As soon as I read The Daily Beast story about Facebook’s alleged smear (whisper) campaign against Google, I immediately thought of the scene in “All The President’s Men” with all the newspaper editors sitting around deciding which stories to run the next day.
When Watergate is brought up, there is stiff resistance from a couple of the editors.
This scene (replacing ‘Watergate’ with ‘Facebook’) could easily have played out at The Daily Beast with the change of a few words in the screenplay:
INT. THE DAILY BEAST – BUDGET MEETING
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: Let me tell you what happened when I was having lunch today at Locanda Verde–
TINA BROWN: Correction – when you were drinking your lunch at the bar of Locanda Verde–
The room erupts in laughter.
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: –this Facebook guy, a good one, a pro, came up and asked what is the “Google smear” compulsion with you guys and I said, well, we think it’s important and he said, if it’s so goddamn important, who the hell is Dan Lyons?
INNOVATION EDITOR: Fake Steve Jobs for one – but I digress. Ask him what he’s really saying – he means to take the story away from Dan Lyons and give it to his people at the Sexy Beast.
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: Well, I’ve got some pretty experienced people sitting around, wouldn’t you say so?
INNOVATION EDITOR: Absolutely, and that’s all they do, sit sit sit – every once in a while they reprint Michael Arrington, some reporting–
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: Well, what if Dan Lyons get it wrong–
TINA BROWN: Then it’s Barry Diller’s ass, isn’t it? And we’ll all have to go work for a living.
The room clears, only a couple of Editors and Tina Brown stay behind:
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: I don’t think we should cover this story, period.
TINA BROWN: Go on.
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: It’s not that we’re using unnamed sources that bothers me, or that everything we print Facebook denies.
TINA BROWN: What then?
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: I don’t believe the goddamn story, Tina, it doesn’t make sense.
TINA BROWN: It will, it just hasn’t bottomed out yet, give it time.
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: Look, why would Facebook do it? My God, Google is self-destructing before our eyes – just like MySpace did, Friendster, the bunch of ’em. Why would Burson-Marsteller send emails to bloggers urging them to write negative stories about Google, unless they wanted to get caught? Why would Burson go to Politico, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, unless they wanted to get caught?
TINA BROWN: Are you saying Google started a whisper campaign against itself?
SEXY BEAST EDITOR: Jill Kennedy at OnMedea thinks it’s possible – Google needs some positive press, corruption’s always a good one. Get off the story, Tina – or put some people on Google’s public relations team – fair is fair, even in our business.
Hey, we’re early enough in this conspiracy where all theories are in play.
Jill Kennedy – OnMedea
Click here to read the scene from the original script of “All The President’s Men”