There is a well-known propaganda technique known as "The Big Lie". First coined by Adolph Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, and later adopted as a philosophy by the propaganda wing of the Nazi party, it describes the technique whereby a false statement is repeated so often, by so many people, that those who hear or read it become convinced that no one could possibly be making it up. Put another way, if you tell a lie enough times and with enough emphasis, people begin to think that what you are saying is true, regardless of what you say.
This practice has continued throughout history. Politicians, military leaders, clergymen, business leaders, and even whole countries use the technique on an alarmingly regular basis. And while sometimes--although not very often--it is used with the best of intentions, we are all aware of the composition of the asphalt that paves the road to Hell.
Follow me down a different road for some further thoughts.
I am personally loath to compare any person or group to the Nazis. I know how casually such comparisons are tossed around these days. So before anyone can accuse this humble diarist of making a similar comparison, please understand that what I said in the first paragraph was strictly for informational purposes. Besides, while Hitler may have been the first to give name to the technique, this was certainly not the first time it was used. Nor was it the last by any stretch of the imagination.
Perhaps the most prominent offenders today are the holocaust deniers. These are the people who claim, over and over again, to anyone who will listen, that the wholesale slaughter of six million Jews during World War 2 never happened, despite mountains upon mountains of evidence of it. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, they continue to repeat the same lies. These lies are repeated so often, and by so many people, that other people start to think that there must be a grain of truth to them. And so the lie is perpetuated.
Another good example of TBL is the myth of the so-called "Liberal Media" bias. This began to take firm hold in the early 90's during the Clinton years (although it may have had its real genesis during the Watergate investigations), and it continues to this day. Despite study after study proving conclusively that no such bias exists (and, if anything, the exact opposite is true), conservatives simply drag out this lie any time coverage of a news story portrays them unfavorably. The traditional media's typical reaction to this is to immediately back off or soften their coverage so as not to perpetuate The Lie.
But perhaps the most glaring example we are seeing today is the entire Republican Presidential campaign. The Romney campaign, from the day he sealed the nomination (and perhaps before that) has been built around the philosophy of one Big Lie after another. Let's take a look at a few examples.
"If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." By now, I'm sure everyone is familiar with this quote by President Obama. What most people are less familiar with, however, is the full context of that quote. Here is the full text of the part of the President's speech from Roanoke, Virginia, from which this quote is drawn:
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.There you have it. Just two sentences. 14 words, culled from a 330 word speech. Taken completely out of context, slapped into TV ads, direct mail, and even made the central theme of the Republican convention. The Romney campaign uses this out-of-context quote repeatedly to try to convince voters that the President is a pro-government, anti-business politician, who believes no business can succeed without government aid. Fact checkers of every variety have labeled this claim false, and yet the lie continues to be perpetuated.
Let's move on to the next example.
On September 11th, eleven years to the day after the disastrous attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, protestors, likely angered by the release on YouTube of a trailer for a ridiculous amateur movie that mocks the Prophet Muhammad, attacked American embassies in both Egypt and Libya. In Egypt the protests were limited to angry shouts, rock throwing, graffiti, and scaling of the embassy walls to replace the American flag hanging with an Islamic one. In Libya, however, the protests, which may well have been cover for a more sinister plot, turned violent, as armed men stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, destroying the building and killing the U.S. ambassador and three other diplomatic personnel.
Almost at the same time this was happening, the American embassy in Egypt released a series of short statements via Twitter calling for calm and declaring firmly that they rejected "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.'
The Obama Administration quickly distanced itself from these statements. The Romney campaign, however, immediately seized on them, declaring in a statement released at 10:24 p.m. on September 11th, "It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." This was almost immediately followed by RNC chairman Reince Priebus Tweeting, "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."
Please note two things: At the time those two statements had been released, no deaths of embassy personnel in Libya had been confirmed, and no statement had been issued by the White House of any kind. Romney and the RNC were literally putting words in the President's mouth.
Later the next day, Romney doubled down on The Lie, saying the statements released by the Egyptian embassy were like an apology from the Obama Administration. This was still 20 minutes before the President would make any sort of official statement on the matter. And, when he did, he condemned the attacks in no uncertain words and called for justice to be done on the perpetrators of the violence.
Romney did not let up, however, insisting that the President was apologizing for offending the Muslim world. Keep in mind that neither the President, nor the embassy for that matter, had issued any form of apology. Romney's attacks continued, and not only by Romney but also by Romney campaign surrogates. Meanwhile, violent attacks against American diplomatic properties continued across the Middle East and in Afghanistan. However, the story dominating the traditional media was that the President had apologized for offending Muslims. The "liberal media" had fallen for The Big Lie once again.
These are, of course, only a couple of examples, but they are prominent ones. There are many others too numerous to list here.
Now, I am the first to admit that Romney isn't the first Republican to use TBL to get what he wanted. Less than a decade ago, George W. Bush justified the invasion and occupation of Iraq based on not one but TWO Big Lies: That Saddam Hussein was partly to blame for the September 11th attacks (he wasn't) and that Iraq was building Weapons of Mass Destruction (It wasn't).
And this is my biggest problem with TBL: It hurts people. Lots of them. A lot. And the Romney campaign is making it the basis of their campaign. One of their pollsters, Neil Newhouse, even admitted before the Republican convention that they were "...not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
The Romney Campaign is the Campaign of The Big Lie. And anyone who thinks that a Romney Administration would be any different is fooling themselves.