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Monday, March 07, 2005

Bloggers are Breaking Out of the Closet

In last weekend’s review of an article in the Los Angeles Time’s Opinion Section I talked about my shock that both bloggers and Gannongate were mentioned in the paper. Indeed, it seems that the mainstream media is loath to investigate anything related to Gannongate and even more determined to not even whisper about the dreaded ‘blogger’, as if the latter represents their own personal boogeyman.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened up this weekend’s Opinion Section and saw a column on Gannongate and bloggers written by none other than our very own esteemed blogger John Aravosis of AMERICAblog. John took the mainstream media, including the LA Times, to task for avoiding one of the largest scandals in recent history. This is a story that, if you’ve been reading bloggers such as Atrios and Aravosis, is not ‘new’. Of course, we’re talking about Jeff Gannon: a fake journalist and gay hooker who got regular backdoor White House entry to daily press briefings (via a daily pass) and somehow got access to classified documents and information. If you’ve never read a blog before you’re probably thinking I just made all this up because it seems too juicy for the generally tabloid-like press to ignore. No, you just haven’t heard about this story because for some reason in the twisted mainstream media world anything involving Michael Jackson or Martha Stewart (or both!) immediately gets top billing. That’s right, we’ve had a gay hooker visiting the White House every day for the past two years and there hasn’t been a peep out of the mainstream media! You’d almost think they were in on all this (Hmmm…).

John does a good job of taking the media to task for ignoring this multi-faceted story and for refusing to give credit where it is due (yes, they actively decided not to mention the bloggers responsible for scooping the story, it wasn’t just an inadvertent oversight). John also explores the possible reasons for why the media has decided to be so hands-off on this explosive story. Was it because the media is apprehensive about tackling sex and gays? Funny how the prudish aversion to sex didn’t apply circa 1998. And every time a movie star is even suspected of being gay we don’t see such hesitation – in fact it practically becomes a feeding frenzy over even the most minute of details. Was it because the media these days are too sensitive about being labeled ‘liberal’ by right-wingers? I think that does have something to do with it – though I actually think it’s more of a ‘corporate-controlled media’ problem than a ‘please-don’t-call-us-liberal’ problem. Is it because the mainstream media has blogophobia? The mainstream media is afraid of blogs to some extent (and resentful enough not to give proper credit), but in this particular case I don’t think it applies. In fact, one would expect that the mainstream media would try to hijack such a juicy story from bloggers rather than ignore it because of blogophobia.

All-in-all John does a good job of introducing the Gannongate affair to people who read mainstream newspapers, and he does a good job of exploring why this story hasn’t been covered. The area in which John does a weak job, and arguably most blogs have done a weak job, is in not cutting to the real foundation of the story. Gannongate isn’t about security breaches in the White House. George W. Bush runs a very tight ship and he sure as hell is not sloppy about his own security. Jeff Gannon didn’t slip by security – he was let in by security. Jeff Gannon didn’t cause classified information to be leaked to him – it was leaked to him by someone in the White House – and if he wasn’t there, someone else would have been privy to the leaked information. Why was Jeff Gannon in the White House? Because he was a gay hooker! That is the story – Jeff Gannon is a criminal for engaging in prostitution and pimping, and someone in the White House is a criminal for soliciting sex.

The weak point of this opinion piece is that it doesn’t get to that point. The reason Republicans succeed so well at presenting a policy, viewpoint, or agenda, is that they all sit down in a smoke-filled room and decide what their approach to the story is going to be. They decide what is pertinent and make sure everyone is on message when they leave the room. This isn’t conspiracy theory – the Republicans admit, even boast, about the fact that they do this effectively. Remember Paul Wolfowitz’s interview when he came clean about the run up to war in Iraq and said that the administration decided that the weapons of mass destruction story was the most effective way to get people to support administration policy? Well, it worked. Maybe bloggers covering Gannongate need to setup a chat room named ‘Smoke-filled’ or something so we can decide what our story is and what the pertinent information truly is. It would really help people care about this ‘story’ if bloggers could at least present a consistent message on why this is something that needs to be investigated.

I don’t know the whole story – maybe John submitted a hard hitting piece which put a dagger in the heart of the whole story but the editors of the LA Times pruned it down. Damn editors! (Ed note: the opinions in this column are solely those of The Bloogeyman and in no way reflect the opinions held by the editors – we love editors!). Despite the weak point in John’s approach towards Gannongate, I appreciate the fact that he took time to explore the story. Hopefully John’s piece is the catalyst that will cause the mainstream media to wake up and take Gannongate seriously.