…That was nearly half a century ago, in what is now seen as a golden age of journalism. As the 45-year anniversary of Watergate approaches, let’s do a fast-forward to today, and stretch our imaginations about a Nixon scenario redux.
There would, of course, be no bungled break-ins, no clumsily bill-stuffed pockets, no Keystone Kops “gotcha” scene in Democratic headquarters at 2:30 a.m. Instead, Nixon could, perhaps, rely on hands across the water to cross the keyboard with kompromat, via computer — releasing compromising material against his opponents. He could go online himself with lies and smears against them, work with or inspire hate sites and racist, misogynist, Islamophobic trolls to create false news and threaten those who call out his attacks or support his foes, and dismiss any accusations of wrongdoing, corruption or racism as the work of a “lying, biased media.” He would condemn the investigation as that favorite tactic of the far right — fake news.
This is a US presidency like no other in living memory. In a democracy, it is not normal to say, without shame or remorse, that war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. It is not normal to denounce evidence-based fact as fake news. It is not normal to concoct toxic lies that can have power over the lives of millions of people. We have been down that road before. We know it ends badly.