A Parody: Doin' the Gatemouth on Gatemouth (Fart 69 in a series of flatulent utterances)
One of the most annoying phenomena plaguing New York City political blogs is the mini-cult which has developed around the blogger who calls himself Gatemouth. I am certainly not alone in holding this opinion. Indeed, in the past few weeks, several anonymous bloggers have made childish attempts to expose persons who they consider to be Gatemouth. This is missing the point entirely; what is needed is not exposure of Gatemouth’s identity, but rather his agenda.
Unlike many of Gatemouth’s detractors, I often find Gatemouth good reading, despite his windy renditions of political history and his obsession with cultural trivia. But though he might be good reading, he gives off bad karma.
To simplify, Gatemouth is Brooklyn Democratic Leader Vito Lopez’s “useful idiot”. I say this is a simplification, because a “useful idiot” usually is not aware he is serving an agent of evil, and Gatemouth seems intelligent enough to be fully aware of the consequences of his actions. In fact, Gatemouth is clever enough to bury his efforts on Vito’s behalf in a veneer of objectivity, with occasional critiques designed never to sting, but rather to give his efforts a credibility they don’t deserve.
Most recently, Gatemouth has posted two pieces on his blog which have no purpose but to serve the Lopez agenda. The first is a condemnation of a program of proposed reforms to party rules proposed by Chris Owens. The second is a defense of the party’s indicted executive director, Jeffrey Feldman. Each of these pieces has enough caveats to disguise its intent to the unwary, but no one in the know has been fooled. In fact, the first piece drew a letter of praise from someone obviously in either a romantic or employment relationship with Lopez. Characteristically, Gatemouth snapped back that this person would be disappointed by his criticism of the party, both in the past and shortly forthcoming. Sad to say, after a diligent search, his past criticism remains unfound, while his forthcoming criticism is apparently waiting until the next century.
In fact, the most notable moments of Gatemouth’s career as a blogger involve efforts to endear himself to Vito. Gatemouth first came to mass notice with a piece which compared outgoing County Leader Clarence Norman to incoming Leader Lopez. Although the piece, given its own special entry on “The Politicker”, was widely seen as critical of Vito, it was actually an example of the tactic known as “praising with faint damn”. Indeed, there is almost nothing in the piece that Vito would find displeasing. Gatemouth praises Vito’s selection of judges, his anti-poverty work, his work ethic, and his legislative acumen. The criticism, such as they are, are either for things for which Vito has no apology, like past support of Republican, or for things Vito would consider praise, like being merciless in punishing his opponents. Gatemouth’s piece is practically an advertisement for the concept that Vito is a force to be reckoned with; Gatemouth clearly sees Vito as Vito sees himself. Some critique.
And, in fact the pieces for which Gatemouth has attracted the most criticism almost all bear the Lopez seal of approval. Gatemouth became the most hated blogger on “The Politicker” after defending Council Speaker Christine Quinn for both her mass staff firings and her instituting a flag salute at Council meetings. Vito clearly had a hand in the firings, and while he probably could care less about the flag salute, one cannot go wrong with Vito by defending Chris Quinn. Even the beating Gatemouth took for raising unpleasant history after the death of former Councilman Robert Dryfoos bears the imprint of the Brooklyn organization, for it was Dryfoos who in 1986 prevented the Brooklyn Dems from taking over the Council lock, stock and barrel.
Gatemouth could no doubt find things to cite in all these pieces that imply criticism of the Brooklyn Organization, but that’s all they do; they imply criticism, they never make it. The Feldman piece discusses Feldman’s role in an effort to inject a phony candidate into the 1996 Surrogate’s race. This is not really reform talk; it is merely the party line of the “Genovesi-Fidler” faction of the party’s regulars, and may reflect Vito’s feelings as well. While Gatemouth does criticize Lopez for ensuring sitting judge Margarita Lopez-Torres got a primary in 2002, his complaint seems mostly to be tactical, in that dropping her from the party slate made her a “martyr”. To the extent that the criticism is not tactical, it is reflective of the courthouse crowd‘s conventional wisdom, rather than any reform tendencies. This is the sort of criticism Silvio respectfully gives to Tony on the Sopranos, rather than a call for change.
Gatemouth’s much ballyhooed pieces on this year’s Congressional races have the same flavor. Vito Lopez is holding his nose and supporting Ed Towns, but clearly wouldn’t mind seeing him slapped around. Gatemouth gives Towns a well-deserved and effective bitch-slap, but ultimately supports him. In the 11th, Vito clearly prefers either Carl Andrews or David Yassky to Chris Owens. Gatemouth makes a big show of saying that the two preferable candidates are Yassky and Owens and then tears Owens to shreds. Yes, he slaps around Yassky to some good comic effect, which Vito, who has had to deal with Yassky at home, probably finds quite amusing. But Yassky supported Chris Quinn, so ultimately, in terms geared to win over the mostly white gentrified audience which populates political blogs, Gatemouth makes the case for Yassky.
But might not Lopez prefer Carl Andrews? Perhaps, but potential Andrews supporters are not big readers of these sites. Further, by helping take white liberal votes from Owens, Gatemouth serves Andrews in the only way he can really do so. Notice that Gatemouth’s criticisms of Andrews are quick and dismissive and that Gatemouth always goes out of his way to exonerate Andrews from any criminal culpability in Clarence Norman’s wrongdoings. Finally, it is clear that while Lopez might or might not prefer Andrews to Yassky, he does prefer Yassky to Owens, the race’s only real reformer. Notice too, that Lopez also prefers Yassky to Yvette Clarke, who supported Bill DeBlasio against Chris Quinn for Council Speaker. Clarke, as the race’s only woman, might have some appeal to white liberals, so Gatemouth dismisses her with the back of his hand.
Gatemouth’s other pieces often follow the same pattern. He dismembers Eric Adams who is running against regular District Leader Musa Moore. His criticism of Marty Markowitz echoes Lopez’s dislike for the man; Gatemouth always goes after Markowitz for matters of style or political decisions, but like Lopez, he never differs substantially with Markowitz on matters of policy. What's that you say? Didn't Gatemouth support Joe Hynes' re-election? Well, so did such reformers as Lew Fidler, Steve Cohn, Bill Saunders, and Joe Bova. And wasn't that the same Joe Hynes whose daughter used to work for Vito? Anyway, without the efforts of Joe Hynes, Vito would not be County Leader today.
Even where Gatemouth appears to disagree with County, he doesn’t. His pieces on Hakeem Jeffries and Dov Hikind look out of the mode, but really aren’t. The Hakeem piece seems especially unfathomable, criticizing him for something no one cares about. But the real purpose of both pieces is take heat off of County’s choice, Andrew Cuomo, for the “Cuomo, not the Homo” incident. The Hikind piece might also reflect the dynamics of internal power struggles within the Brooklyn regulars; a family feud, not a battle over principles.
Gatemouth is most pernicious when he plays his moral equivalency “plagues on all houses” games. He finds some silly flaw in the records of reformers like Owens or Lopez-Torres and compares it to some unspeakable evil committed by the regulars as if they were tit for tat; sort of like, to use a Gatemouth-type metaphor, criticizing Mussolni and Hailie Sellasie equally for committing war crimes. His piece on the disgraceful doings at IND follows this pattern perfectly. It also follows Vito’s politics. As was the case with Ed Towns, Vito thinks Marty Connor and company deserve to be slapped, so Gatemouth slaps them; but, ultimately, Vito prefers them to their opposition, so ultimately Gatemouth slants the piece the way Vito likes it.
Gatemouth: Laughing all the way to Vito’s phonebank!
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