The Big Lie was a propaganda technique used with terrifying effectiveness by the Nazis in shifting the blame for Germany’s loss in World War I to the Jews. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Hitler turned the technique on its head, stating continuously that the Big Lie had been used by “the Jews” to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German general Erich Ludendorff. But, of course, it was Hitler himself who perfected the use of the Big Lie with tragic effect.
As used in propaganda, the Big Lie was inspired by the principle -which is quite true within itself- that in the Big Lie there is always a certain sense of credibility; because the broad masses are easily corrupted by their emotions and prejudices, consciously or voluntarily. Thus, in the primitive simplicity of their minds, the masses more readily fall victims to the Big Lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters, but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
It should be apparent that the principle of the Big Lie is that the public is both stupid and gullible. Unfortunately, this turned out to be true far too often.
All of this resonates in the events of today. Sadly, by continuously attacking on the media for it supposed fabrication of “fake news” Trump may have found his inspiration in Mein Kamph.
If anyone is guilty of fabricating fake news, it is President Donald Trump himself.
The president wrote on Thursday October 5, 2017: “Why isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in our country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!”
The straight-forward answer is that the news is not “made up.” Trump clearly is lashing out about accurate news coverage that he despises because it casts him in an unfavorable light. But there is something far more sinister here than merely counteracting negative publicity for Trump.
The purpose of his “fake news” campaign is his attempt to de-legitimize the press corps. He frequently alleges that news is fake when the coverage isn’t as positive as he wants it to be. But his most recent tweet -actually calling for a Senate investigation- goes far beyond what he has ever written or spoken before. It is essentially an attack on the free press that effectively calls the official branches of government to account. Its role is essential to American democracy, as is the First Amendment itself. The “fake news” libel constitutes an attack on the foundation of American democracy.
“This is the kind of statement one expects to hear from a despot, not from an American president… The free press is a pillar of our democracy, not a threat to it,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “
Calling on the intelligence committee to investigate the press is particularly absurd. That committee was established after the national-security abuses of the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s to help ensure that the government’s national security policies don’t compromise constitutional freedoms — including the freedom of the press.”
The truth — as so many fact checks have shown — is that the biggest manufacturer of “fake news” is Donald Trump. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, Trump has made 1,145 false or misleading claims in his first 232 days in office. That’s 4.9 false or misleading statements per day.
As noted by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large:
“Trump’s casual relationship with the truth makes his calls for the legislative branch to investigate the allegedly “fake news” industry all the more outlandish. Yes, the media — including me — do occasionally get things wrong. But, in virtually every case, those mistakes are honest ones — slip-ups made in an honest pursuit of the truth. And, when an error is found, steps are made to publicly remedy the mistake to keep misinformation from seeping into the public’s consciousness.
Can Trump say the same? The answer, of course, is no. He not only spreads falsehoods but does so long after it’s become clear that what he is saying is simply not true.”
Let me make this as clear as daylight: Fake News = The Big Lie. The methodology is identical. Trump’s continuous dismissal and distortion of actual news as fake is inspired by Mein Kamph, if not consciously, then certainly by imitation.
Common sense should tell us that Big Lies should be recognized as fabrications, but Hitler knew otherwise. I am not going so far as to suggest that Trump is a Hitler impersonator, but I believe the comparison of the Big Lie to False News is completely valid.
Trump knows full well that what he calls “fake news” essentially is “bad news” for him. So he is resorting to what worked so well in the past for the most successful propagandists of all time, to the detriment of the entire world.
The Big Lie was maniacally effective. It contributed directly to the destruction of the Jewish people, and to World War II itself. The Nazis knew full well that what they claimed about the Jews was completely false, but it worked. Let us hope that it will not work again. We must fortify ourselves to make sure of it.
The very fabric on American democracy depends on it.