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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 24, September 27, 1976.

All the President's Men

All the President's Men

Just as Grand Prix bred its crop of racing drivers, and Downhill Racer nurtured countless skiing enthusiasts, so All the President's Men will inspire thousands of starry-eyed romantics to head for the world of investigative reporting.

The Watergate Affair meant many things for many people (eg for Richard Nixon it was one long pain in the arse), but for newspaper and magazine journalists it meant a reassurance in their power to influence the highest echelons of power and consequently change society. For the people reading the newspapers it was a reaffirmation of the "freedom" enjoyed by every American citizen, especially the freedom to write and publish "the truth".

Articles appearing in newspapers and magazines in every corner of the Western world have applauded the efforts of the Washington Star and reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for defying the White House and other sources of authority in publishing the corruption and lies that were behind the actions of the American leaders in the 1972 election campaign.

Warner Brothers, the great upholders of all that is good and pure in the American way of life, have turned Bernstein and Woodward into cult figures with a film that mystifies audiences everywhere as to the true nature of American society.

Bernstein and Woodward are on the bottom of the reporters' heap - Bernstein about to be sacked, and Woodward confined to stories appearing on page 32. They are the ones who get "the right break" and fairly soon they are sitting on the top - a symbol to all Americans of how anyone can make it if they try hard enough.

And Woodward and Bernstein do try. They pursue every lead they find, eventually uncovering all the Watergate mess and exposing Nixon as being at the centre of the whole conspiracy.

But while we reamin tied up in the adventure story of uncovering the Watergate conspiracy, we forget that in forcing Nixon to resign American society has not radically changed. It has become too emharassing for a fool like Nixon to hold the presidential office, and so he is replaced with Gerald Ford, who hopefully will be able to tidy up any mess a little better.

During the course of the film neither of the reporters question what they are trying to achieve by exposing the Watergate conspiracy. Are they trying to show that people are oppressed by corrupt politicians or that American society is fundamentally based at all levels on the use of money and power for personal ends? I would suggest they are tyring to do the first, believing that they have a duty as reporters to expose corrupt politicians so that they can be replaced by other honest people. They never think about the second alternative.

Apart from the rank ideological nature of the film's content and direction, the various events alluded to would only be known by persons who had followed the Watergate revelations as they came out. During the first night's screen in Wellington many people walked out before the end, probably because they were bored with a story that they couldn't follow nor were particularly interested in. If we ignored the content and direction of the film, it would pass off as a fairly mediocre documentary. If anyone thought it was anything more, then you must be so far into the convulsions of the American state machine, that you can't see the effects that it is having on the real world.

— John Ryall.