PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Jeff Gannon: Erosion of Ethics

Bill Gibron

Condemning Jeff Gannon is the moment when everyone in the media jumped the shark, and decided that selling your body demanded your immediate exile.

+ "Jeff Gannon: Bad Apple from a Rotten Tree" by Terry Sawyer

Here's a quick note to whoever is holding the deed on the Fourth Estate: it's time to foreclose on that ethical money pit before it has no value at all. While there was a time when the news media were respected, now they're prey to powers heck-bent on robbing the First Amendment of all relevance. Back when Woodward and Bernstein were kicking the corruption out of the White House, everyone wanted to be an investigative crusader. A nation of misguided youth, confused by both drugs and disco, was desperate for a champion who shared their cynical eye.

The funny thing is, many of these manic muckrakers actually changed things. Thanks to his breaking of the Willowbrook story -- and not just because of the muy macho moustache -- Geraldo Rivera became an icon of the good the press might do. He could take down New York's horrific state mental health institution by day, then party with other swinging celebrities throughout the night.

In journalism school, they used to teach objectivity. Today, so-called reporters preach to the perverted, making sure no one walks away from a column without understanding exactly where they stand on all issues. Almost no one enters the palaces of the press without an agenda or bias, a personal or political philosophy laying next to his copy of the AP Style Manual.

Among the most egregious of these cavalier correspondents is the con artist formerly known as Jeff Gannon, self-proclaimed member of the media, possible shill conservative causes, and recently outed gay male escort. Gannon, whose other name is James Guckert, newly resigned from the right-leaning Talon News as their White House correspondent. As he hit the exit, defending his past and updating his resume, Gannon made quite the nasty name for himself, leaving a list of unresolved questions and an ever-growing line of angry dupes.

But if Gannon's pro-Bush positions are fairly clear, his pro-penis platform has apparently clouded the rest of the conversation. A quick Google graze and you can find all the images you want of Gannon showing off his own personal talking points. His ass-for-hire websites offer testimonials from satisfied customers, all claiming that when it came to his ability to probe deeply and get to the meat of the issue: Jeff has special skills. In interviews following the disclosure of his same-sex scarlet past, Gannon argues that everyone is entitled to make mistakes, and his past should not disqualify him from pursuing the truth or -- once he's determined it -- writing about it.

Gannon may have a point, but it's too late to stop the rush to roast this self-proclaimed conservative in the public scandal stew pot. Liberals and Democrats (trust me, there's a big difference) are demanding investigations and special prosecutors. And his defenders -- mostly from the right -- have to stand up for a fellow freedom fighter who happens to enjoy a little all-guy slap and tickle. The result of all these crossed lines is what the neo-journalists do best: a balls-out (literally) media circus.

Long before Gannon, however, "legitimate" journalists were succumbing to pressures of the tabloids. Fetid fish wraps like the Star, the National Enquirer, and the Weekly World News wallowed in dirt. And thanks to a few famous names -- Gary Hart, Kitty Dukakis, Bill Clinton -- the supermarket shit sheets were incorporated by broader media structures that recognized their increasing popularity and influence.

With the repeated complaint that the mainstream ("elite") press corps have a liberal bias, it was only a matter of time before the Enquirer and its ilk completed the erosion of ethics that once made the news media famously reliable. Thanks as well to the worldwide web, increasingly a broadband version of Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, anyone can be a "source" of information. Individuals who want to vent their own cogent or crackpot take on truth only need laptops and a complete lack of accountability to get their names all over the 'net.

Gannon is himself a beneficiary of and blight on this lunacy. Talon News turns out to be a front for Texas Republican and conservative "activist" Robert Eberle, and the happy hooker holidays Mr. G enjoyed were uncovered by hackers using the same technology that gave Gannon the opportunity to peddle himself. How appropriate that the very individuals who should be supporting his outsider/insider validation -- his fellow Internet know-it-alls who rant their way into everyone's business -- became the blog-based Brutus to his Caesar.

So, he resigns. He makes a couple of conciliatory statements, worms his way through the softball interview machine, and goes off with Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass to capitalize on his new notoriety (first on the to-do list: up those day rates at militarystud.com). But here's the real question: do either Gannon's gay escort past or his close ties to Republican organizations disqualify him from being (or playing) a reporter? When did a spotless moral history or lack of political conviction become a prerequisite to digging for facts? Gannon may not have been upfront when it came to who he was and what he represented (given the fact, of course, that Gannon is not his real name, and that he gained his first press credentials while not associated with a legitimate news organization), but what are the most potent grounds for outrage here?

Certainly, one can argue the kindergarten-level skill required to cut and paste White House briefings into your copy, as Gannon is accused of doing, or that he more or less played prosecuting attorney for the President during White House press conferences, lobbing questions at the commander in chief like helpless kittens to a starving coyote. But every time a valid gripe about Gannon surfaces, it's sidetracked by the whole butt-sex thing.

One hopes that the information that sways public opinion, influences voters, and sets the agenda for the nation would be presented by someone with genuine training. A reporter has two duties: he needs to present the facts and understand that the manner of presentation shapes the reception. Given these baselines, sexual proclivity or promiscuity doesn't appear to have much to do with journalism. According to the leaps in logic made by some pundits and journalists, a straight, frigid monk would be the perfect purveyor of the facts (as well as having the necessary religious foundation that makes his morality unimpeachable, apparently). According to this logic, someone who can't get enough nookie must be a press room pariah.

In fact, most protests against Gannon begin with his lack of disclosure. After all, if he hid his other career as a guy gun for hire, and his orientation for that matter, maybe there are other, far more important omissions made in his quest for White House access. But the long-term effects of his duplicity might be worse than the actual misdeed. We are a nation in love with rules and regulations, a people happy to have our inherent freedoms fucked over for the sake of a smidgen of (proposed) security. It is easy to envision a sudden stoppage in the issuing of press credentials, a tightening of restrictions, and an increase in background checks.

If those in power play it right, they might build up a whole new McCarthyism, with Congressional confirmation-style hearings for would-be correspondents; previous shocking activities -- discussing porn in the workplace, rooting for someone other than the home team, or unlawful protesting -- could be reason for dismissal. Ex-partners could come crawling out of the woodwork to discuss your bi-curious bedroom habits, your personal hygiene, and the way you cry whenever "Shannon" by Henry Gross comes on the radio. Sexual orientation and the manner in which you choose to express it would be part of the primetime portion of the process, where members of What Not to Wear, Extreme Makeover, and Queer Eye will argue over who gets to handle your new-you debut before the Commander in Chief.

Laugh if you must, but this is where we're heading. We no longer want to gauge individuals based on their talents or skills. While Gannon's commitment to his cause may seem extreme, is he any worse than Harry Knowles and his web full of entertainment spies? (At least Gannon hasn't tried to spoil the plot of Episode III.) His devotion to conservative ideals should be the one and only factor fueling the ongoing angst right now, with his use of it to turn the tides of those press conferences he attended a close second. Who or what he does with his wang is no more important than any other facet of his personal life... except that it sure makes great cultural theater.

We long ago passed the point of no return. Journalists have joined the pathetic politicos they once eschewed. The lessons offered by the muckrakers are evaporated; the "right to know" is an open-ended mandate to gather as much information, personal or otherwise, on anyone. Gannon will pass into shadows, his 15 minutes cut short by those pictures. But sitting in the wings, updating their sites and moderating their discussion boards, are the next generations of Gannons, a pack of pretenders who don't quite realize that visits to hornysoccermoms.com or the Kirk/Picard slash fiction they pen will adversely affect them in the future.

The denunciation of Gannon may seem like simple party politics, but it's not. It's the moment when everyone in the media jumped the shark, and decided that selling your body demanded your immediate exile. Funny, they haven't addressed the consequences of selling one's soul.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.