The real question the public should be asking in the l’Affaire “Jeff Gannon” is not whether or not the White House knew of or was behind his infiltrating the White House press corps, but why it was so easy for a Republican shill posing under a false name (he’s really James Guckert) as a journalist to last so long hiding out among the members of the legit White House press corps., and why it took bloggers to expose him.
The answer is that his puffball questioning of the president was not that different from the questions that are routinely asked by the mainstream reporters in that gaggle of fine suits and well-coifed hair.
Anyone who watched the press crew at the staged session back in 2003 when Bush announced his invasion of Iraq would have to agree that there is little difference between the reporters for our so-called Fourth Estate and this poseur. Instead of questions about why the U.S. would be invading a country that posed no threat and that had not attacked or threatened to attack America, and about how this enormous diversion of military resources would affect the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, reporters asked the president about his faith and family! Not only that–the legitimate press corps allowed the White House to decide in advance which reporters would get to ask questions, after first requiring them to submit their questions in writing. Uppity members of the group, including Helen Thomas, were forced to go to the back of the room behind the potted palms.
In a group of real reporters, Gannon would have stood out like a sore thumb, but there aren’t too many real reporters operating in Washington these days.
Just getting to the point where you can be trusted with a plum Washington reporting assignment requires so much boot and ass licking in the corporate media, so much compromise and selling-out of basic journalistic principles, that it’s a wonder any decent reporting gets done at all.
As I.F. Stone explained many years ago, the culture of Washington is so much built around the party circuit and concepts of “access” that most big-league reporters end up being chums with the people whose feet they should be holding to the fire. (It’s hard to look under rocks if you’re standing on them sipping cocktails.)
Of course, Stone was talking about the press as it was in the early 1970s. Things have gotten much worse now. Back then you didn’t have a network like Fox that is simply a PR organ for the administration, and many newspapers still were not media conglomerates more worried about their licensed TV holdings and their good relations with the Federal Communications Commission than with digging up the news.
What I keep wondering is why the Bush administration has gone to such incredible, unprecedented and unprincipled lengths to control the media spin. We now know that they hired at least three journalists under the table to write favorable articles about Bush education policy, Bush social policy and Bush war policy, and no doubt these three are just the tip of a huge iceberg. We know that they put out fake news reports which they managed to get aired on regular TV news programs as though they had been generated by a real news organization. We know that they at least tried to set up–and probably secretly have set up–a department of disinformation in the Pentagon to create and distribute fake news globally. And we know now too, that they inserted a shill into White House press briefings to manipulate the coverage of the president and his policies.
And yet they’ve been getting such airbrushed coverage ever since 9/11 from the mainstream press you have to wonder what they were worried about. Heck, most of the mainstream media hasn’t even reported on this latest outrage!
The other thing I keep wondering is why the public isn’t up in arms about all this deception and fraud (all accomplished, I might add, at taxpayer expense). Just imagine, for a moment, if any one of these things had been done by the Clinton administration.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org