even get called on at press conferences. There is an incestuous relationship there, and again this is equally true of both parties when they’re in power.

    I know I’ve used this example many times, but it remains valid. When Scott McLellan announced in a daily press briefing that President Bush thought that the BCRA banned all political ads by independent organizations, not a single member of the press corps even blinked at it. Not one person said, “Wait a minute….you mean the President doesn’t know what the laws he signs would do?”, much less, “But in the 2000 campaign, the President said that any law that would do that was a violation of free speech and he would veto it. Are you really saying that he signed that bill thinking it would do what he had earlier said was unconstitutional?” Did you ever see a single reporter ask him about this incredible statement and the multiple ways it is both absurd and hypocritical? It just baffles me that a reporter could hear that statement and not think it worthy of a follow up, and that not one press story would point out the obvious fact that it was bullshit. But that is the nature of this relationship, I think. Both the press secretaries and the press pool are so used to the mundane, everyday lie like this that they don’t even notice it, or care.

    I think the whole media bias angle is overplayed by both sides. Accuracy in Media compiles a daily litany of bias from the liberal side, and Media Matters compiles a daily litany of bias from the conservative side, and in both cases they often find legitimate bias. But bias balances out in the end. It’s the overwhelming spinelessness of the press, the willingness to just pass on things they all know not to be true, that is most absurd about the press. And yes, that’s where bloggers on both sides of the spectrum can be very useful, in pointing out the things that the press just glosses over. And it’s useful on both sides of the political issues.

  4. #4 Joshua White
    February 22, 2005

    Hugh Hewitt needs to read the “Both the pro-blog and anti-blog folks”. That guy has been predicting the death of “legacy media” for months now.

  5. #5 mumon
    February 22, 2005

    I think Gannon is the best thing to happen to American poltics since Monica Lewinsky… and I mean that in a good way…seriously…

    This is making mincemeat out of the fungelical wingnutsphere’s “moral values.”

  6. #6 Jason Kuznicki
    February 22, 2005

    I’ve been laughing my ass off about this for days. And here is my favorite bit; it’s from the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper:

    This is one of two photos sources provided to the Blade of a man who appears to be James Guckert, who worked in the White House press corps as ‘Jeff Gannon.’ The sources claim Guckert attended a sex party for gay men in 1998. In the other photo, which the Blade is not publishing, the man who appears to be Guckert is embracing another man while exposing his penis.

    You just know the caption editor had fun with that one.