Big Lie–Origin of a Label

Inspired by the master?

The Republican Party’s entire platform is Donald Trump’s Big Lie, the false assertion that because of massive election fraud the presidency was stolen from him in the 2020 election. Trump’s Big Lie (and his entire method of leading) sucks the air out of the room. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, more than a year—and more than sixty lost legal contests later—he continues to claim the election was stolen him. He trots out on stage his ministers of propaganda dedicated to keeping the Big Lie alive in the minds of his followers, as he recently did at a rally in Florence, Arizona.

The success of Trump’s Big Lie that seven million votes were stolen from him need not be swallowed whole. Success depends only on instilling doubt: “maybe there’s some truth in what he says; people keep telling me the issue is unsettled; maybe the election procedures in some states really are faulty and need to be fixed.” The Big Lie’s purpose is to keep alive enough worry about election integrity to provide cover for Republican legislators while they consolidate their control over the conduct of elections at the state and local level. Importantly, and currently, the Big Lie also provides cover for the fifty Republican U.S. Senators united in opposition to voting rights, determined to keep the U.S. Congress from using its legitimate Constitutional power to insure voting access in the states. In keeping with Trump’s Big Lie, the Republican Party mantra around voting rights is simple: Any legislation by the Congress to re-instate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an Act that seventeen of the current Republican Senators previously voted to reauthorize, is now smeared as a “Democrat partisan power grab.”

A “Big Lie” is a falsehood so extreme that it takes over the mind of the believer and, with repetition, makes the believer impervious to facts. The Lie must be so grand, so pervasive, and so often repeated that it becomes the center of thought for a group of people, a group that vehemently rejects dissent and ostracizes all who challenge the Lie. Believers see anyone who does not believe as delusional, their objections worthy only of disregard and derision.

Adolph Hitler described the technique of the Big Lie in his book Mein Kampf. Hitler dictated Mein Kampf while he was in prison for leading an insurrection against the Bavarian government. Four police officers were killed in the fighting, a death toll reminiscent of January 6. In Mein Kampf Hitler described a lie so colossal that it had to be true. It would be taken as true because no one “could [possibly] have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Hitler claimed that a cabal of Jews were using a Big Lie to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on a German general who was a prominent ally of Hitler’s.

Of course, Hitler and his infamous Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, spoke and wrote of Big Lies put forward by Jews and Englishmen, not of their own Big Lie, the biggest lie of the 20th Century, that a cabal of international Jewry was out to destroy the pure Aryan Race, the Big Lie used to justify the Holocaust. 

A psychological profile of Adolph Hitler written in 1943 by Walter Langer reminds one of a recent one term U.S. President:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Did Donald Trump learn the Big Lie strategy from Hitler? There have been rumors that Trump expressed admiration of Hitler’s tactics. David Emery, writing for Snopes in April 2019 and addressing this question concluded:

Questions about what he read or didn’t read aside, we have yet to stumble upon a verifiable instance of Trump expressing respect or admiration for Adolf Hitler. What we did find is that people (including some close to him) have been insinuating that Trump has an affinity for Hitler for the better part of 30 years, which in and of itself is interesting.

Keep to the high ground,