Have our partisan liberal media evaporated? Are we now in an era when President Bush has as much control of Washington's journalism output as Vladimir Putin's defenders assert he does? (The Moscow line, if you haven't heard, is that Bush ordered the firing of Dan Rather.) These questions are overwrought and self-evidently silly, and yet, the Left is on Orange Alert over its slipping control of the public agenda.
Witness the still-ongoing attempts to inflate the teeny-weeny scandal over James Guckert (a.k.a. "Jeff Gannon"), the former White House reporter and alleged male escort. Here we have the supposedly momentous scandal of a man who was allowed to ask a conservative question to Scott McClellan in the 43rd minute of a 45-minute White House briefing nobody sees on cable news anymore.
As for anyone who thinks it's a scandal that White House security would let an alleged sex worker into the White House, they ought to remember that these same liberal Guckert-obsessers found no scandal in the Clinton years when the White House was letting in Chinese arms merchants and Miami cocaine dealers for fundraisers -- not to mention the intern who was treated like a sex worker.
While many media outlets have largely ignored the left-wing Internet frenzy over "Gannongate," NBC and MSNBC have not. NBC's Campbell Brown scored a Guckert interview on the Feb. 24 "Today" show, asking the big question: "You don't deny you were writing news with a perspective, with a partisan perspective?" They apparently never do that at NBC. When Tom Brokaw raved about Bill Clinton being "Elvis" at the Democratic convention and then described the Republican convention as a hard-right scam, a "con game," that, apparently, was textbook fairness and balance.
The Guckert outrage is much stranger when it's shoveled nightly by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC (unofficial motto: "The Network No One Watches"). Not a night has passed by that Keith hasn't found a new way to inject Guckert into his snarky souffle. It's a bit difficult to imagine where Olbermann gets the audacity to prance and fuss about "fake reporters," considering his credentials as an often-fired sportscaster who moonlighted as a pitchman for Boston Chicken. That's not even addressing the journalistic seriousness of his MSNBC showcase, where he routinely tackles the weighty topics like who's attending the wedding of Prince Charles and the leaking of Paris Hilton's cell phone number.
But Olbermann's show does reflect the liberal media panic that they're no longer succeeding in telling Americans what they will think and when they will think it. In his interview on MSNBC, liberal Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank agreed with Olbermann as he panicked with crime-syndicate overtones that conservatives were now conducting "the journalistic equivalent of money laundering." Milbank added to the supposedly criminal mix that Rush Limbaugh was on a tour of Afghanistan (on his own dime, by the way) and syndicated radio star Laura Ingraham had attended a rally last year for John Thune's successful Senate bid against Tom Daschle.
Forget for a moment that Rush and Laura don't claim to be "journalists." They're critics and analysts of the news. Forget that there's nothing equivalent to "money laundering" in touring Afghanistan or pumping up a Republican crowd in South Dakota. The bottom line in all this panic is that liberals can't stand the fact that conservatives can win friends and influence people. They will not only disparage the conservative media, but their audience as well.
When Ingraham brought Milbank on her radio show to defend himself, he explained that he would guess that her media-hating listeners went only to her show for their "news." Wrong. In 1996, liberal professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson was ignored by the liberal media when she found:
Political talk radio listeners are more likely than non-listeners to consume all news media other than TV news, to be more knowledgeable, and to be involved in political activities. This is true regardless of the ideology of the hosts of the programs to which they listen.
"Gannongate" is merely a symptom of a much larger disease. Liberals are frantically clucking that people are now going to go looking only for "news" that suits their ideology. That was fine with them when the liberals dominated. But now the only ideology they want drained out of the media is conservatism. Today, they've aimed to ridicule Talon News out of the news business. Soon other conservative news Web sites won't be classified by liberals as "news" outlets anymore, and then the Washington Times isn't "news" anymore, and they already treat Fox News like it's not a news channel.
Their goal is nothing less than to insist that conservatives are constitutionally incapable of creating a product called "the news." To them, only the trumped-up liberal TV dinners of their ideology deserve to be described as "the news."