Somewhere in school
(or maybe in your own reading of George Orwell’s 1984)
I hope you learned what a Big Lie is.
If not, let’s take a look.
Hitler invented the Big Lie.
He went on to apply it relentlessly
in his quest for power.
He told the German people:
The Jews are vermin (rats.)
THEY are responsible for all your defeats!
All your suffering!
He repeated this lie so forcefully and continuously
that the German people came to believe it.
We all know the horrendous results.
Hitler had explained many years beforehand in Mein Kampf
exactly what a Big Lie is.
He said that a Big Lie is such a huge colossal distortion
that no one can believe
that someone would make it up!!!
The average person
only tells small lies, he wrote.
They assume others
only do the same.
“It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths,
and they would not believe others could have the impudence
to distort the truth so infamously.” Hitler: Mein Kampf (1925)
That is, most people cannot imagine a person telling a lie that huge.
So, explained Hitler, the average person thinks
that this HUGE assertion they are hearing MUST therefore be true.
So, who among us is vulnerable to believing a Big Lie?
I wrote to one of my best friends
the day of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
I told him I was utterly horrified at the destruction and death
that Putin’s army was unleashing upon the innocent Ukrainian people.
Watch more closely. He is only killing the neo-nazi guys
who have run a money laundering rig out of the Ukraine.
I was shocked to the core.
My dear friend with whom I have been close since childhood
had bought Putin’s Big Lie!
He believed Putin when he said
that Russia HAD to launch this “special military operation”
to rid Ukraine of neo-nazis!
My friend had done a lot of reading
but only from the media sources that were promoting
this colossal falsehood.
He had absorbed a great deal of very convincing analysis,
and laid it out to me.
He was utterly certain that it was I who was being hoodwinked.
You can imagine how I felt when he soon told me
that he did not want to discuss it further.
It is painful and tragic to watch a friend fall under the spell of a Big Lie.
I am staying close with him and will watch for any glimmers
of an opening or shift in his perspective.
But he has to be free to see things for himself
and be allowed to save face.
What about us?
Alas, I have to tell you that it is not just our friends
or our political opponents
who are vulnerable to the Big Lie.
We are ALL vulnerable.
We can be the most good hearted and sane person in the world
and still fall for one.
You may not believe me.
You may think that all those millions of people in our country
who believe that the 2020 election was stolen
are idiots and bigots.
Well, I know many … and they are not.
Most are decent human beings no different than you and me.
What happened to them is they lost core aspects of their identity in the election.
They had had a leader who caused them to believe in themselves,
many for the first time.
Now, they cannot bear to face
that after leading them in ways that made them feel proud,
after standing up for the unborn and on many other issues they believe in,
that Trump would betray them with a Big Lie.
They wanted him to win so badly.
They were certain he would.
To them, it is simply impossible that more people voted for Joe Biden.
They cannot bear to believe that Trump lost
nor that he would lie to them to say he won.
And so they don’t believe it.
How it works
The Big Lie works at an unconscious level.
It plays on our fears and insecurities
and satisfies motivations of which we are unaware.
The Big Lie is especially convincing
if others in our social group also believe it.
It thus affirms our identity.
We cannot stop believing it or we will lose who we are.
And we will lose the esteem of those around us.
It works the same in all of us:
We humans are all vulnerable to listening to lies.
And since you have read this far,
you must have some interest in the subject.
So, if I teach a great course–Lying 101–will you take it?