Peter Espeut | Today's big lies
I enjoyed the Gleaner editorial on Tuesday (May 2, 2017) titled 'Reprising the big lie technique' because it does seem to explain the capture by Donald Trump of the hearts and minds of many US voters. The term was coined by Adolf Hitler, not to describe his own propaganda strategy that assisted him to declare World War II, but to blame the Jews for Germany's loss in World War I, and to justify his subsequent genocide of six million Jews, 10.5 million Slavs, and more than half a million Gypsies.
In his 1925 book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler defined the 'big lie technique' as the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously". The principle is sometimes translated and abbreviated as: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."
In its editorial last Tuesday, The Gleaner asserted (and I agree): "The use of the colossal lie as an instrument of politics didn't die with Hitler and Goebbels and their Third Reich. Indeed, the big lie technique is enjoying not only resurgence, but is gaining hold in societies where it might have been presumed to be anathema: liberal democracies that are best sustained by serious ideas contending within a thoughtful, normative frame."
As contemporary examples of the big lie technique, The Gleaner has in mind the far right-wing ideas of Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Donald Trump "that have been welcomed into the political mainstream". And they may well be right. These ideas do not stand up to intellectual rigour, and may, in fact, be anti-intellectual. The editorial asserts: "It is an approach that can be successful with an absence of a serious dialogue and sublimation of ideas and, ultimately, truth."
But there are other big lies that abound in modern so-called liberal democracies that we need to expose and resist. We can easily recognise these big lies as propaganda because they are often repeated, and no matter how often they are challenged and refuted, their proponents refuse to enter into "serious dialogue". These propagandists really do believe that you must "make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it".
The first example of a modern big lie I want to give is the propaganda slogan: "A woman has a right to choose what do with her own body" as a justification of the modern genocide that is abortion. No matter how often you point out that the foetus growing in the womb is not part of the mother's body, the pro-abortion lobby shout the big lie all the more!
Foetuses have different DNA from their parents, because they are different human beings. And the blood circulating through the heart and veins of the foetus does not mix with the blood flowing through the veins of the mother; in fact, their blood types may even be different!
A woman may have the right to bleach her skin and tattoo and pierce parts of her own body, but she does not have the right to kill the foetus in her womb because it is not part of her own body. It is a separate human being possessing the human right to life!
But the proponents of this big lie will not discuss the facts; they just continue to repeat their lie, confident that modern anti-intellectual people will believe it.
Another big lie so often repeated is that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people are 'born that way', and therefore being LGBT is 'natural' and 'normal'. The only way for people to be born that way is if LGBT behaviour has a genetic basis.
For decades, scientists have been searching for a gay gene to support this hypothesis. Every gene on every chromosome of the human genome has been put under the electron microscope, but no evidence of any gay gene has been found. [Epigenetics does not count; environmental factors are at work in this phenomenon].
On the other hand, there is no shortage of psychosocial explanations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender behaviour. The fact is that LGBT persons are made, not born. But the facts won't stop this big lie from being repeated.
The Gleaner editor is right: The big lie is undergoing a resurgence as a propaganda tool in today's battle for hearts and minds. We fight lies with truth, but in the absence of serious dialogue and debate, the lies may become mainstream!
- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to email@example.com.