Saturday, June 04, 2005

#165 - Deep Thoughts About Deep Throat

I was not quite 14 when Watergate hit the news. Barely old enough to know or care much about our government, but old enough to be paranoid about many things. Watergate fueled my new paranoia of the government in general, and Nixon in particular.

"All the President's Men" was turned into a movie in my senior year. In fact, I went to see it shortly after my graduation. By then I was 17, and beginning to understand the idea that too much power vested in any one individual can be a dangerous thing. It didn't just apply to the government anymore, either. By this time in my life, it extended to all public sectors, including the press. It wasn't long after Nixon gave his infamous victory wave from Marine One that I began to realize that the press had an "agenda," and were just as capable of crushing dissent as any dictator.

I must confess to having read the book after seeing the movie. "All the President's Men" was the first "grown-up" movie I was able to see all by myself, and it presented me with some fascinating experiences. None the least of which was Hal Holbrook's incredible portrayal of the man later labelled "Deep Throat." The very idea of an informer who was intimately connected with the underpinnings of an increasingly corrupt (or, at the very least, morally bankrupt) presidency was a notion I just had to explore further.

So, I read the book. I tried to understand this man's motivations for revealing what he did to a hack reporter with such an obvious chip on his shoulder. I was equally amazed at Woodward's insistence on protecting the man's identity. Once Nixon and his cronies were deposed, what could harm the man? Naive, I know, but a teenager's understanding is by definition limited.

As I grew older, I became comfortable with the idea of a Deep Throat source. I was able to see this man more as a means to an end that ultimately helped this country by forcing it to examine its leadership with ever-larger microscopes. No longer can a sitting president work in a vacuum and assume that no one will ever be the wiser. One never knows just how loyal his minions really are.

So, to have Deep Throat identified after all these years has actually burst my bubble. Along with the comfort of his anonymity, there was the idea that Deep Throat stands for accountability at all levels of public service. Now, with Deep Throat revealed, the accountability might seem to rest solely on the shoulders of a media who not only have an axe to grind, they've brought the sharpener to the press conferences. Every word uttered by public officials today cannot be taken as intended by the speakers. No, they must be dissected and translated by media scribes so that we simple-minded citizens can understand what was really meant, as opposed to what was said. And Deep Throat will find it harder to operate in secrecy.

With an ever increasing population of bloggists, pundits, and "trained professionals" keeping a collective eye on things, one might think the era of Deep Throat sources is long dead. Still, day after day and year after year, our public "servants" continue to show us the reasons why those sources are still important. It only takes one person who wants truth to come out to point the rest of us in the right direction.

Thank you, Deep Throat, and may you find peace in your sunset. To this new generation of reporters I say: put your training to work. Verify before you publish. Your credibility - and our peace of mind - depend on it.

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