The righty blogger "revolution"

By Mark Follman
Published February 14, 2005 10:00PM (EST)

Over the last few days, numerous conservative bloggers have been passing the chalice of triumphalism round and round, collectively getting drunk on the demise of Eason Jordan. The CNN exec, who apparently made some dumb, misguided comments at the Davos gathering last week (still no transcript available) which implicated U.S. forces in the killing of journalists in Iraq, has since resigned. Conservative bloggers had called for his head over the gaffe.

These are the folks who helped take down Dan Rather for blowing it with the Bush National Guard docs, and, as they constantly take pains to remind us, who believe they are single-handedly saving the sacred art of journalism from the "lazy mainstream" media.

"Hard-nosed, aggressive journalism requires that sacred cows suffer examination, and sometimes that examination reveals ugly truths," declares a high-riding Ed Morrisey of the Captain's Quarters blog today. "Journalists used to know this. Unfortunately, they now apply it only to those who fit their political beliefs as acceptable targets -- the US military, the Israeli military, the Bush administration and Republicans in general.  Perhaps the media will learn the lesson of accountability to its readers and viewers after Eason's Fables, even though they failed to do so after Memogate. Based on the clueless responses seen so far, they can look forward to a couple of more blogswarms before they figure it out."

And how. But what about that one fellow planted in the White House press room, formerly known as "Jeff Gannon"?

Dan Rather certainly blew it and it looks like Eason Jordan did, too -- and both are indeed noteworthy examples of the growing influence of blogs, which have irreversibly transformed the face of the media. (We'd be remiss not to mention the vast influence of War Room here.)

But when it's coming from the other side of the partisan divide, indeed, the righty bloggers are having none of it -- they'll twist themselves silly to keep the blogging revolution a one-sided proposition.

Take the National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg: "Jordan's head will hang alongside Howell Raines's, the editor of the New York frick'n Times and four top executives at CBS News," he writes today (tasteful wartime metaphor and all). "The blogosphere can also take credit for Dan Rather's demotion to 'fry guy' at the CBS cafeteria. That is a big deal. But what I find particularly interesting is that these -- and other accomplishments -- were achieved by generally conservative or non-left-wing bloggers."

Goldberg goes on to liken the lefty bloggers who were key in exposing the Bush White House's "Gannon" debacle to "brave warriors" feasting on "the carcass of a chipmunk."

"While I don't necessarily think Gannon should have been credentialed, even with a day pass, at the end of the day this is one of the ho-hummiest media 'scandals' to come down the pike in a while," Goldberg opines. "If the guy hadn't changed his name and registered on gay porn sites, this would have been one of the dullest hullabaloos of all time. And besides, let he who has never registered with a gay military porn site under a different name cast the first stone. "

So let's see if we have this straight: The "Gannon" affair boils down to embarrassing but inconsequential sexual behavior -- not the fact that a fake journalist representing a fake news organization closely allied with the GOP was gaming the system (undoubtedly with the Bush press team's knowledge), masquerading as a legitimate member of the White House press corps and serving regularly as a Bush yes-man.

In fact there's no comparison, substantively, between Jordan's dumb and perhaps demoralizing comments and "Gannon's" (aka Guckert's) propagandistic shenanigans. For the last word on this, we'll turn to the wisdom of Salon's own Scott Rosenberg:

"Eason Jordan's trial-by-blog is simply the latest example of the convulsive and painful but inevitable and long-brewing transformation of professional journalism from a protected sphere into a more open environment. That's important, but it's hardly news any more. The Gannon story, on the other hand, offers us a peek into the next chapter of the story -- the one in which an opportunistic political establishment, sensing the vulnerability of the media, grabs the moment to reshape the public's very grasp of reality.

"Let's remember that, while its press secretary is calling on the Jeff Gannons of the world for cover, the Bush administration is also offering under-the-counter payoffs to columnists and sending out video press releases in which PR people masquerade as reporters. This isn't a simple matter of a gaffe here and there; it's a systematic campaign to discredit the media, launched by an administration that desperately needs to keep propping up its Potemkin Village versions of reality (We'll find weapons of mass destruction! We'll cut the deficit! We'll save Social Security by phasing it out! Really!). When you're pursuing an Orwellian agenda, your first target must be anyone who has the standing to point it out. Messengers are a pain -- but if you shoot enough of them (figuratively speaking!), and send out enough impostors, you can have any message you want."

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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