Wiretapping the offices of your political opponents is, naturally, a no-no in any democracy. The Watergate scandal shook the foundations of American politics and everyday Americans woke up to the reality that their governments and representatives were nothing more than opportunistic cutthroats.
Nixon’s actions completely undermined the sanctity of American democracy; One viewed as a shining beacon in a world divided between the illusion of freedom, and a controlling communist regime. These were the actions of Bolsheviks and vagabonds, not American presidents.
There are interesting parallels between the Watergate Scandal and the current political turmoil in Washington. The defining difference however comes in the form of the digital media.
Although members of Nixon’s office had been implicated in the affair, the administration heavily distanced themselves and claimed no involvement. This was in an age where information could be more easily contained, and any ‘leaks’ – as we so often hear about in 2017 – could be shutdown with far greater efficiency.
It was, after all, the investigative work of journalists that blew the affair wide open for all to see – and interestingly enough, these journalists were congratulated for their work and applauded.
No such luxuries are granted to journalists today however.
A 24-hour media environment mixed with social media gives news organisations the world over an opportunity to continually push stories or even agendas – This applies specifically to the United States, where media organisations are not obliged to adhere to any impartiality legislation – but it also provides a platform to politicians and administrations to offer a counter-narrative.
This is where the danger lies in social media; For every new development in the Watergate Scandal, the administration were not able to effectively plug the holes of their leaking vessel. With social media, today’s administration can alter the direction of the news narrative and present ‘alternative’ facts for the populace.
Politicians are cutthroats however, and to assume that the information they are releasing to counter any news stories is factual – or legitimate – is a grave mistake.
The Trump administration has done relatively well thus far to stem the flow of information with the Russia Scandal. They have the perfect voter-base; One that blindly believes their government is acting in their best interests. Using social media platforms keeps their people in their camp and promotes a culture of disregarding solid news reporting and investigative journalism.
One fact alone that proves the power of social media as a political tool is all-powerful, and that is that Donald Trump is still President of the United States.
Bombard the people with false information, demonise the media, claim your opponents are ‘anti-American’ and push the blame onto your former opponent, this is how you stay in power in 2017.
One can’t help but wonder how Nixon would have fared with social media at his disposal, using the same defensive techniques. It is likely he would have been able to spin his scandal into something else and dictate the narrative as the Trump Administration is currently doing.
What he had to deal with that Trump doesn’t however, is a strong, transparent media sphere and a populace that values the news they publish.
Support journalists, do not demonise them and castigate them for doing their jobs, for they represent the foundation pillars of any democracy worth a damn.