It should be noted before I delve into this article that I harbour no ill will towards gates. They protect our homes, allow for cheap climbing equipment for our children, and come in a variety of colours and designs. No, I’m not writing about any distates for the garden equivalent of a door – this Stuff I Hate article is focused solely on the overuse of the “Something-gate” titles attributed to so many different ‘scandals’ and ‘high-profile’ stories these days.
As should be common knowledge by now, the Watergate scandal essentially revolved around the burglary and phone-tapping of the Democratic National Commitee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington DC in 1972, and then-President Nixon’s administration’s involvement in said illegal activities. In a federal and media investigation that spanned two years, an alarming number of the Republican higher-ups (i.e. more than zero) were found guilty of various conspiratorial charges and ultimately President Nixon was forced to resign his Presidency, which is a pretty goddamn huge deal.
Nixon has since become a charicature-like representation of corruption, political conspiracy and real-life supervillainy, most notably for people around my age as the new President of Earth in the TV series Futurama. Watergate, on the other hand, has gone on to be one of the most abused phrases in journalism.
Here’s a little exercise for you – go to Wikipedia and search for “list of scandals with -gate suffix”. Yes, there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the various uses that the -gate suffix has been subjected to. I’ve looked at this page and counted how many there are in total, and it’s a lovely total of 118. I personally think that this is a gross unerestimation of how many times this particular suffix has been used, probably because whoever was compiling this list gave up about the time he reached Sharongate.
The -gate suffix has been slapped on to seemingly everything that journalists deem even semi-important, and even then most of them are a stretch. Can someone explain to me why there are 27 listed uses of the -gate suffix in the world of sport? Do journalists expect me to believe that the inappropriate application of Vaseline to an MMA fighter is the equivalent of a US Presidential administration illegally seeking to gain control of America? Does this also equate to the frequent toilet visits of a professional chess player?
A worrying trend I see is that most of the listed uses on Wikipedia seem to occur from the 90’s onwards – it’s as if journalists collectively decided, “we need a big hook that will make people read our otherwise uninteresting articles. I know, we’ll reference Watergate, because that happened so long ago all people will remember is that something really really bad happened and they’ll think our scrawled garbage is of the greatest importance.” They then probably snorted factory-grade sealant and had a wrestling match in their own poo.
This is lazy journalism at best – if you can’t make your article sound interesting or important without resorting to likening it to a Presidential conspiracy, you’re probably not very good at your job, which requires you to write in an interesting manner. It cheapens the diabolical acts of a Presidential administration and ultimately makes the whole thing seem trivial, which is wasn’t. At all. Unlike seeing a cat run into a glass door and calling it “Catgate” to debate the safety of transparent doors and the risks of pet ownership therein – that shit is trivial. Trvial and hilarious.