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“Post Truth” Vs. Documents and Scholarship

Posted on

Friday, December 1, 2017 - 1:48pm

by

Amy E. Gibson

 

Scholars and journalists may have to push, but our government agencies, through government documents, challenge the “post-truth” era by demonstrating that reliable information is available and that when we are wrong, we as a country do not let misdeeds and cover-ups rule our history. 

 
 

Governments can lie. Nixon did not seek the necessary approval from Congress to bomb Cambodia and tried to conceal the bombing from the American public and Congress. There are recordings of Nixon in his office discussing the secret bombings as heard in the PBS documentary The Vietnam War. The evidence of Nixon’s lie comes from recordings he and other presidents made in the Oval Office. As soon as the National Archives unsealed the presidential recordings from the Oval Office, scholars were the first in to listen to unprecedented access to history—made available by federal government information.

 

Want to hear Nixon’s voice? Or Ross Barnett and President Kennedy talking about James Meredith on the phone? The University Libraries subscribes to the Presidential Recording Digital Edition database.

Governments can lie, but through U.S. government agencies, we have direct access to information that serves to inform our ideas. For example, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports have been used since 1975 to help lawmakers and voters to make sense of the economic ramifications of legislation.

We can rely on government information because our nation has watchdog agencies like CBO to safeguard against political machinations in order to provide transparent information for our scholars, citizens and policy makers.

The “CBO is strictly nonpartisan; conducts objective, impartial analysis; and hires its employees solely on the basis of professional competence without regard to political affiliation. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate summarizes the methodology underlying the analysis.” About the CBO

 

Scholars further contribute to the objectivity and transparency of government information through scholarly research. Economists have written about the CBO in scholarly articles, examining, for example, if CBO past projections were accurate. See our EconLit subscription for over 400 articles published from 1979 to the present about the Congressional Budget Office.

 

 

Manuel Noriega (right) pictured with then Vice President George H.W. Bush (second right).

Government information is also used to expose past lies: my white whale is the CIA-Contra issue. As a high school student in the 1980s, I opposed U.S. intervention in Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Now the exposé of how the U.S. funneled drugs into our country and sold guns to Iran is available through government documents on the CIA’s website, “The Contra Story.”

Netflix’s Narcos has brought renewed interest to the topic and is great entertainment loosely based on fact. I am grateful for Carol Anderson’s summary of the Iran-Contra scandal in her book White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and, of course, her bibliography’s citation of the CIA website.

Additional titles in our library about the Iran-Contra Affair


 

Protesters against U.S. interventionist policy in Latin America

Scholars and journalists may have to push, but our government agencies, through government documents, challenge the “post-truth” era by demonstrating that reliable information is available and that when we are wrong, we as a country do not let misdeeds and cover-ups rule our history.

 

 

Federal Depository Libraries make content published by the U.S. government available for free use by the general public including all people in their relevant region and Congressional District. The University of Mississippi Libraries have been a U.S. Federal Depository Library since 1883. This guide is a gateway to the U.S. Federal Documents collection held by UM Libraries and related resources.