“Watergate” was the name designated for the 1970’s political scandal of U.S. President Richard Nixon. Since then, however, it has spawned an annoying trend in the English-speaking media of adding “-gate” to everything. I’m not talking just about scandals, but basically unimportant things as well. It would be nice if journalists, reporters, and pundits would stick to explaining the news rather than trying to create soundbites or fancy names for it. So it has finally come to this: Gate-gate.
In truth, the only viable “-gate” was the original Watergate, …because it was called Watergate. I decided to write this article because every few months I see another one of these annoyingly labeled events, like the “climategate” debacle. That was when someone broke into the email of a climate scientist, released some information to people who had no idea what they were reading and were already skeptical of climate science, and then six gigantic investigations independently came to the same conclusion: There was absolutely no evidence of fraud of scientific misconduct whatsoever. Or the “hackgate” scandal, in which phones were hacked in order to get “insider info” on news stories.
But those were some of the ones that were well-known. There are the more obscure ones like “fruit bat gate,” regarding sexual harassment allegations from one professor to another, “leakegate,” where someone misrepresented the IPCC, or “Pepsi-gate,” where the blog network “Science Blogs” agreed to host a blog sponsored by Pepsi, resulting in the departure of some of the most high profile bloggers. And we can’t forget the ones about cheaters, like “tigergate” (for Tiger Woods) and “weinergate” (for Anthony Weiner).
“Popegate” was another not-so famous one, where a newspaper made some cracks about the holy pope, along with “boogate,” which was an entirely nonsensical “controversy” about Sarah Palin’s appearance on a dancing show to support her daughter, where they suspected the audience booed her. There was also the more famous “cablegate,” when the activist website “Wikileaks” released a massive amount of classified cables,
Then there were the ones about breasts. There was “nipplegate,” where an incident with Janet Jackson at a Superbowl halftime show changed live TV (at least in terms of cencorship), as well as “boobgate,” which was nothing more than a rumor that she got breast implants. Apparently this “gate” trend just loves Palin. In fact, there’s a totally separate “Palin-gate” as well.
But of course there are “the ‘gates’ that never were,” such as “Amazongate,” where the IPCC made a mistake about what they said regarding the threat to the Amazon rain forest, which was later admitted to be a mistake, or – most recently – “muffingate,” where it was claimed that some random shop was selling muffins for $16. This conclusion was made by someone who calculated a large sum of muffins (…and other stuff) and averaged it out… somehow.
It turned into a childish argument about the economy, and it was later revealed that whomever came up with that dollar amount was horribly wrong in their calculations. Reports have yet to confirm whether or not the individual forgot to carry the 1, but the fact remains that the muffins cost more around the area of… one dollar. Of course, that didn’t stop several major news outlets from reporting the story, and the revelation sure didn’t result in what would be a responsible update, saying that it was untrue.
And somehow bloggers get all the slack for being unprofessional?
An article entitled “5 Things The Media Loves Pretending Are News” from Cracked offers the same discontent.
“The first rule of modern journalism is that everything has to have a cute nickname. When celebrities are dating you mash their names together (Bradgelina!) and when there’s a scandal, or anything that sort of looks like a scandal, you tack ‘-gate’ onto the end.”
There’s actually an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to scandals with “-gate” suffixes, which shows you just how often this is being done in the media. In fact, some of the ones I discussed are not even on the Wikipedia page. So, just as I noticed them myself, I’m sure there are plenty others who have done so as well.
I hope the gates die down after Gategate, because we’re all tired of hearing it.