Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beyond The Gates

Everything is apparently some kind of 'gate' these days. Every bit of controversial gossip gets branded by one newspaper or another desperate to be responsible for the next buzzword to go down in media history as a 'gate'.

Take for example the incident last year with Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand leaving unpleasant phone messages for actor Andrew Sachs. 'Sachsgate', that was called. More recently the emails sent by one of Gordon Brown's right-hand men, Damian McBride, aimed at spreading dirt on various senior Conservative party members: Smeargate. And today, the worst of the bunch. Following the ruling by the FIA to issue a suspended three-race ban to McClaren in the Formula 1 World Championships for misleading officials at the Australian and Malaysian grand prix: Liargate. Seriously, 'Liargate'.

Not only are these incredibly feeble-minded attempts at trying to originate new catchphrases, the events themselves bear very little (at best) resemblance to the original 'gate', which wasn't even cleverly named as such by anyone.

To bring anyone unaware briefly up to speed, the original 'gate' was the Watergate conspiracy, which involved several high-ranking members of US President Richard Nixon's staff and included political espionage, sabotage, campaign fraud, money laundering and other major crimes, and led to the indictment and conviction of several of Nixon's closest advisors way back in 1974. It was dubbed 'Watergate' because the entire investigate started following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. This break-in was revealed to have been orchestrated by cabinet members and this led to the discovery of the whole conspiracy.

So no clever journo coining a phrase and it catching on, which is what today's limp-wristed scribes are attempting at every turn, just the name of the building.

These recent issues are hardly on the same scale. Presumably if the plan to store the nation's emails hadn't been scrapped this week and something had ever gone wrong with that we'd have ended up with something as witty as 'Emailgate'. And it can only be a matter of time before we get 'Fergiegate' amidst the eternal accusations of Premier League referees favouring Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United when making crucial decisions.

But while The Sun continue to feel the need to make sure everyone's aware of just how clever they are by highlighting the pun words in their headlines in red, I doubt we've seen the end of it. Journalism really doesn't seem to be getting any less lazy as the years go on.