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Sunday, March 06, 2005

From Gonzo to Gannon/Guckert

Professor Cynthia Port called me on my borderline gay-baiting in my blog post on the morality of the Gannon/Guckert Scandal, which I regret. I fully support equal rights for gays, and think that gays have greatly benefitted every society they have been a part of. I also think that prostitution should not only be legalized but licensed so that violence and public health problems can be minimized.

That being said, I deplore hookers. The distinction between a hooker and a prostitute is that you know when you are dealing with a prostitute up front. Hookers tease you, and lead you on to think that you are attractive to an attractive woman, and then after a while they hook you: "A date with me will cost you $300..."

I don't think there is anything wrong with being gay or prostitution as a profession, only when people who use gays as political cannon fodder are actually gay themselves, like Gannon/Guckert and perhaps others in the Bush2 Administration, and only when prostitution and journalism cross over into each other's professions, like Gannon/Guckert and several other examples of how Bush2 ab/uses the news media. Journalists should be journalists and prostitutes should be prostitutes, and journalists who work for clients are no longer journalists but publicists or public relations professionals who write press releases. Gannon/Guckert and the Bush2 Administration are hookerizing the free press. We think we are getting real news and opinion, but it is being planted for pay into the media through shill press conference questions, fake news videos, and paid-off pundits.

The Daily Texan's Russell Cobb says it much better than I did in this article:

From gonzo journalism to bootlicking
By Russell Cobb

Hunter S. Thompson‚s suicide symbolizes the passing of an American cultural zeitgeist. He begins his tale of American excess and dementia, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," with a line today's smug journalists would never attempt: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."Thompson was a creature of the '60s: He eschewed conformity and penetrated the heart of the American Dream - or nightmare, as he often saw it - all while amped up on every kind of illegal substance imaginable. He may not have been a role model for good behavior, but his writing excoriated mendaciousness in an age so maddening, the only option, as he saw it, was to live madly. The result was gonzo journalism - subjective musings on American decadence that questioned the foundations of objectivity. While covering Hubert Humphrey's failed presidential campaign in 1972, Thompson witnessed the candidate use pro-segregation rhetoric at one campaign stop, only to denounce his opponent as a racist at another. "There is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey is until you've followed him around for a while on the campaign trail. The double standard realities of campaign journalism, however, make it difficult for even the best of the 'straight/objective' reporters to write what they actually think/feel about a candidate."His reaction was a journalistic no-no - an ad hominem attack. Nevertheless, it had the virtue of exposing both the hypocrisy of politicians and the sycophant journalists who cover them. It was a trenchant observation that holds more true today than it did 30 years ago. Thompson and other New Journalists such as Tom Wolfe could be guilty of prima donna-like excess, but they changed the landscape of American letters. They also had a hell of a lot of fun doing it. The death of Thompson represents the passing from the Age of Gonzo to the Age of Gannon. Once again, scriveners are questioning our assumptions about truth and reality in journalism. Only this time, it's not so fun. The "journalists" currently subverting our dominant paradigms are no longer maverick geniuses like Thompson, but boot-licking pundits for Bush-administration policies. Whereas the New Journalists revealed - and reveled in - the surrealism of American politics through the lens of drug-induced literature, the new "new journalists" pimp (sometimes quite literarily) conservative ideology for payola. There have been at least four well-documented cases in the past two months of "journalists" receiving cash payments for promoting Bush-administration policy initiatives. In at least one case, a "reporter" named Karen Ryan tried to pass off as objective news a PR piece for Bush's Medicare reforms. The worst case is probably Armstrong Williams, who was paid $240,000 in taxpayer money by the Department of Education to promote Bush's "No Child Left Behind" policy. Equally repugnant, but less lucrative, were the cases of Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus, two hacks the Department of Health and Human Services paid to drum up support for Bush's "marriage incentives."The most surreal, though, is the case of James Guckert, a.k.a Jeff Gannon, a former gay escort posing as a journalist at White House press conferences. Guckert worked for Talon News, the journalistic arm of GOPUSA.com, a clearinghouse for conservative screeds. Gannon asked Bush shortly after the election: "How are you going to work with people [Democrats] who seemed so divorced from reality?"Hunter S. Thompson made a career of exploring the weird divide between reality and fantasy in American life. Perhaps it got to be too much even for him.
- Cobb is a graduate student in comparative literature.


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