All the President’s Men

1976 classic. Oscar winner, great dramatisation of the best journalistic adventure of the 20th century.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein respectively, two young and hungry Washington Post reporters who chased the Watergate story before anyone was interested.

From odd things like the burglars of the Democratic National Committee head quarters at the Watergate building having their own lawyers present at their court arraignment the next day without one of them making so much as a phone call, to employees of the Committee to Re-elect the President (Nixon) being suspiciously coy and afraid, the story was pulled out by it’s toes and exposed.

This is a great film to watch now because in the forty years since the depicted events the entire thing has been warped and twisted. It might be news to some that the film makes no mention of a secret taping system at the White House. That is something that dominates the story now, in part due to films like Frost Nixon.Before the tapes gave the wider media something to focus on it was up to Woodward and Bernstein to pursue the story past dead ends and loops. Most people didn’t want to talk about it.

Someone who did want to talk was Woodward’s shadowy source Deep Throat, who in 2005 was revealed to be Mark Felt the assistant director of the FBI. He guided the young reporters to the real story, that Watergate was a blunder by a few not-so-smart guys — but it revealed a larger ugliness. A vast intelligence gathering operation engulfing the entire government intelligence apparatus.

Later developments slotted into the picture and gave depth to the claim. A secret taping system at the Whitehouse, reflecting the paranoia and inward approach of the Nixon Administration (and earlier administrations). The disgusting activity of Henry Kissenger, who as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, chaired the committee of forty which controlled covert activity. He colluded with the army in Chile to violently overthrow the Allande Socialist government and impose General Pinochet and years of dissapearances and repression. He cooperated with the Indonesions in their violdent atrocities committed against the people of East Timor. And under his policies vile dictators around the world were supported for being anti-communist.

This film is a sober reminder to keep ones attention on the activities of powerful people, and that it is possible to fight back. Many people have lamented the death of journalism with the decline of print media, and transmutation of broadcast media into black holes of souless entertainment. But journalism has not died, it has adapted. I am a blogger, at times my work is journalistic enough to warrant the badge. I am one of millions. We are decentralised, in many contries, and can consume and disemminate information at such high speed that scoop has become a forgotten term.

There is so much surveillance in the world today. Naked pictures of us swirl around the web until long after we are dead, our every move, every purchase, every swipe on our phones is recorded and stored. But that’s not just the case for us, it is everyone. You can turn your cameras on governents and subject them to the same surveillance. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear? Something tells me the Government is very fearful.

See the film if you haven’t yet, it is great. Redford reminds me so much of Brad Pitt it is quite remarkable. Hal Holbrooke is Deep Throat, which is great to see when all you’ve seen of Hal is the benign and dottery old men he plays in Lincolnand Into the Wild.His thin face is sinister in the shadows, and his eyes are icy. It’s an excellent performance.

If I had to give stars I would give five.

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