10 Ways Watergate May Have Been Different with the Internet

We are often curious about how – or even if - historical events might have played out had they occurred in the internet age. Social media, YouTube and instant updates via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are just a few of the factors that might have altered history if only they were around at the time. For all its influence on how news is disseminated, though, is the internet also capable of changing how it is made? Let’s use Watergate as an example, and look at ten realistic ways in which it the Watergate events may have been different with the internet:

  1. One undeniable by-product of the internet age is a reduced attention span among the vast majority of its users. The 24-hour news cycle that was born with the ‘net wears out stories quickly. It’s entirely possible that the public might have grown weary of the scandal before it ever even got a chance to fully break.
  2. Anonymous sources like Deep Throat might have taken to social media profiles to leak their info rather than meeting with investigative reporters. This could have broken the news faster, but the credibility factor might have kept it from fully developing.
  3. Public perceptions would likely be molded on a daily basis via Twitter accounts, as well as the political slants that many blogs and news outlets would bring to the story. The polarizing effect of these forces might have kept the impeachment process from ever getting started.
  4. It’s extremely unlikely that a scandal of such scope would be handled exclusively by just a handful of journalists. The sheer number of news sites and blogs covering the story would lead to questions about the credibility of sources.
  5. Absent a strong media or public consensus about the findings, it would be a lot easier for President Nixon et al to refute them, and wriggle free of being directly implicated.
  6. The ability to use the internet for campaigning might have rendered the need to spy on the Democratic Party headquarters a moot point for the Republicans. In which case, Watergate might never have happened at all.
  7. Frank Wills, the security guard who reported the burglary, thereby breaking the story, might very well have been surfing the internet that night on his iPad and never seen the break-in. We know, we’ve done it.
  8. For that matter, the conspirators could have opted to hack into the Democratic Party’s website rather than attempt an old-fashioned burglary. In that case, it’s possible that a trail leading back to the conspirators would never have been found.
  9. With the options of using email, Skype, video chats, etc., it might have been a lot harder to find evidence implicating the conspirators. Evidence like audio tapes, address books and personal notes would probably not exist in the digital age.
  10. The advent of the internet signified the beginning of the end for many newspapers and also resulted in the downsizing of news staffs everywhere. We wonder if there might not have been enough good journalists around to sniff out the story.
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