Friday, December 06, 2013

Die Große Lüge (The Big Lie)

"the relentless decades long trend . . . is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American. That’s why I ran for president. It was the center of last year’s campaign. It drives everything I do in this office."

--Barack Obama, 12.4.13

What an odd “defining challenge,” given that American inequality, as we have documented, has risen to new heights under Obama. Does he really believe the public will swallow such words?

Hitler (r.) with Ludendorff
“The Big Lie” is an epithet carelessly hurled at anyone who tells “big lies.” But the term has real history. Adolf HItler first used Die Große Lüge in Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), published in 1925:
the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature . . . 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.
Hitler wrote that the “Big Lie” was Jews attributing Germany’s World War I defeat to Gen. Erich Ludendorff, who was de facto dictator of Germany at the end of the war, then part of the failed 1923 Munich Putsch that landed Hitler in the prison where he wrote Mein Kampf.   For us, the irony is that Mein Kampf perpetuates Hitler’s own “Big Lie” that a “stab in the back” by Jews and leftists at home (a concept linked to Ludendorff) had defeated an intact German army. (The army did surrender on foreign soil and march home in orderly fashion.)

“The Big Lie” is real. Robert Conquest, the famed British historian of Stalinism in Soviet Russia, wrote in The Harvest of Sorrow (1986) about Stalin’s coverup of his destruction of richer peasants in 1930-37, when 14.5 million died:
Stalin had a profound understanding of the possibilities of what Hitler approvingly calls the Big Lie. He knew that even though the truth may be readily available, the deceiver need not give up. He saw that flat denial on the one hand, and the injection into the pool of information of a corpus of positive falsehood on the other, were sufficient to confuse the issue for the passively instructed foreign audience, and to induce acceptance of the Stalinist version by those actively seeking to be deceived.
One need not be a mass murderer to tell a “Big Lie.” It’s more about having a low enough opinion of the masses to believe that bigger lies are more likely to succeed, at least over time. Rising inequality is overcome by preaching equality. Dropping sanctions against Iran prevents Tehran from going nuclear. Forcing middle class households out of health care plans to fund medical care for others is compatible with saying “you will keep your plan, period.”

The “Big Lie” in America today is that our ruling class puts the people's interests ahead of its own. The “big truth” is that propaganda serves those in power. As Thomas Sowell of Stanford’s Hoover Institution writes:
Those who want to "spread the wealth" almost invariably seek to concentrate the power. It happens too often, and in too many different countries around the world, to be a coincidence. Which is more dangerous, inequalities of wealth or concentrations of power?
Conservative Jonah Goldberg, in USA Today, provides a specific look at how our leaders manipulate a specific interest group--women:
By what right are liberals seeking to impose their values on everyone else? Isn't that something they denounce conservatives for? They could have allowed for [Obamacare] plans that exclude controversial forms of birth control — or even uncontroversial ones — which would have lowered premium costs and expanded health care coverage to more poor people. But Democrats wanted a wedge issue to drum up a new battle in the culture war.
We are seeing some evidence, however, that in fact you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. As former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen put it in the Washington Post, “Americans are not just angry about a broken Web site; they are angry about a broken promise.”

Jonathan Tobin in the conservative journal Commentary reminds us:
Anyone who underestimates the president’s still potent powers of persuasion is making a mistake. It’s also probably foolish to think that the mainstream media that has gone off the reservation in recent months won’t respond to Obama’s planned three-week-long dog-and-pony show as they always did before he was mired in a spate of second-term scandals and disasters.
 But Tobin, like Thiessen, does believe that no “Big Lie” is going to work this time:
actually once a president’s mendacity has been exposed . . . his credibility can’t be recaptured. At this point, presidential salesmanship should be regarded as a depreciating asset rather than a magic political bullet. [Also,] blaming the GOP for sabotaging ObamaCare is a thesis so patently absurd that even most of the liberal media has trouble swallowing it.
Actually though, you can fool some of the people all the time. The unknown is how many equals “some”? Enough for a majority?

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