Friday, April 22, 2005

Who's Johnny?
One especially bizarre facet of the Jim Guckert/Jeff Gannon story is the supposition that Jim/Jeff is actually Johnny Gosch, the Des Moines paperboy who vanished in 1982. I lived in Iowa in 1982, and the Gosch case was one of the state's major news stories that year, probably because it was the first widely publicized stranger abduction of a child in Iowa history, and we liked to think such things didn't happen in the Tall Corn State. Gosch's mother became a media celebrity, and has continued to work on behalf of missing and abducted children ever since. She insists to this day that Johnny was taken by an international ring of homosexual pornographers. (In 1999, she told a reporter that Johnny, living under an assumed name, visited her at her West Des Moines home in 1997, but told her not to notify authorities because it would put both of their lives in danger.)

With the Gosch story back in the news thanks to Jim/Jeff, MSNBC interviewed Gosch's mother earlier this month, and also asked Jim/Jeff himself whether he was Johnny Gosch. (He would only say that he feels sorry for Noreen Gosch.) The Des Moines Register covered the story about that time too, and ruled out any connection between Jim/Jeff and Johnny (in a snide, offensive tone on the Recreation page), as Noreen Gosch now does, too.

During the first Bush Administration, several years after Johnny Gosch vanished, his disappearance was linked to reports of a teenage homosexual prostitution ring run by a Washington lobbyist, Craig Spence, who counted high government officials, including several prominent Republicans, as clients. But the lobbyist committed suicide while preparing to go public with the story, and after a brief flurry of inside-page articles in a few papers, the story died with him.

A couple of weeks ago, Point Blank, an alternative paper in Des Moines, published a story about the Gosch case and the sex ring--and went out of business two days later, leading to speculation that People in High Places had cracked down. The spiked story (unavailable online, as the Point Blank website now redirects to another alt-weekly in Des Moines) reviewed the facts of the Gosch/Guckert/Spence story, and reported that at some point, some of the boys were flown to Nevada for a forced orgy of sex and murder--which was filmed by a guy named Hunter Thompson, gonzo journalist and Daily Aneurysm icon.

Jerry Mazza, writing at Online Journal, reports on Point Blank's story and tries to sort it out, although he doesn't always point the flashlight in a helpful spot, either. Apparently, the story of Thompson's involvement was not new--it had been reported (and, I gather, later denied) in the early 1990s. Mazza tries fleshing out the Thompson angle with excerpts from a story written by conspiracy maven Tom Flocco, and ultimately speculates on whether or how much Thompson's alleged role in the case had to do with his February suicide. At this point, the thicket gets so overgrown that I can barely see where I am.

Once you tiptoe out to the edges where conspiratorial suppositions proliferate, it's kaleidoscope time. Anything can be linked circumstantially with anything else, and there are plenty of people who are willing to connect the dots. Is Jim Guckert Johnny Gosch? Is he a tool of the government's MK-ULTRA program, which is the conspiracy theorist's all-purpose explainer for everything bad over the last 50 years? Was he the one who outed Valerie Plame? Was Hunter S. Thompson actually a maker of snuff films? Was he getting ready to write about the case? And did he really kill himself, or did somebody murder him?

I have no idea. Neither does anybody else.

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