robots in the press pool

Frank Rich does a great job in today’s New York Times of tying together the forced retirement of Dan Rather, the suicide of Hunter S. Thompson, and the emergence of paid administration propagandists like Gannon/Gunkert. Here’s a clip:

What’s missing from News is the news. On ABC, Peter Jennings devotes two hours of prime time to playing peek-a-boo with U.F.O. fanatics, a whorish stunt crafted to deliver ratings, not information. On NBC, Brian Williams is busy as all get-out, as every promo reminds us, “Reporting America’s Story.” That story just happens to be the relentless branding of Brian Williams as America’s anchorman – a guy just too in love with Folks Like Us to waste his time looking closely at, say, anything happening in Washington. …

But even Thompson might have been shocked by what’s going on now. “The death of Thompson represents the passing from the Age of Gonzo to the Age of Gannon,” wrote Russell Cobb in a column in The Daily Texan at the University of Texas. As he argues, today’s White House press corps is less likely to be invaded by maverick talents like a drug-addled reporter from a renegade start-up magazine than by a paid propagandist like Jeff Gannon, a fake reporter for a fake news organization (Talon News) run by a bona fide Texas Republican operative who was a delegate to the 2000 Bush convention.

Though a few remain on the case – Eric Boehlert of Salon,, Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher – the Gannon story is fast receding. In some major news venues, including ABC and CBS, it never surfaced at all. Yet even as Mr. Gannon has quit his “job” as a reporter and his “news organization” has closed up shop, the plot thickens. His own Web site – which only recently shut down with the self-martyring message “The voice goes silent” – has now restarted as a blog with Gonzo pretensions. The title alone of his first entry, “Fear and Loathing in the Press Room,” would send Thompson spinning in his grave had he not asked that his remains be shot out of a cannon.

As a blogger, Mr. Gannon’s new tactic is to encourage fellow right-wing bloggers to portray him as the victim of a homophobic left-wing witch hunt that destroyed his privacy. Given that it was Mr. Gannon himself who voluntarily exhibited his own private life by appearing on Web sites advertising his services as a $200-per-hour escort, that’s a hard case to make. But it is a clever way to deflect attention from an actual sexual witch hunt conducted by his own fake news organization in early 2004. It was none other than Talon News that advanced the fictional story that a young woman “taped an interview with one of the major television networks” substantiating a rumor on the Drudge Report that John F. Kerry had had an extramarital affair with an intern. (Mr. Kerry had to publicly deny the story just as his campaign came out of the gate.) This is the kind of dirty trick only G. Gordon Liddy could dream up. Or maybe did. Mr. Gannon’s Texan boss, Bobby Eberle, posted effusive thanks (for “their assistance, guidance and friendship”) to both Mr. Liddy and Karl Rove on Talon News’s sister site, GOPUSA, last Christmas.

So, where does that leave us? How do we get the corporate media to give the story the attention it deserves? If the gay prostitution angle didn’t do it, can anything? And where’s all of this leading? By next year at this time, will there be animatronic reporters in the White House press pool? (Actually, I like that idea. What if we put together a fake company and try to market animatronic reporters to the office of the White House Press Secretary? I’m serious. Who’s in?)

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  1. JF
    Posted March 4, 2005 at 9:03 am | Permalink


    Off topic but thought you might enjoy reading this article.

  2. JF
    Posted March 4, 2005 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Just keep giving the government more control. This cartoon says it all.

  3. Posted March 4, 2005 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Someone in the press thinks I’m you and you’re me. (You’ll get an email soon).

    And Thomas Frank was interviewed on local AM yesterday. Good interviewee.

  4. chris
    Posted March 4, 2005 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    This breaking news story just in…WE just shot at and wounded the Italian hostage freed from insurgents, KILLED the Italian intelligence officer who negotiated her release (killed after throwing his body over the hostage to protect her from the friendly fire{?!?!?}), and wounded the Italian reporter covering the story.

    When questioning US military officias they said they were only aiming for the reporter. OK, well this last part is not true, but seeing as the former is, is such bad taste humor not totally plausible? There goes another coalition member. To paraphrase John Stewart, “Dude, you want to lose this war.”

    So robot reporters in the WH press room, yeah we should be so lucky. This time next year we’re going to be looking at that big huge 1970’s test pattern or an American flag waving in the early morning sunlight. And if we’re really lucky we might get some old looney tunes. This is getting totally out of control.

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