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February 26, 2005

Guckert and homophobia II

Some commentators argue that it's homophobic and therefore wrong to dwell on Jim Guckert's history as a gay prostitute.

A non-homophobic consequentialist liberal might argue that it is permissible or obligatory publicize this information because it is good to hurt the Bush administration. Over at Fake Barn Country Allan Hazlett argues that it is unacceptable to exploit homphobia or to violate Guckert's privacy in order to score political points against Republicans.

Allan maintains that if our culture were not prejudiced against homosexuals and intolerant of prostitutes, Guckert's escorting exploits wouldn't seem like a big deal. Naturally, the Guckert affair is especially embarrassing for the White House given the hardcore homophobia of much of the Republican base. Allan agrees that liberals could do a lot of good (read: damage to the Republicans) by playing up the gay prostitution angle. However, he still maintains that it is wrong to play up Guckert's gay prostitution because the ends don't justify the means.

He concludes:

1) Homophobia and sexual conservativism are deeply engrained in American culture, to the point that uber-liberals like Maureen Dowd find themselves outraged that a gay escort got into the White House.

2) Actions with good consequences can still be wrong if they "go through" the wrong paths, e.g. if they exploit the existence of deeply engrained homophobia in the surrounding culture.

This is not a cause of "outing" a homophobic public figure for being gay. If I had incontrovertible evidence that Rick Santorum was having a gay affair, I would face a genuine moral dilemma. Like Allan, I have serious moral reservations about using a person's private life to discredit them politically. I believe that sexual orientation is morally irrelevant and that it morally wrong to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. It would be morally problematic for me to subject someone else to discrimination by others, especially if I had to violate their privacy to do it.

Yet, exposing a vicious homophobe might have good effects. Discrediting a homophobe as a hypocrite helps to discredit the homophobic ideology. Moreover, unseating this vicious bigot might prevent him from harming gays and fomenting further bigotry. Outing such a person would expose hypocrisy, which is a morally good outcome. It may also be morally relevant to the general public to learn that their leader is being hypocritical about values they hold dear. But it might also be hypocritical of me to violate the person's right to privacy in order to expose him. This is a difficult problem, but these concerns simply don't apply to the Guckert scandal.

It is not homophobic to publicize the fact that Guckert's was an escort, nor is the publicity an invasion of his privacy--these facts are neither private nor irrelevant to the current debacle.

1. An escort service is a business, not a personal peccadillo. So far, we don't know anything about Guckert's personal life. We do know that the guy literally took out advertisments for himself, often using his real name and showing his face. Prostitution is illegal. Guckert's ties to the underground economy would have disqualified him for face time with the President under any impartial standard. Moreover, his cover for his illegal activities was so thin that any duly diligent investigator would have immediately uncovered this information.

2. Guckert got very special treatment at the White House. Somehow a guy with no professional qualifications rocketed to the pinnacle of American political journalism. As I have argued elsewhere, it is plausible that Guckert's special treatment was related to background as a male escort.

2'. Suspiciously, Talon News, Guckert's "news organization" flickered into existence after he started working the West Wing and flickered out again after he got busted. It appears Talon was created expressly to provide distance between GOPUSA and Jim Guckert.

3. Guckert got a two-year stream of day passes while writing under a pseudonym. In order to get a day pass a reporter must complete a written application including his or her name and social security number. Maybe Guckert applied under a fake name, which presumably wouldn't have matched whatever social security number he gave. It seems absurd and/or alarming that the White House's security measures are so lax or inconsistent that such a ruse would go undetected for two years.

If he applied for as "Jeff Gannon" Guckert's intent was surely to deceive. If "Jeff Gannon" was just a pen name, Guckert could have applied for the pass as "Jim Guckert" and signed whatever pseudonym he liked to his news reports.

4. Perhaps Guckert applied for a press pass under his real name and merely wrote under a pseudonym. If so, the White House has even more explaining to do. The Press Secretary called on Guckert as "Jeff." Surely it is suspicious for a guy to hang around for two years stringing out a chronic day pass under a pseudonym. If Secret Service and the Press Secretary knew Guckert's real name, it would have been negligent not to at least Google it.

5. The White House's complicity in this fraud underscores their hypocrisy about gays and gay rights. An administration that won't recognize the civil rights of ordinary gay Americans is nevertheless willing to cover for the the homosexual prostitution of their friends.

Update: Digby mulls the kabuki ethics of Gannongate, and the Rude Pundit offers some bracingly rude and perceptive commentary on this story.

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Comments

Bottom line: falsity fades in the light of truth. Woe be it to those who deceive who now complain about the harshness of the light that exposes them for what they are. Liars. Deceivers. Subverters of what should be the political norm where rules apply.

Gay and homosexual themes are side issues that distract and delay what will surely be a day of judgment.

The onion skin levels of deception in this matter make the eyes sting. But if we look away from what has been done, we deserve what we get.

If I had incontrovertible evidence that Rick Santorum was having a gay affair, I would face a genuine moral dilemma.

I sure as hell wouldn't. When someone is turning a political profit from bigotry, there is absolutely no reason not to expose them as hypocrites. It was the same with Strom Thrurmond's black daughter -- it was absolutely shameful that every reporter in D.C. knew about her for years, and no one had the integrity to call him on it. (They could still respect her privacy by not identifying her by name, but there was no reason not to question her daddy about it.)

Also, now that Maya Keyes is officially out of the closet, I think every interview with Alan Keyes should feature some variation on, "Mr. Keyes, you claim to support 'family values' but you have cut off all contact with your daughter on account of her sexual orientation. What the fuck kind of 'family values' are those?"

I dunno, MT...
You may be right on the technical points here--which is what you're interested in, of course, and what's most important... But I've been worried about what this shows about/does to the liberal soul. I'm kinda worried that a lot of us are taking too much joy in this, baring our teeth a little too much, bringing up stuff about Gannon's sexuality with a bit too much relish...

Not you--let me be clear about that--but some of us on this side of the fence...

A hooker (and especially a gay male hooker) has a lot of leverage should they decide to engage in blackmail of a government official. It may be that in spite of his flimsy credentials as a reporter, Gannon got preferential treatment because he had the goods on someone within the Bush administration.

For that reason, I don't think it is wrong or homophobic to focus on his sexual history. It's relevant to the case.

C'mon, Winston. That's exactly what the right-wing Kabuki show is designed to make you think. Didn't we learn anything from all that Mary Cheney faux-outrage? As someone said on another thread, Marquis of Queensbury rules for the left, brass knuckles and sacks full of oranges for the right.

No liberal commentator -- not here, not anywhere I've seen -- is even remotely edging towards homophobia on this issue. That's absurd. If we relish bringing up stuff about Gannon's sexuality, it's because we love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

Did you see Bill Berkowitz's piece on this? As he says, if the religious right had any genuine convictions at all, they'd be all over this like a cheap suit. Instead, they're more interested in the gay subtext of frickin' Shark Tale than an actual gay hooker in the White House. Clearly, their loyalty to Bush trumps their supposed "religious" convictions -- and some fainthearted liberals think it's dirty pool to point that kind of naked opportunism, well, cry me a river.

I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning. It smells like victory. Some day this war is going to end.

The Buddha, in one of his incarnations previous to Siddharta, killed a man who was going to sink a ferry and kill all 500 passengers. But, as the Buddha killed the man not in righteous anger but in order to spare him the evil karma he would acquire by killing so many people, the evil karma he himself acquired was somewhat alleviated.

In other words, you get something on Santorum, just send it my way and I'll gladly take on the negative karma for outing the son of a bitch.

Look. Just take "gay prostitute" out of it. Let's say the President was anti-widget and so was able to marshall the forces and political power of the millions of Americans who are also anti-widget. In this hypothetical US, there is an opposition party that is not only widget-friendly but is frequently derided in elections for being so. In fact, being pro-widget is labeled un-American. Many anti-widget Americans believe that the widget issue is the single most grave threat to America today. In this climate, one of the more remarkably anti-widget reporter/journalists of the elite group of reporter/journalists who make up the white house press, turns out not only not to be a reporter or a journalist, but is also demonstrably pro-widget and is in fact a widget salesman.

Why does everyone assume that he was a gay prostitute? I didn't see anything on the sites that made that clear. Couldn't he have been a heterosexual gigolo? Or bi? Is i just because he was so yucky looking?

Admittedly, I didn't spend a lot of time on the site, and I'm not hip to escort-service terminology.

Just like everyone else, I lept to the conclusion that he was gay. And presumably we're all right. But are people saying that liberals COULD attack him if he were a straight prostitute, but not if he's a gay one? Or are all prostitutes OK now?

The real issue here is the symbolic breach of security. Some guy, using an alias, without "legitimate" Press credentials, got within arms-length of the President of the U.S.

The fact he was a gay escort only adds to the absurdity. What Democrats should be asking is, "How can we trust the Republicans to secure this nation from terrorists when they can't even secure a Press Conference from imposters?"

I agree that the breach of security is the real issue. That Guckert was a gay prostitute adds flame to the fire. It's hypocritical of the Bush administration to bash gays yet closet a gay prostitute in the manner it did. I wish the story got more and better coverage than it's getting.

John Emerson: take a look at Americablog, which has catalogued the whole sordid tale pretty exhaustively. It's clear from what he's dug up that Gannon/Guckert's clients were, in fact, men.

I'm kinda worried that a lot of us are taking too much joy in this, baring our teeth a little too much, bringing up stuff about Gannon's sexuality with a bit too much relish...

Yes, I remember how all of those discussions on cable TV about a certain cum-stained dress were always conducted with restraint and dignity. Never was a hint of relish in evidence.

I think these questions of "what the story is" or whether it's right to question item [x] often come down to, "what is the question to which the public has the right to an answer?" Does it pass the "that's a good question!" test? Or does it fall under the heading, "none of your business." A private citizen has a right to privacy. Just because it might be fun to know if my neighbor is gay or straight or cheating on his whatever, doesn't mean I have a right to know. However, voters have a right to know the points of view of political candidates. When a candidate or party runs on platform x and then turn(s) out to be not-x, that is ALWAYS news. The question "how did a gay prostitute find himself posing as a reporter in the WHite House press corps, for the purpose of asking the anti-gay president softball questions and then to writing (!) anti-gay stories for an anti-gay website?" I imagine that's a good question from the point of view of anyone on the religious/right side of the spectrum. Is my party/candidate only pretending to believe what I believe, in order to get my vote and money? I imagine it's a good question from the point of view of anyone who cares about national security, or believes our government should show good judgment, be capable of something as simple as a background check, or even googling. Then of course there's the elephant in the room. Which is, it strikes me as most likely he was blackmailing someone or at least was involved with someone high up enough to circumvent normal procedure. The "involved with someone" possibility is more mundane but it's still news, because the "someone" has to be high up enough to circumvent the secret service etc., and this is obviously an abuse of power. The blackmail angle is the most worrying. People with something to hide are the most vulnerable to corruption. You can of course tease apart what form the corruption takes from what it is they are hiding, but both need to be addressed.

The good question is, HOW DID THIS GUY GET THERE? Guy=gay prostitute. There=homophobic WHite House on behalf of homophobic (fake) news agency which is a front for homophobic Right wing group.

p.s. the other reason it's news is that large chunks of Left and the Right both have a stake in it. It's not every day that WIng Nut Daily and AMERICAblog are on the same page. WHy is that exactly?

Trish--

Are we using the actions of the radical right as our standard of rightness now?

Thad's right generally speaking, but how much does it apply to Guckert. During the 2000, there was the issue of W's past behavior. Glenn Loury had a thoughtful piece in which he, having been convicted of possession himself and seeing much of this as private, pointed out why the question of W's alleged drug use was not a private matter, as he thought to be in other cases. W's position on drugs and drug sentencing is harsh, but he believes or at least states that it's the right thing to do. It was a standard that wasn't applied to him, and I doubt he thinks it should've been. The issue however was as it related to W's position of drugs and sentencing. The question though is outing Guckert being done to expose his positions on gay rights and/or prostitution. If it's being done not for reasons of point out hypocrisy on the point itself but for a "you're on the right and though we don't know you're position on the issue but since you're side generally sucks in a generally bigoted way on the whole thing" kind of hypocrisy then somethings wrong. Guckert may have dissenting views on gay rights and prostitution--the libertarian right does after all.

Also, I don't think that questions of legality help, in re the prositution aspect. Same sex only sodomy laws in Texas, say, don't make it OK to out someone becasue sodomy was illegal. Rather, you have to hold that prostitution should be illegal, and in the same way that it is now. Not, for example, in the way that public intoxication is illegal.

Just want to chime in on the issue--I agree with some of the above posters that it's the hypocrisy that makes me revel in the revelation about Gannon's past. He's a big freakin' hypocrite, and I really don't understand why anybody would have trouble revealing that.

That said, if I thought that revelling in such a reveal (sorry for the alliteration) advances some sort of hate agenda, I might be more careful in my wording, etc.

In addition, revealing Gannon's hypocrisy doesn't say much about 'gay prostitutes' or even about Gannon, really--it has something to say about us all; that is, when we take on absolute ethical positions (especially elitist ones), we're bound to be hypocrites at some point.

Robin,

In my view, if someone is publicly advertising their services as a M4M prostitute all over the internet, he's pretty much "outed" himself.

And as I've said, numerous times, this story isn't about Guckert. All this focus on Guckert himself is completely beside the point. The important question is, who in the White House was doing Guckert all those special favors?

Two points:

1) JeffJim's career as a same-sex prostitute is 'career' experience. It is another datapoint in establishing whether he is a 'journalist' or not. If I pretend to be a bank president, but can be found to have run advertisements last year for my full-time in-home babysitting service, that is relevant.

2) Who JeffJim has sex with for money has no necessary bearing on his personal sexual orientation; it has always been known that prostitutes do not necessarily personally prefer the type of customer that brings the best fees. I know no more about his sexual orientation than I do about yours. It is not about his personal life; his personal life is still unknown (until he posts that on the internet too).

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