Morris: Tracking ‘the Big Lie’
All this mindless partisan taunting across the political divide really is becoming tiresome, isn’t it?
If there is a hint of fresh air in the garbage heap known as social media, it is the occasional sign that the snarkers themselves might wearying of the game.
Consider the recent Big Lie goof by hapless Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas.
He thought it would be a hoot to take a swipe at Democrats about all the misleading nonsense he detected in Washington these days, so he played the always handy taint-them-with-the-Nazis smear.
He posted this ubiquitous call-out to Nazi propagandizing on his Facebook page:
Joseph Goebbels: On the “Big Lie”
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
The reaction was swift and predictable.
“After running against Jim Lucas for a while now, it’s hard to surprise me anymore,” said his Democratic legislative opponent Chad Harmon. “This is a sitting Indiana state representative quoting a Nazi.”
“We are shocked and horrified that an Indiana lawmaker would make such a statement about Hitler’s chief architect and purveyor of hate speech, ultimately leading to the murder of over 6 million Jews in the Holocaust,” said a response from the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center. “Hate propaganda was the driving force behind the Holocaust, and these seeds of hate are being planted today in the United States.”
Various news outlets, who troll social media for outrage these days rather than actually reporting news, duly reported the controversy and quoted both sides, usually without context, background or any hint of analysis. Lucas took down the quote and made the obligatory tour of the Holocaust museum without actually apologizing, and an editorial cited “the gravity of his irresponsibility.”
Now, anybody with two brain cells left knows Lucas was not praising the Nazis. He was using them to make a political point about the dangers of the truth getting buried under believable lies. Naturally, it’s the other side guilty of that, not his side. And when those at the Holocaust museum rail about hate speech, it is fair to presume they don’t think it’s liberal Democrats who are spreading it.
Mu usual reaction to such a contretemps is that all involved are either rather dim, in which case they should not be believed, or deliberately trying to mislead us, in which case they should not be trusted.
But I sense a third option here. It was all so perfunctory, as if they were just going through the motions, and the controversy seemed to blaze and then die so quickly. Might they be at the point when they’re finally seeing the futility of endless take-no-prisoners venom?
Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
The funny thing about the whole fiasco is that Goebbels almost certainly never said such a thing in the first place – you can find the quote on hundreds of thousands of Web pages, but never with the citation of a source.
And why would he say it? Propagandists always insist they’re telling the truth and their enemies aren’t. Why would you brag about being the purveyor of a Big Lie?
Adolf Hitler himself concocted the idea of the Big Lie, but aimed it at Jews, whom he blamed for trying to discredit German activity during World War I, using it as an excuse for his insane attempt to eradicate them. And when Goebbels referred to the concept, he was accusing the British, specifically “Churchill’s lie factory,” of lying big and sticking to it, “even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
Try this as an experiment.
If I said, “Tell me about the Trump Big Lie,” what would your reaction be?
My guess is that a great number of you would immediately think of the Big Lie, concocted by Democrats and spread by their allies in the media, that Trump conspired with Russians to steal the 2016 election. And another great number would think of the Great Lie, concocted by Trump and spread by his allies in the media, that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Or perhaps I’m being too cynical and most of you are getting tired of the nonsense, too.
Personally, if I wanted to stir people up about truth and lies and the reality that always seems just out of reach, I wouldn’t throw out a false Joseph Goebbels quote. I would choose a fake quote from Mark Twain, who never, not once in his whole life, said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” despite what Google might have told you.
Maybe he should have. He wrote good, honest fiction that didn’t pretend to be anything else.
There is more to say, but it occurs to me I should make plans. I need to call a lawyer, make sure my sidewalk is clear for the all the protesters and store up my social-media-response energy.
I can see it coming: Insensitive, irresponsible columnist downplays Holocaust and defends infamous Nazi.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.