Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Watergate Break-In Turns 40 in May -- Celebrate with The Beastie Boys

The break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on May 28, 1972, was the beginning of a series of events that would culminate in the eventual resignation of then-president Richard M. Nixon -- the first time a sitting had U.S. president had resigned from the office.
Bob Woodward's Washington Post article on the 2nd, June 17, 1972 Watergate break-in.
From ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Since that time, not only has "Watergate" become an adjective synonymous with government corruption, but the standard -- and the standard journalistic phrase -- against which every subsequent presidential scandal is measured. Whether it has been William Clinton's "Lewinsky-gate,"  Hilary Clinton's "Whitewater," Ronald Reagan's "October Surprise,"  or George W. Bush's quest for the "weapons of mass destruction" that initiated the war in Iraq, every political journalist has aspired to uncover a story with as much staying power and cultural impact as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate.

The original cover to the 1974 book.
Wikipedia offers an excellent brief summary of the events and repercussions stemming from the Watergate scandal, and reading the piece offers the opportunity to gauge the weight of events that have become, to a modern audience, commonplace examples of government corruption.  But the writing that broke the story was the investigative journalism of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for The Washington Post, later re-purposed for a book and film treatment:  All The President's Men.

In a stroke of more cross-cultural brilliance, Vimeo user Jeff Yorke has taken the tense pace of the 1974 film and married it to a soundtrack that speaks to empowerment in the face in injustice, the 1994 track from The Beastie Boys: "Sabotage."  (This video should be played in full-screen mode with the volume up loud to full understand the power of the Fourth Estate.)

Read more about it!
If you are interested in the rich history of the Watergate affair, its effect on contemporary journalism, or how it changed the political climate of the United States perhaps forever, there are a wealth of primary sources and compiled documents relating to the scandal available at Norlin Library, as well as dozens of secondary histories.

The book "All the President's Men," co-authored by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, is available at Norlin Library, as is the screenplay of the film, authored by well-known Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman.  The 1976 film is available through Prospector.  Norlin does hold the 2008 film, Frost/Nixon, which dramatizes Nixon's famous remark "that when the President does it, it's not illegal."

The Gerald R. Ford Library & Museum Web site offers an expansive timeline of events, from the May 28, 1972 burglary of the DNC headquarters through to President Gerald Ford's pardon of the disgraced Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974.

Playable audio files and transcripts of the Nixon White House tapes and the Watergate Trial tapes are available from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum Web site.

Clearly, this massive topic can be explored, recreated, and remixed in any number of ways.  But mapping it all to The Beastie Boys is a bit of creative genius*.

*The Beastie Boys video came to our attention via a tip by an investigative internet user in Arlington, Va., Sarah Mercure. Thanks for the suggestion, Sarah!

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