Thursday, February 17, 2005

White House Press Credentials

How hard can they be to get anyway?

When the "Jeff Gannon" story started to break there was a rather inane remark from someone defending the idea of a non-journalist with a false name getting access to the White House press room. I don't recall the exact wording or even who it was (someone from the Washington Post, mabye?) but it was something along the lines of oh, there are so many new venues out there, what with the internet and bloggers and so on -- the inference being that bloggers were somehow privy to the same credentials issued to folks working for long-standing news organizations. (I am trying not to give in to temptation and put the word "news" in quotation marks...)

And then the White House's own Scott McClennan commented "when he ["Gannon" or Gluckert] started coming to the White House about two years ago, the staff asked to see that it -- that he represented a news organization that published regularly. And they showed that, so he was cleared and has been cleared ever since based on that time."

This remark wasn't terribly realistic either, since the "news organization that published regularly" turns out to be an internet site with an extreme right-wing agenda with little to support any sort of claim to be a real or primary source of news to anyone (despite rash boasts of large readership, until very recently, site traffic had languished badly). At best, it could be viewed as a partisan op-ed boutique. Wares on display, hefty price tags well-hidden, in the best tradition of the Bush administration itself.

But now there is an interesting op-ed piece in today's New York Times from that reckless liberal Maureen Dowd, who seems genuinely puzzled over the whole affaire "Gannon":

I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

The mind boggles at contemplating the potential skeletons in her closet that must have kept her out of the White House briefing room, eh?

I had no intention of posting about the "Gannon" thing -- it just seemed to be so sordid & low that the story told itself and it sure didn't need my help in any way. But the idea of this non-journalist with a phony name working for a pseudo news organization gaining White House credentials while Ms. Dowd is denied them is just too heinous to ignore.

I have been growing increasingly worried about the trend in the current administration toward ringers -- propagandists masquerading as journalists. (The biggest irony here is that traditional journalists are already so slanted in favor of the Bush regime than they don't need ringers.) Joseph Goebbels was someone who thought the news could be molded and manipulated to serve a political agenda. As a result of his harnessing of whatever message the media could make, a whole population was misled, or even worse, brainwashed into believing and accepting as fact the most blatant lies. For many years I studied this phenomenon with the complacency that comes from knowing that such a thing could never occur in my country.

I'm no longer complacent.

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