Don’t Ask Government Officials

Government officials shouldn’t be asked because they lie; not always but, depending on who’s asking them about what, quite often. U.S. Presidents, diplomats, and members of Congress lie when asked about war and peace, and many other matters, domestic and foreign. These are government’s “official lies” (http://www.amazon.com/Official-Lies-How-Washington-Misleads/dp/0963270109 ). Churchill was both blunt and accurate when he said: “In wartime, truth [is] protected by a godyguard of lies”. Jeremy Harding, writing in the London Review of Books (3/7/13, p. 11), describes lying by a British covert unit, Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II: “SOE’s forward base in southern Italy . . . fak[ed] messages from missing British liason officers to keep up morale at home. . . . Shortly, secret services on both sides of the Iron Curtain would hone the arts of lying”. Governors, mayors, as well as bureau chiefs, commissioners, and career administrators lie. To be sure, lying is not limited to American government–it’s the norm in all regimes. As Izzy Stone pointed out some time ago: “all governments are run by liars”. Although it’s widely recognized that government officials lie, they’re continuously interviewed, polled, and sent questionnaires by book and magazine article writers, TV and radio talk show hosts, newspaper and TV reporters, and by social and in-name-only-“scientists” (scientists don’t ask, except sometimes, “What’s for dinner?”). Thereby all sorts of misinformation, disinformation, spins, and deceptions, pollute the content of the media.

Don’t ask government officials–or anyone else!–if you want to find out what’s really going on. That’s the theme of my book, The Problem with Survey Research (http://www.transactionpub.com/title/The-Problem%20with%20Survey%20Research-978-1-4128-4603-5.html?srchprod=1). If others ask government officials, ignore the answers and observe what govenment officials and their organizations DO. As we all know, actions speak louder than words.

About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
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