In “The Marketing of Evil” I expose many powerful manipulation techniques used to alter Americans’ attitudes on the vital issues of the day. But there’s one technique that reigns supreme as the king of all propaganda weapons – lying. To make bad stuff look good – and good appear bad – you have to lie about it.
However, there’s much more power inherent in lying – especially in a “big lie” – than we may realize, so let’s take a closer look.
For the current “big lie,” check out Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s blustering accusation that President Bush “leaked” classified information. The administration, Reid insisted Friday, must “tell the American people whether President Bush’s Oval Office is a place where the buck stops or the leaks start.”
The Nevada Democrat was referring, of course, to documents released last week by prosecutors in a CIA leak case which included a statement by I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s former chief of staff, that Bush had approved the release of previously classified information in 2003 to bolster the case for the Iraq War.
But now, a whole chorus of Democrats and media personalities are accusing the president – who in the past has come down hard on “leakers” in his administration – of himself “leaking” secret stuff to the press and the public!
In reality, as everyone knows, Bush did nothing whatsoever wrong. More than any other human being, the president of the United States has the power and the right to declassify U.S. government information, which he did – and then authorized its release, first to the New York Times, and then a few days later to the general public. There is simply no rational case to be made that he did anything wrong – presidents do this all the time.
But the tone and innuendo of the accusations against the president make it feel and sound as though Bush “leaked classified information” to the press.
As a result, many people will believe the allegations and the president’s approval ratings will drop a couple more notches.
This latest lie, of course, is an extension of the much larger, ongoing campaign of Democrats claiming the president hyped pre-war intelligence and “lied us into war.” Democrats crave, more than anything in this world or the next, a return to power in the White House and Congress (they already own the courts). And with congressional elections just a few months away, public support for the Iraq War waning and casualties mounting, the Democrats take every opportunity to bash Bush over the war. However, many Democrats – and virtually all of their leaders – enthusiastically supported going to war. So, what to do?
Solution: Claim Bush lied about pre-war intelligence and thus misled them into supporting the invasion.
But there’s a slight problem: The Democrats who are now claiming Bush lied had access to essentially the same intelligence the president did, and they voted to depose Saddam Hussein militarily. So what we’re witnessing is a flagrant attempt at rewriting history. That involves lying.
As U.S. News & World Report’s Michael Barone wrote recently:
Bush, Cheney, and the administration have the truth on their side. Exhaustive and authoritative examinations of the prewar intelligence, by the bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004, by the Silberman-Robb commission in 2005, and by the British commission headed by Lord Butler, have established that U.S. intelligence agencies, and the intelligence organizations of leading countries like Britain, France, and Germany, believed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was in possession of or developing weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons, which the regime had used before, and nuclear weapons, which it was working on in the 1980s.
To the charges that Bush “cherry-picked” intelligence, the commission co-chaired by former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb found that the intelligence available to Bush but not to Congress was even more alarming than the intelligence Congress had. The Silberman-Robb panel also concluded, after a detailed investigation, that in no instance did Bush administration authorities pressure intelligence officials to alter their findings. Much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. But Bush didn’t lie about it.
If Bush didn’t lie, why do his opponents keep saying – over and over and over – that he did?
There’s a tremendous power in lying – much more than most of us comprehend. But the power is not in the little “white lies” that are part of the fabric of most of our lives. It’s in the big lies. It’s a stunningly paradoxical truth, but we’re more likely to believe big lies than small ones.
How can this be? Wouldn’t the big, outrageous lie be more easily discerned and resisted than the small, less consequential lie? You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.
There’s a dark magic in boldly lying, in telling a big lie – repeatedly, with a straight face and with confidence and authority.
One of the greatest liars of the last century – Adolph Hitler – taught that the bigger the lie, the more believable it was.
During WWII, the U.S. government’s Office of Strategic Services – a precursor to today’s CIA – assessed Hitler’s methods this way:
“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.”(emphasis added)
In his 1925 autobiography “Mein Kampf,” Hitler – who actually did lie his country into war, and a whole lot more – explained with remarkable insight the fantastic power of lying:
… [I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes. …
Let’s bring this explanation down to earth with another example: Suppose, right before an election, one candidate accuses his opponent of immoral or illegal behavior. Even if the charges are totally false, and even if the accused answers the charges credibly and effectively, “the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it.” Which means, no matter how effectively the accused candidate answers the charges, some people will still believe he’s guilty, and many others will still retain varying degrees of doubt and uncertainty regarding the accused, who may well lose the election due to the cloud hanging over his head. This, as Hitler said, is the magic of lying that “is known to all expert liars in this world …”
Hitler’s principle is exactly what prominent Democrats, who qualify as some of the “expert liars in this world,” are constantly banking on every time they insist the president of the United States lied America into war.
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