The “big lie” is a propaganda technique linked to the Third Reich under Joseph Goebbels. The phrase itself was coined by Hitler in Mein Kampf; it was amplified years later by Goebbels, who generally gets credit for it (if credit is the right word). Goebbels claimed that the inspiration came from across the Channel: “The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it.” The Third Reich is long gone, but the “big lie” lives on.
The latest American exemplar is Governor Paul LePage (R-ME), who used his weekly radio address to call the Internal Revenue Service “the new Gestapo” for standing ready to collect the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act. Never mind that the mandate was introduced in Massachusetts by Governor Mitt Romney, soon to be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney; never mind that the mandate, though now ruled constitutional, doesn’t go into effect until 2014; it’s never too soon for the “big lie”.
LePage’s comment caused such a kerfuffle that he was driven to issue one of those boilerplate non-apology apologies: “It was not my intent to insult anyone,” LePage said in a statement, “especially the Jewish community.” It was apparently just fine, however, to slur and demean the I.R.S. by likening it to Hitler’s murdering secret police. And of course the non-retraction gave the governor one more chance to repeat and embellish the “big lie.”
“We are no longer a free people,” LePage said. “With every step that Obamacare moves forward, our individual freedoms are being stripped away by the federal government.” Our freedoms are being stripped away? The freedom to be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition? The freedom to go bankrupt paying for healthcare? The freedom to worry oneself sick about losing a job, knowing that should it happen the family’s health insurance could simply disappear?
The No. 1 “big lie,” relentlessly flogged, holds that the Affordable Care Act turns healthcare over to the federal government. The truth is almost the polar opposite; from the beginning, the liberal Left has hammered Obama over healthcare—first for the legislation’s huge concession to Big Pharma, then for drafting a reform dependent in every meaningful way on private insurance companies. Liberals always craved—and still crave—a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system.
Consider how perfectly the healthcare falsehoods that permeate the media meet the “big lie” criteria laid out in Mein Kampf:
“In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they 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 would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”In Germany, and in every developed country in the world except the United States, all citizens are covered under universal healthcare programs. In Germany, and in every developed country other than America, healthcare is delivered for lower costs, often considerably lower, and with better outcomes.
Paul LePage’s obituary will likely include his “big lie” comparing the I.R.S. to Hitler’s Gestapo. The governor should also be remembered, hardly fondly, for using “big lies” to propagandize Americans against decent healthcare as a right for all citizens.
This piece originally appeared online in the Baltimore Chronicle (under a different headline) and at BuzzFlash/truthout.