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EYE-BALL Opinion on – Watergate 40 years on – What have we learnt?

– Watergate 40 years on –
What have we learnt?
18th June 2012.
The Watergate Hotel is a place – a Washington tourism icon that is famous for a lot of wrong reasons.

History shows it is the place where the Watergate scandal began.  The scandal rocked America and then the world as its revelations ebbed their way all the way to the White House, and the Oval office.

It developed and as witness’s gave their evidence under oath, the path to the President became a matter of time.  The outcome forced the then US President Richard Nixon to resign his Presidency.   The “Huffington Post” retells the story of Watergate, how it started and how it played out – [read it on-line here].

As US Political scandals go – Watergate rivaled the Kennedy assassination for media coverage, conspiracy theories, and speculation.  Movies were made – the most famous “All the Presidents Men’ – co-starring Robert Redford and Dusty Hoffman as the ‘Washington Post’ journalists who uncovered the story, the cover-up, and all not without risk to their own personal safety.

Turn the clock forward 40 years and ask yourself the question – is the press and media publications as free to report as they ever were?

If it was Russia and a story like this was about – the story would never leak – the journalists would be dead if they did not quit the story.  As much as we speak about our freedoms – who of us have even had to endure the process of proving those freedoms are real or an illusion.

The Monica Lewinsky was another US Presidential scandal that spilt forward like a willingness to visit old style dentist’s.

I remember Watergate as a 17 yo – it meant nothing to me at the time – but I loved the movie and as my interest in politics grew I began to get why it was a big deal at the time.

It is still a big deal these days.  In the last two years the reality of just how linked the political landscape is with mainstream media and their proportions makes you really wonder.   Would ‘Watergate’ have happened in todays media if the rules and practices adopted by the new age press and journalist were at play?

My main accusation at the media is that that live in a media environment where they are intimidated – they cannot ask real questions on an open mic situation because Politicians want to ‘stage-manage’ their responses.  If you do you don’t get invited to the next press conference and therefore end up on the un-employment line.

The UK PM David Cameron is currently fronting a media enquiry that has been ongoing for some months.  It is to do with his links to Mr Murdoch and the favours sought for favourable press to win the last election.  Cameron is untouchable and the Barrister asking the questions will make it so that Cameron does not have to perjure himself.

We’ve heard evidence of Murdoch UK papers breeching privacy laws to get sensitive information.  Now in the real world of journalism this is seen as great detective work – but in the News of The World hacking scandal the stories and dirt was on celebrities, of murder victims and it has turned the world off Murdoch and his papers around the world.

Now if this investigative journalism had of been on Political leaders and dirt uncovered about corrupt behaviour then the world would condone the methods – now you tell me why not more corrupt politicians are not sent down.  The Corruption is there – it just needs someone brave enough to print the story.

Another reason is that because of this ‘nansie pansie’ softshoe shuffle –  the press have just become bone-yard lazy.  They want their stories hand delivered, packaged and written for them – real investigative journalism is a dying art.

As we mark this ‘Watergate’ anniversary – let us pause and reflect how the world has moved forward. Given the state of the world and its corrupted leaders – be it criminal type corruption, or just a bankruptcy of Leadership skills, we need the media to be good at what they do.  Yet the world looks to Murdoch and see and recognise a man who controls a media empire and from his perspective – that still it is not enough.  he wants to control Politicians, Leaders, he walks the halls of power and how can he in all good conscience state that he is a media representative.

The openness of Governments has narrowed – their transparency has also clouded – take the case being pursed against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.   We have Australia’s AG Nicola Roxon outlining that Ministerial expenditures are being moved to the ‘not for publication’ file index.  That represents some $250 million of discretionary expenditure that has proven to be a trap for Ministers and staff who make choices as to how they can get away with abusing the system.

‘WATERGATE’ was the last time where a Political Leader was forced to fall on their sword in Western democracy.  That is not to say that there have not been more corrupt Leaders since – its just they have been able to get the media on-side so as to have the story filed away rather than be exposed.

You had better believe – we are not free anymore and Governments are no longer democratic.  The Media are but a function of the Government – free and independent press is long gone.


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