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What we knew and how we knew it

July 11, 2007

Re "Nixon's library to go by the book," July 8

The exhibit displaying Nixon's distorted view of Watergate has been destroyed. This is a loss. Today, conspiracy theories proliferate using advanced multimedia technologies and support from fringe "experts" to gain a false credibility. From global warming to Sept. 11, dubious alternative explanations penetrate even the highest levels of the academic ivory tower. The former Watergate display at the Nixon library could have served as a monument to such theories, blessed by its chief proponent.

Juxtaposed by hard evidence of Nixon's involvement, this relic would provide a powerful lesson, a place where the public could learn about methods used to manipulate and omit information and the mangled conclusions that result. The curator, Timothy Naftali, took detailed photos of this relic before its destruction. I hope that its replacement not only gives a balanced view of the scandal but uses information from its predecessor to detail how distorted views can penetrate even the mainstream media.

The anatomy of Watergate may provide for a fascinating exhibit that will educate people about a critical time in American history. But the anatomy of a conspiracy theory could teach us all how to be better citizens who engage in a more informed, honest debate.

SEAN JEFFRIES

Palo Alto

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Re "Exorcising Nixon's ghost," Opinion, July 9

David Greenberg writes, "We can be confident that Nixon's ghost is not coming back." I doubt that very much. As long as there are people like the professor and politicians and leaders who make hay by writing about Nixon and love to proclaim that they are more virtuous than Nixon, Nixon will always be resurrected.

CATALINO T. RIBAC

Encino

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