This week many are marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in that led to the end of the Nixon administration. This event served as the origin of the stupid tradition of trying to tack on a -gate suffix to every scandal to hit the news.
A shockingly long list can be found on the Wiki It also has an interesting origin theory about the overuse tradition. Apparently, many -gate scandals have been popularly dubbed by William Safire, a former Nixon speechwriter. The theory goes that by proliferating -gate scandals Safire could successfully minimizing the legacy of outrage over the original -gate, Watergate. I think this stupid trend is too much to blame on just one man. The idiocy is far-reaching.
Others are starting to lose patience with the tradition. Monica Hesse’s ”We Can’t Have a Scandal Without the -Gate” was published this week in the paper that started it all, The Washington Post. I just love the snarky note she hits here:
“Until the ever-loving end of time, we, the people, will be destined to pluck random nouns from the news, stick “-gate” on the end, wait for it to catch on and then smugly glance around like first-graders who have just told a doody joke. Doodygate! (No.)”
It’s too bad Hesse doesn’t go all out with a raging -gate denunciation, probably out of fear of offending some of her colleagues & bosses who may be -gate friendly idiots. So let me help you.
Every time I hear of another -gate being anointed, I am reminded about how I perceived Journalism majors in college: they liked to write, but were too dumb to have a relevant content-heavy major (like History or Political Science), and they were too lazy to be English majors. That was probably a little harsh, but today I mostly have some pity for them. They likely started into the profession with some idealism, but now real journalism is dead in media is big business, and the bottom line demands ratings, not pursuit of any loftier goals like enhancing public accountability.
Maybe overusing -gate is a symptom of this. They like to adopt the suffix to tap into some of the aura of real journalism. Instead of doing the hard investigative legwork, they slap on a silly label and pretend to elevate their work to the class of Woodward and Berstein’s original.
Look, the -gate is not catchy or cute. It’s just lazy. Stop it!