In 1999, an ex-Marine in his late 30s pays a web designer to build him a web site advertising his services as a male prostitute, emphasizing the military-fetish aspect, replete with lots of explicit body shots. Already owing the state of Delaware $20,700 in back taxes from 1991 to 1994, he perhaps needs the money. He flourishes in his trade, servicing in particular a military officer clientele, who grace his websites with such testimonials as the following, posted in 2002:
“I hired Jeff last winter when I was in Philadelphia on business. I was so pleased with the experience that I recently had him travel with me on a weekend trip to North Carolina. I am an active duty senior officer in the US Army. Discretion is of utmost importance to me. Jeff understands that because of his Marine background. He has so many talents besides the bedroom, it was a great experience for me. He is all-man, athletic and self-assured. Great body, he helped me work out twice, one time on base. The sex was great, he’s a hard core top, verbal and strong, never romantic, but not mean.”
“Jeff,” whose real name is Jim Guckert, terminates the sites just a month after he acquires a new job in 2003. Using the pseudonym Jeff Gannon, he acquires credentials as a journalist by taking a $ 50 two-day course and joining “Talon News,” a website without an office or staff whose material is circulated by an organization called GOPUSA, whose motto is “Bringing the conservative message to America.” “Gannon” is profiled on the Talon site as a gun-toting, SUV-driving, born-again Christian conservative Republican. As such, he applies for access to White House press briefings, and after the requisite background check becomes a staple in the question and answer sessions with presidential press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan. He becomes known for his vapid, tendentious questions designed to denigrate Democrats and others questioning Bush policy. His fluff becomes the welcome foil to the irritating, meatier questions posed by real people.
Meanwhile “Jeff” hosts a right-wing radio show, “Jeff Gannon’s Washington,” and authors homophobic articles, focusing on Democrats’ gay-friendly positions, including one on October 12, 2004 warning that John Kerry “could become the first gay president.” Then, alas, his ass-kissing questions raise suspicions that he might be a GOP plant. Web sleuths discover his play-for-pay past, feel indignant not so much about his business ventures as his abject hypocrisy, and they expose his sorry ass to a broader audience than he’d ever intended. Their exposé generates a host of questions. How was this lightweight able to join the White House press corps in the first place, alongside John King, Ron Hutcheson, etc.? Did the necessary background check reveal his fraudulence? It appears he attended using daily passes, rather than a “hard” pass, although there is some debate about that. McClellan says he knew the man was using a pseudonym. Did he know all the other stuff?
Personally, I have no problem with this dude’s sexuality. Or even his marketing of it, which I suppose fits this exemplary free market economy as well as his boasted 8″ fits the random client’s freely offered orifice. This is not our business. It entertains me to read his conservative defenders obliged to indignantly insist that his private life shouldn’t be an issue. By all means, may they continue to work with that concept, and maybe despite themselves work their way out of their homophobia. And may Jim/Jeff get some therapy to resolve the self-hatred so apparent in his dual career. Meanwhile, the blogs are abuzz with speculation. Did the guy sleep his way into the White House? That’s a merely amusing issue. More seriously: Why was he so involved in the effort to discredit South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle? How’d the “journalist” know hours in advance about the attack on Iraq? How did he get access to the Plame memo?
Perhaps we are on the edge of a major scandal here. We know that the White House has used taxpayers’ money to pay at least six journalists, most notably Armstrong Williams, to promote its agenda. We know that soon after 9-11 government officials openly declared their intention to seed the news with content promoting “America’s interests,” and although public indignation quieted such talk, the government-press relationship has never been so intimate. The “Gannon” episode is the appropriate metaphor for the whole illicit relationship.
But (to continue on the theme of hypocrisy): the administration which boasts that it wants to “leave no child behind,” and which pays whorish “journalists” to write that it wants to leave no child behind, announced last week that Charles Curie, the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) would not be allowed to attend a conference in Portland, Oregon organized by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) unless some changes were made in the program. At issue? The title of a workshop on “Suicide Prevention Among Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender Individuals.” In the workshop, focus would be on gay kids who are often driven to suicide due to homophobic environments. The Bush administration demanded that, as a condition for Curie’s participation, the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” be struck from the title. The regime, in deference to its Christian-fundamentalist homophobe-fascist supporters, can’t be smeared by such contact, you see. Intimidated, the SPRC changed the title to “Suicide Prevention in Vulnerable Populations.”
Such are the times we live in. Self-hating gays are welcome in the White House, and equally welcome to commit suicide. But discussion of gayness itself is highly unwelcome. If you’d like to protest this particular stupidity, try:
Charles Curie Office of the Administrator, SAMHSA Rockville, MD 20850 Tel: 240-276-2000 email@example.com
Mike Leavitt Secretary of Health and Human Services 200 Independence Ave. SW Washington, D.D. 20201 Tel: 202-690-7000 Fax: 202-690-7203
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org