News and the Complexity Gap

The latest bizarre scandal to wash over the White House involves the administration’s credentialing of “Jeff Gannon,” a pseudonym for one James Guckert, who has now resigned from the fake news organ Talon News after being linked to gay escort services (for a good rundown, see here). As Frank Rich, who takes the trouble to analyze the issue here, puts its:

“By my count, “Jeff Gannon” is now at least the sixth “journalist” (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news.”

A hypothesis: one reason these strange happenings never seem to result in a loss of public confidence in George Bush is that they are too complex, too soap-operatically detailed, composed of too many infractions to be concisely described as moral lapses (compare to the simple tableau of Monica and Willie). Under Rove, the art of promulgating straightforward propaganda, by means that are enormously complicated to unravel, has led to a complexity gap. It simply requires so much less effort to imbibe the cover of the New York Post than to read several accounts of the minutiae of a scandal. Inertia wins. Rich’s solution: “fight fake with fake,” by naming Jon Stewart to replace Dan Rather as CBS anchor. An equal and opposite reaction, I suppose.