Now Cough

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Spaced Out

Say it Ain't So

ABC News has jumped the shark.

On Feb. 24 the network will run a Peter Jennings special on...UFOs. Usually this stuff is found on one of the cable channels. It's the sort of subject that I stopped paying attention to in 6th grade. Really, how many fake photos and videos of UFOs in Brazil does it take before you say 'I have something better to do with my time.'

Peter, who can be seen doing hard hitting reports on the Middle East, violence, religion, is now going after flying saucers.

Now, many UFO sightings aren't UFOs at all. People living near Bakersfield, CA and other semi-remote areas see lights and shapes zipping by in the sky and conclude, correctly, it is some new military wonder.

Which leads us to the next item...

Eyes in the Sky

The Bush administration is sending surveilllance drones over Iran, looking for proof of nuclear arms development.

"The drones were first spotted by dozens of Iranian civilians and set off a national newspaper frenzy in late December over whether the country was being visited by UFOs." Learn more in the Washington Post (reg. required).

"In late December, Iranians living along the Caspian Sea and on the Iraq border began reporting sightings of red flashes in the sky, streaks of green and blue, and low, racing lights that disappeared moments after being spotted. The Iranian space agency was called in to investigate, astronomy experts were consulted, and an agreement was quickly signed with Russian officials eager to learn more about the phenomena."

"But the mystery was laid to rest by Iranian air force commanders, some of whom were trained more than 25 years ago in the United States and are familiar with U.S. tactics. They identified the drones early last month, a senior Iranian official said, and Iran's National Security Council decided not to engage the pilotless aircraft."

Maybe ABC News will go after these UFOs...which are no longer unidentified.

The Crucible in Cyberspace

There is much gloating and high fiving in the blogger world about the aggressive outing of Jeff Gannon (real name James Guckert), the right wing Internet reporter for Talon news and a GOP web site, who was becoming a regular visitor to the White House press room.

The WH press room is occupied by professional reporters. But everyday, plenty of new faces show up whom the pros don't know. Maybe they are from newsletters, web sites or obscure radio stations---but you can find them there most days.

Gannon is a bit of a different breed. He had a White House press pass, wore his conservatism on his sleeve, reprinted WH press releases verbatim as 'news' and also had ties to the aforementioned Republican web site. Gannon also got a classified document related to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. How'd he get that? Was Gannnon a shill for the WH? A pretender? A propaganda plant whose job was to toss softballs in a friendly game of catch with press secretary Scott McClellan? He certainly did that during a recent QA session in the pressroom. That's when the blogger community smelled blood.

Within a few days, Gannon was discovered to be using a pseudonym, found to be the owner of web domains with gay related themes, and revealed to be a guy who couldn't hold a job. Plus he had a web site on AOL with a photo of him shirtless and buff. He resigned from Talon this past week.

I have mixed feelings about all of this.

Friends argue that it is time to take the gloves off in the fight against the Republicans. There is a role for vigorous partisanship, but I think partisanship without conscience is a slipppery slope. Let's face it, Jeff Gannon defines small fry. I wonder if any of the bloggers who went on the attack ever considered the impact of publicly attacking him on his family. Did anyone try to interview him? He is not in the same league as public figure Armstrong Williams.

The ferociousness of this story is cynical, too. All the 'news professionals' hate Matt Drudge (talk about a 'journalist' created by the Internet) but they dare not miss reading his site everyday. He's clearly a right wing shill. So, in the world of journalism and the Internet, he's ok. Gannon is not.

Attacking and derailing Gannon seems to me a distraction from the real issue at hand. Yes, we're all appalled by the Bush administration's use of fake spokesmen and news reporters to carry its messages. That is wrong and should be revealed. But the focus of attention should be the president, Dick Cheney and those who are in the upper echelon of this administration.

The blogging community is a valuable and original voice. As it matures, I hope the members take a close look at its behavior in l'affaire Gannon. I'm sure the frenzy would be a familiar one to Arthur Miller.


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