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NOW THEY’VE GOT BOEHLERT! Why won’t news orgs cover Jeff Gannon? Could it be because Gannon ain’t news? // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2005

OMIGOD—NOW THEY’VE GOT BOEHLERT: No one admires Salon’s Eric Boehlert more than we do here at THE HOWLER. Well—almost surely, somebody does, but for obvious reasons, we have admired his work for years. And yes, we’ve consulted on some of his biggest stories—stories that almost changed human history! Why, we even did lunch at one point.

Boehlert has long done superlative work. That’s why we’re troubled when he seems to fall for a fad—a fad that is currently spooking the web. And that’s why we answer his question from Friday: “Why has the mainstream media ignored the [Jeff Gannon] scandal?”

Of course, we can’t say why news orgs have behaved as they have. But why might the press have ignored this story? Could it be because it’s hopelessly trivial? In our view, the fascination with this story is another sign of the liberal web’s imperfect judgment—its tendency to confuse the wheat with the chaff, its inability to get a read on what sort of stories really matter.

Readers, why would a mainstream news org spend its time on this trivial story? Until last month, no one had ever heard of Jeff Gannon. At the time, he worked for Talon News—and no one had ever heard of them either! And except for one stupid question he posed to George Bush, Gannon-Guckert’s terrible sin was asking dumb questions of Scott McClennan, another person no one has heard of! Meanwhile, Gannon is hardly the only conservative kook asking dumb questions at McClellan’s daily sessions. For example, kooky talk host Les Kinsolving asks stupid questions in this forum every day—and no one has ever said Boo about that. It’s not clear why readers of any big paper would gives a rat’s *ss about Gannon’s behavior. Why did news orgs ignore this story? Perhaps because it simply ain’t news! Perhaps because no one in the fifty states gives a rat’s *ss about Gannon’s questions. (Note to readers: Insert brief passage in which we pretend that we’re really concerned about White House security.)

In short, Gannon’s conduct just isn’t real news—which may be why news orgs have ignored it. What matters to us, though, is a troubling fact: The liberal web thinks that it’s news.

How much odd judgment goes into the web’s interest in the Gannon matter? To show the lack of perspective involved, here’s part of a recent post on the subject from Jeffrey Dubner at Tapped:

DUBNER: [T]he mainstream media may be overlooking Gannongate because the established segment of the left-wing echo chamber is as well. Look, after all, at “Easongate” and “Rathergate;” how much were they propelled by independent bloggers and how much by The National Review? Having asked the question, though, I don't think it's really important; the size and volume of the right-wing echo chamber is just so much greater than the left-wing equivalent that we always have less sway.
The problem here is Dubner’s sense that “Gannongate” is comparable to the other two stories. The comparison is completely far-fetched. After all, “Rathergate” involved a bungled story by CBS’ Dan Rather, one of the most famous broadcasters of the past forty years; and the bungled story played a key role in a White House election. How can this be compared to the Gannon matter, in which a person no one ever heard of asked a stupid question one time? Trust us: Karl Rove’s klatch must rock with laughter to see the liberal web so distracted. And while we boo-hoo about the lack of coverage, we might recall that “Easongate” also received little mainstream coverage. Unlike the Gannon matter, Easongate involved a big player from a major news org. But it got little mainstream coverage until hapless Eason resigned.

Sorry. The Gannon story is trivial as a matter of news; as a matter of liberal politics, it isn’t likely to interest the public. But alas—the liberal web doesn’t seem to know that. Indeed, note the difference between the web’s two spheres. The conservative web, yapping loudly, arranges to take out a Big Major Player. In retaliation, the liberal web goes after a Complete Total Nobody, then complains when it doesn’t get coverage! And by the way: When the conservative web went after Rather, the liberal web didn’t know how to treat it. Next week, we’ll review the way the liberal web treated the Rather bungle—and we’ll get another look at the liberal web’s lack of important Master Narratives.

As readers may have noticed, we’ve begun to lose patience, in the past few months, with aspects of the liberal web. If liberals and centrists are ever to have potent messages, they will have to emerge from the liberal web. The Democratic Party is too hopeless to form them; big mainstream pundits won’t perform the task either, unless they’re forced by folks on the web. For that reason, it’s troubling when the liberal web thinks Jeff Gannon is a Big Story. Sorry—as news or as politics, Gannon blows chunks. And omigod—now they’ve got Boehlert! Seeing that break in the natural order, incomparably, we rise here to speak.

THE MIGHTY QUINN: Finally, a statement by Charles Krauthammer makes a major press insider mad! In this morning’s Post, Sally Quinn echoes our past remarks about the gender problems of Sideways. “I hated it,” Quinn confides. “Most of the women I know feel the same way.” Needless to say, you heard it here first, although we also found the film quite amusing.

That said, we scope the contenders:

Finding Neverland. Could anyone makes a duller film bio?

The Aviator. Omigod! Somebody did!

Sideways. As Quinn observes, a classic male fantasy. Creates modern film’s most soulful character. Instantly drops her like a rock.

Million Dollar Baby. A well-wrought tone poem. But what’s up with Clint’s now-repetitive gloomy tone? Explanation: It’s all about Clint! At the end, he rides off silently into the west, the way the big stars always do. Mopping up for the final time, Morgan Freeman gives the closing narration.

Ray. We thought this film was loaded with merit, but a bit short of a Best Picture.

Two we thought were better:
Maria Full of Grace. The most fascinating study of manners and morals we have seen in quite a long time. And then, of course:

Hotel Rwanda. No, it’s isn’t great film art, something we especially noticed on second viewing. But the importance of Hotel Rwanda’s meditation dwarfs that of the five nominees combined. With most films, we find ourselves wondering why anyone bothered to make it. In the case of the dissed Hotel, no one is likely to ask.