"Woodward and Bernstein, themselves, have created a cottage industry of their own -- the political scandal “insider” book, the myth that because they once had fortune dump the half-story of a lifetime into their laps that they're some kind of exalted defender of the universe -- that has made them filthy rich men. Don’t buy this “fighting to tell the truth” crap either has spouted since the ‘70’s: they’re in it for the money and the accolades they get from their even-lazier compatriots. They always were. And they got lucky...."
Matthew's Week End Commentary
I read this today, a defense of Richard Milhous Nixon, a.k.a. Tricky Dick of Watergate Fame.
It was written by Conrad Black, who himself knows a thing or two about being railroaded by his enemies, especially the political kind.
I found this article interesting because Black uses the phrase "criminalization of policy and partisan differences", and means that to say that both ends of the political spectrum routinely accuse the other of being the absolute worst people born since Hitler and Genghis Khan had identical triplets. According to this sort of mindset, anything the other side has to say on any subject is reflexively responded to by it's counterpart as the grossest crime, or the most egregious abuse of human rights, and probably an indication that one side or the other would like to run a conveyor belt full of kittens through industrial wood chippers and sell the resulting mess as luncheon meat in your kid's school cafeteria.
No one gets the benefit of the doubt, anymore, no serious question ever gets the fair hearing it deserves.
Undoubtedly Black is correct in his assertion that most political exchange since the days of Watergate has been tinged with this hyper-partisanship, and one side does, indeed, engage in this sort of constipated thinking more often than the other, but then again, they're at the vanguard of a political philosophy which, on the one hand, believes there is no such thing as human nature, and then on the other, regulates the hell out of human nature just as soon as it rears it's ugly head, but then never admits it made an incorrect assumption in the first place.
But, let's put the truism that most Leftists are petty little dictators with really poor potty training in their backgrounds, who could never be elected to anything if they ever told the truth aside for a second because there's another issue that Black brings up in his column, which intrigues me more, and that is the supposed heroes of Watergate, the so-called intrepid reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the reporters who broke the story and began the process of destroying a president.
Now, I'm too young to remember Watergate as little more than a word heard coming out of the television, so don't expect me to wax poetic with fond memories of the Nixon Administration, I was all of five or six years old at the time. However, I have studied the scandal in my adult years, and have come to a conclusion that didn't really require a shitload of historical research:
Woodward and Bernstein are fucking slugs. They were then, they are even more so now. Never mind the creepy phenomena wherein a complete doofus somehow manages to do something so incredible that they gain a measure of lasting fame for it for the rest of their days. This isn't like the One-Hit wonder who has a song that hits the Top 10 for sixteen straight weeks in 1966 and then disappears, only to reemerge thirty years later in those nostalgia shows, milking it for all it's worth. No, Woodward and Bernstein have turned Watergate into a mini empire of book publishing, speaking engagements, film and television rights, regular commentator gigs, and so forth.
I've read books written by both men, and frankly, they all sucked. Partly because they've all been written from a particular political point of view that, as Black says, identifies the other side as simply the second coming of the Barbarian Hoardes, but mostly because neither man has much actual writing talent. On top of that, each is probably a lying skunk. Their fame -- and the millions that probably came from it -- is based largely on who they are ("exalted journalists"), and what they did ("Fucked the guy who fucked Hubert Humphrey and popped the Left's Balloon").
The truth about Watergate (if it can ever be known) is that in many ways, it's a tale of half-truths and exaggerations, distorting of the facts, implications and insinuations, baseless accusations and counter-accusations, and Congressional and prosecutorial excess. More likely, it was persecutional excess.
The last book I read by either man was "The War Within", by Woodward, which was supposed to be the definitive insider's look into the machinery of George W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. It was dull, drab, dreary, full of irrelevant fluff that frankly I believe was Woodward putting his opinion into his book rather than reporting the facts. It was dry. It was boring. It didn't tell me anything that I already didn't know, or didn't suspect.
However, it did make an excellent sleep aid. After that, the book gave yeoman service when a sudden toilet paper crisis hit my household.
All in all, The War Within was a tour de force of absolutely unreadable crap. Woodward has written what seems a gazillion books just like this one, too. Then there's Bernstein. Bernstein's writing is simply execrable, and often his subject matter makes you wonder if he's had that hole in his head stuffed with steel wool and covered with duct tape instead of receiving proper medical treatment.
I read Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge" which was an autobiography of Hillary Clinton. Now, putting aside for a moment the ridiculous notion that anyone in his/her right mind wants to know any more about Hillary Clinton than we already do (or that we really need to read more shit Hillary made up and stuck in her background to make herself seem more interesting than a yeast infection), the book had me rethinking the entire kitty litter question. Why not just shred all the still-existing copies of this book, and spare someone the trouble of having to dig clay or whatever the fuck it is they make kitty litter out of?
I've read most of the Woodward/Bernstein catalog: All the President's Men, The Final Days, etc. It's all drivel.
Now, that's not to say that I'm George Orwell or H.G. Wells, but then again, few people are.
Anyways, getting back to Watergate: one of the greatest tricks all "newspapermen" have is the trick of making it look as if there is news when there most certainly isn't. This ability consists, mostly, of a great talent for minor fiction. In most cases the journalist doesn't need to actually work; after all, he's basically just telling you what other people do, or say, or think. He's a human parrot, only with the ability to inject some of himself into the subject he covers, which is usually identifiable as some sort of bias.
Somehow, this sort of person enjoys the kind of prestige that is out of all proportion to the amount of actually useful work that is done. So too Woodward and Bernstein, for they didn't actually do any of that fancy reporter shit -- you know, investigate things, burn shoe leather in pursuit of the truth, ask probing questions, verify facts and names, and so forth -- they mostly relied on the word of an informant.
And that informant had an agenda, and so one would think his information might have been suspect. Unless you're a "journalist" with a political bias and this stupid idea that you speak truth to power and protect the public trust, and stuff (Trust me, you never do. That's why a complete dickhead is now sitting in the Oval office).
The source, the infamous "Deep Throat", turned out to be one Mark Felt, a disgruntled federal employee. Why was Felt disgruntled? Because Nixon passed him over for the job of FBI director when J. Edgar Hoover died. Felt had an axe to grind, and so he did. However, it has never been established, at least not to my knowledge, that Felt was ever telling the complete and unvarnished truth,.and that the information he passed on to Woodward and Bernstein was, in fact, legitimate and truthful.
And then again, Woodward and Bernstein did little more than to do what reporters have done ever since the job was created: they simply told you what someone else told them. Which is what journalists do, because journalists are fucking lazy. If they had a work ethic, they'd be digging ditches, or drying cars at the car wash.
Journalists, in the main, are simply people who get paid to tell you what other people do and say on any given day, remember. Since the majority of people on this planet have about as much intelligence and interest as a pile of aging dog shit, the journalist, then, is getting paid to tell you little of any real value. On those rare occasions where something actually DOES happen, the journalist (and in this instance, I mean print journalists) very rarely ventures out to get himself a first-hand, personal account of what is happening: he’s more likely to rely upon “sources”, and very often these “sources” are either confused, mistaken, flat-out wrong, or have an agenda of their own to push. Often, a major story breaks under multiple by-lines, which means the "definitive" story you just read was, in fact, assembled by a committee.
Camels are horses designed by committees, you know...
Now, I guess by the standards of their day, Woodward and Bernstein did, at the very least, the absolute minimum that should have been expected from them. They verified parts of Felt's story, they may have been able to actually confirm that the Watergate break-in and subsequent shenanigans were politically motivated, but were they ever able to prove that a President of the United States actually broke a law?
The answer, of course, was no. Technically speaking, Nixon broke no laws, while the persecution which he (and his cohorts) endured certainly crossed all sorts of legal, political and ethical lines (i.e. there was no requirement in Law that Nixon should have to hand over tapes of private conversations to Congress, and this was clearly an unconstitutional abuse of Congressional power. In effect, Nixon gave Congress the rope with which they hung him, mostly on the basis of 18 minutes of blank tape and the coerced statement of a panicked secretary from which it was inferred that there was crime). But then again, the whole Watergate brouhaha wasn't about "third-rate burglary" -- dirty tricks have always been a part of politics, after all -- it was always about getting Nixon.
Quite frankly, there was more illegality in the Pentagon Papers scandal, another nail in Nixon's coffin, when you stop to consider that Daniel Ellsberg a) stole those papers from a government office, and b) his psychiatrist broke his ethical and legal obligation to protect the identity and privacy of a patient. That's funny; the two fatal wounds Nixon suffered came at the hands of a guy pissed off because he wouldn't get to step into J. Edgar's ruby slippers, and a mental patient, both passing information to journalists specifically trained to make news up out of thin air on a daily basis
Now, I'm not going to tell you that Nixon was a saint. Far from it: he was a flawed man, but a brilliant politician, and by that I mean that Nixon was an asshole of the highest caliber and lowest class. But a criminal? Hard to say. His so-called crimes sprang mostly from the vivid -- and biased -- imaginations of two professional exaggerators, a guy who lost out on a job, and someone undergoing psychiatric treatment
(Note: we here at the Asylum think there's absolutely nothing wrong with psychiatric treatment, per se, excepting that most psychiatrists are little more pill-pushing quacks, and most people who see them are whining little pansies who wet their own beds because they wake up one morning and discover -- boo-frickin'-hoo -- that the world does not, indeed, revolve around them).
I'm also not going to refight the battles over Watergate; that's the past. My point here is to take exception to the fact that Woodward and Bernstein have made an empire out a mostly-invented scandal that in any other time in our nation's history, while it might not have escaped notice altogether, would have been investigated far more diligently. In the 1970's the process of political polarization was beginning and many in the media had a vested interest in helping that process along, much like many in the media today have a vested interest in keeping it going. My beef is with the idea that two men, who between them could hardly write a sentence you could finish without either falling dead asleep or reaching for a lethal Drano cocktail, should be feted by a profession which often resembles what one would find in an open sewer, 40 years after the fact, for accomplishing....what?
Oh, right: they turned nothing into something. The same old reporters' trick of making it appear as if there is news when there is none at all. How fucking clever they were!
And things have never been the same since, and if there's a specific reason -- other than being complete douchebags -- why Woodward and Bernstein should be hung in chains from the Washington Post building, it should be for the annoying practice the modern press has adopted of identifying everything a "-gate".
The Modern Media that Woodward/Bernstein have bequeathed to us is this phony type of of self-serving, sanctimonious, faux-crusading (read: lazy, and relying heavily upon "sources", guilt-by-implication-rather-than-by-evidence, making shit up to suit your target audience as you go along) "journalism". It is a Media which is about as informative as a case of scabies, and about as factual on any given day as your cheating husband's story about having gone bowling with "The Guys" when he comes home, banging on the door at 4 a.m. because he can't find his keys (because he can't find his pants), smelling like a cross between a liquor store and a V.D. Ward, with the lipstick-smeared condom still trapped between the front flaps of his underwear, and a Massage Parlor's business card stuck firmly in his butt cheeks. That is not to say there aren’t good journalists, or media outlets, out there: they’re just few and far between.
The majority of “journalists” today seem to be nothing more than politically-motivated hacks, who conspire with one another to tell the same story (see: Journolist), and always with a particular point of view to be sold. Objectivity in the press was on death’s door a long time ago, but it was the Woodward/Bernstein method of gotcha! journalism that finally gave it that long-awaited Hot Shot, and sent it quietly into oblivion. Mostly because the rewards and praise to be heaped upon the whistle blower was enough to set them up for the rest of their lives.
The Press hid this truth -- that they simply make shit up, sometimes, and that more often than not, stories fall into their laps rather than reporters going out and finding them -- for a very long time as it had control over the flow of information. The introduction of affordable personal computers, rapid, reliable, cheap communications and broadcasting industry de-regulation has changed all of that. No one believes what they read in a major daily anymore, except for the really committed or the truly stupid. We’re all skeptical these days, but for the first time in history, we have the ability to acquire dozens of sources and evaluate them solely on their merits. Something the media used to do for us, but does no longer because Woodward and Bernstein showed them how to succeed without really trying.
Which is why more people keep turning to alternative sources for news, rather than the “establishment” news factories at the Networks or the Major Dailies and Wire Services: those once-proud publications and broadcast networks no longer have that many merits left to evaluate.
Woodward and Bernstein, themselves, have created a cottage industry of their own -- the political scandal “insider” book, the myth that because they once had fortune dump the half-story of a lifetime into their laps that they;re some kind of exalted defender of the universe -- that has made them filthy rich men. Don’t buy this “fighting to tell the truth” crap either has spouted since the ‘70’s: they’re in it for the money and the accolades they get from their even-lazier compatriots. They always were.And they got lucky.
In the meantime, History will re-evaluate Nixon, and probably find him to have been one of the better Presidents of the 20th Century. Just you watch.