Another Big Lie.
September 5, 2002 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Another Big Lie. "The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), German dictator. Mein Kampf, vol. 1, ch. 10 (1925)" There are Big Lies all around us. We seem to prefer to turn away from them, to dismiss the believers as harmless deluded fools. But doesn't that just make it worse?
posted by Cerebus (28 comments total)
I call Godwin on this thread! ;-)
posted by i_cola at 10:34 AM on September 5, 2002

For those who don't know: Godwin's Law.

This thread is going to be ugly.
posted by Samsonov14 at 10:48 AM on September 5, 2002

"So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do"- Benjamin Franklin

You could have butt-loads of evidence and some just wont respond. I think the key has to be education from a young age and to change attitudes directly in order for things to become easier to accept.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 10:55 AM on September 5, 2002

Cerebus, are you saying you belive a Jewish conspiracy was behind the WTC Attack?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:59 AM on September 5, 2002

I think the key has to be education from a young age and to change attitudes directly in order for things to become easier to accept.

I totally agree, what you have now is indoctrination from a young age.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:01 AM on September 5, 2002

Not at all. I'm saying that we tend to dismiss people who swallow a Big Lie as deluded, and that seems to me to be irresponsible in a world where acts of mass murder are so easily carried out by so few over beliefs.
posted by Cerebus at 11:02 AM on September 5, 2002

It is interesting that the "big lie" in the muslim world is spread through television, and the internet. What makes that interesting is that the "truth" in the Western world is spread the same way. I like the western truth, I agree with it and believe it, but I'm fully aware that it could be a lie. There is physical proof that the event occurred, but as far as weather muslim extremists did it, or if it was a jewish conspiracy.... well that proof could all have been made up by various media and government types.
posted by Mushkelley at 11:06 AM on September 5, 2002

What a fascinating, frightening principle. Can anyone point to more writings? In particular, I would love to read interviews with folks taken in by a Big Lie.

This would be a great topic for a Studs Turkel collection.
posted by delapohl at 11:09 AM on September 5, 2002

I take Cerebus's question to be: should we go on ignoring as obvious lunatics people (such as Holocaust revisionists and racists in general) whose views are probably much more dangerous and popular than we think?

To take two examples, Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish hatred, using fakes such as The Protocols, is almost par for the course in mainstream Arab media.

The Hitler example, imo, is also well chosen, given that so many, at the outstart, dismissed him as a madman and not worth bothering about.

Now that the paragraphs have been removed by Matt, I have to say Cerebus made a good first post!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:13 AM on September 5, 2002

The "Big Lies" being referred to are actually related. Anybody read "The Beast Reawakens" by Martin A. Lee?

The book goes into great detail about the OSS's role in protecting high-ranking Nazi's who had valuable intelligence about Russia from prosecution after the war. (The OSS became the CIA, of course.)

A great many of these Nazis ended up working as advisers and propagandists for the secret police of many U.S.-friendly dictatorships, including Egypt. I can't remember the specifics, but I believe that the #2 propagandist under Goebbels wound up doing much the same thing for Nasser.
posted by simian at 11:13 AM on September 5, 2002

"People say, 'Yes, you're giving me evidence. But frankly, I don't trust the system. I don't trust the messenger. I don't trust the message. I just don't believe.'"

I know the feeling all too well. It's hard to believe the media when, frankly, it lies a whole lot. We even set up department to promote spun-up media abroad.
posted by zekinskia at 11:13 AM on September 5, 2002

An excellent resource is Haruki Murakami's UNDERGROUND. The first half of the book is comprised of interviews with the victims of the Aum Shinriyko sarin gas attacks in Tokyo, the second half, added later for subsequent Japanese and English (and other) language editions are interviews with Aum members who were involved in the bombings. This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in "what makes a terrorist," and I think that this - and Murakami's book on war atrocities (and many other things), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, should be required reading for anyone growing up - or growing older - in America today.
posted by luriete at 11:15 AM on September 5, 2002

Which Big Lie are we talking about here? It's not necessarily a Nazified discussion; it's any claim huge and scary enough that it's completely outside of people's experience of what "lying" means, and which also plays to peoples' fears and subconscious beliefs. It tends to be made up of many smaller untruths whose refutation are not fatal to the Big Lie itself. Joe McCarthy's claim of Washington being lousy with Commies was a classic use of the BL technique. One by one his examples were refuted, but people were still receptive to the larger idea (for a time).
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2002

The whole idea that "we" (being the US government, Some Agency, or Israel) attacked New York is absurd. The United States Federal government can not keep a secret for shit. A plan as elaborate as it would take to hypothetically attack WTC and cover it up would involve too many people to keep hush hush. Christ, they couldn't even keep it secret that the last president was getting blow jobs by interns, let alone a massive Black Ops like that.

And I personally belive that there is nothing we can do to combat this ignorance in other parts of the world. Those people are raised on a steady diet of hate towards Jews from the their first days. And the only people they hate as much as Jews are Americans. So how is it that we are to convince them?

This is one of the issues at the root of this problem we are facing. Generation have grown up with this hate in them, and there is no foreseeable way to change their mind.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:26 AM on September 5, 2002

stupidsexyFlanders = Best Name Ever!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:28 AM on September 5, 2002

Yeah, it's hard to tell the truth from the lie. That's why we (humanity) came up with the scientific method. It only works to the extent that evidence exists, is accessible, and we interpret it correctly, but it seems to be the best we can do. And even when you have all the evidence, interpretation is still a bitch.
posted by callmejay at 11:35 AM on September 5, 2002

This summer, the House of Representatives passed a $255 million bill aimed at improving America's image abroad. The centerpiece: a new 24-hour Arabic-language satellite television network designed to beam America's message to the Muslim world.

This sounds a bit like Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (this is a book promo site, but it gives a short, useful description of RFE and Radio Liberty).

These were very effective tools during the cold war, but the cultural milieu is so different that I can't help but wonder if this new project will be effective. Anyone have any other good links about the effectiveness of American propaganda in the Islamic world?
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:36 AM on September 5, 2002

Anti-semitic paranoia has a peculiar penchant for sponsoring Big Lies. Perhaps too peculiar...

Television and the internet are no doubt the present-day vectors of the anti-semitism evinced by the belief that Jews conspired to destroy the Towers. But as I noted, the influence of the Nazis continued after the war and had a great impact on the secret police of several arab countries. The introduction of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to the Arab world is directly attributable to the work of the Egyptian Secret Police.

It's one of the more shortsighted things the U.S. ever did, letting so many escape justice. And, I suppose, propping up so many brutal regimes in the Middle East for so long...
posted by simian at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2002

Best Name Ever!

I feel like a woman with a PhD. and a 44D cup*. Stop looking at my name and pay attention to what I say ;)

*I'm not any of these.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:39 AM on September 5, 2002

Joe McCarthy's claim of Washington being lousy with Commies was a classic use of the BL technique. One by one his examples were refuted, but people were still receptive to the larger idea (for a time).

Quite a few still are.
posted by liam at 11:50 AM on September 5, 2002

This is not surprising. How many big lies is the US population swallowing at this very moment? How about the lie that Isreal is defending itself against Palestinean terrorists? Anybody heard that one? Or have any of you heard about that big lie where the Palestineans are being slaughtered by the Isreali army using American weapons? Oh, I forgot we all can see through that lie.
posted by sic at 11:53 AM on September 5, 2002

sic: This was kind of my point. It is that I take everything with a grain of salt, because frankly I don't know what to trust. I became that way because of a good education. An education that taught me to question conventional wisdom. And above all others, if there is reasonable doubt don't act until more and more data is found.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 12:07 PM on September 5, 2002

The problem, doc, is that our government destroys Joe Everyman's reasonable doubt by bombarding him with an "official story" meant to mold public opinion so as to allow them to do whatever they want. The cynicism that arises among the relatively few who truly understand that this is probably the most fundamental aspect of modern life (lies and half-truths from manipulated media) also leads us to not believe anything we are told. In some respects this also suits those in power. Confused and disorganized, how are we to have an informed opinion on anything?
posted by sic at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2002

Here's an excellent article describing Mid-Eastern conspiration theories and how they shape reality. Pretty scary, even at the time it was written (about '97). I can't imagine how the situation now looks like, with the whole place nearly boiling over.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2002

Interesting Reuters story, in light of this discussion: Jazeera TV Claims It Has Confession from al Qaeda on Sept Attacks. Wonder how it will be received.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2002

I had no idea that there were so many Big Lies going around. And that everyone in the Muslim world is so convinced of Bin Laden's innocence.

What Mushkelly said makes sense though: nowadays "big lies" are spread through television and the internet. The same goes for our western "truth". What is it that makes us have trust in our media? Is it just the western "open and democratic" culture?

(Also, simian's comment on the role of the OSS/CIA as a protector of valuable nazi's freaks me out...)
posted by roel at 3:09 PM on September 5, 2002

For roel and anyone else surprised by the CIA/OSS/Nazi links, here's a few reading suggestions:

Gehlen, Spy of the Century
Secret Agenda: The US Government, Nazi Scientists and Project Paperclip
General Reinhard Gehlen: The CIA Connection
Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War

For more instant gratification, try Googling for "Ted Shackley", "John Stockwell", "Project Paperclip", or "Ratline". Prepare to be sickened; I've just directed you to some of the nastiest corners of US history.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 4:11 PM on September 5, 2002

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), German dictator

Thanks for clearing that up. All day I've been asking myself "Hitler, Adolf Hitler? Now what did he do again?"
posted by Summer at 5:34 AM on September 6, 2002

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