The Big Lie Era

The expression “the big lie” was coined by Adolf Hitler; in Mein Kampf, he defined it as the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

These days, Americans are so swamped with lies, big and small, that nothing surprises us. Our problem is that we are increasingly reluctant to accept anything as the truth.

Fake news. “Post-fact” analyses of issues. An unremitting war on science and evidence. “Alternative facts.” Self-serving lies by politicians to obscure the reality that they are carrying water for donors and special interests. Big business enterprises peddling confusion and dangerous disinformation (as the tobacco companies famously admitted, “doubt is our product”) to protect their bottom lines.

The debates over Obamacare provide recent examples. Aetna made big news when it announced that it was pulling out of all but four of the 15 states where it was participating  in the Obamacare exchanges because it was losing too much money. A federal judge ruled that was a blatant falsehood— Aetna made its decision primarily in response to a federal antitrust lawsuit blocking its proposed $37-billion merger with Humana. Aetna had threatened federal officials with the pullout before the lawsuit was filed.

Obamacare has its flaws, but rather than fixing them–rather than providing the tweaks that all new programs require as implementation discloses problems–our lawmakers also chose to lie, in order to escape blame for denying twenty million Americans continued access to healthcare.

The Trumpists have indeed scrubbed the White House’s page detailing the accomplishments of the Affordable Care Act. The previous White House, knowing this was coming, took the precaution of archiving it and saving it for posterity, and for everyone who knows better to have it to point to.

But make no mistake, the theme from the Trump lie machine is going to be that Obamacare was doomed to fail, as Charles Gaba points out. Republicans started this back in December, figuring out how to make the disaster they create when they repeal the law without a replacement all Obama’s fault. And they’re moving forward with that plan.

Today, peddling “big lies”–about Obamacare, about global climate change, about “terrorist threats” or American “greatness”–is much easier than it was in Hitler’s day, because we not only have “alternative facts,” we have “alternative” news sources. A friend who decided to sample news coverage of the massive, spontaneous airport protests following Trump’s horrific Executive Order discovered that Fox News simply didn’t cover them. People who get their (mis)information exclusively from Fox wouldn’t even be aware that the protests occurred.

Steve Bannon, who is effectively running the country while the delusional “President” watches movies and tweets compulsively, ran a propaganda “news” organization prior to his fortuitous (for him) elevation to power. He clearly understands–and embraces– the power of the Big Lie.

Unfortunately, that isn’t his only area of agreement with Hitler.

There has never been a time when real journalism–and the ability of ordinary citizens to distinguish between truth and lies, propaganda and reality–has been more important.


  1. For the first time, I truly believe that there are people in charge who do not believe they are telling big lies. They seem too clueless to know the truth and too lazy to seek it.

  2. Just overnight it became painfully obvious that Bannon is the real President running this new fascist regime. I am guessing (hoping) that his moves to strip power from anyone that defies him will cause Congressional members and their staffs to rise up in opposition and take him down.

    This becomes more bizarre on a daily basis and he is upsetting an apple cart that gravely affects both our citizens and the rest of the world. I really do expect to see this all come tumbling down sooner than I could ever have imagined.

  3. Even when all of this comes tumbling down I fear that we will still find that we are a divided nation…. what then?

  4. Bannon appears to be to Trump what Martin Bormann was to Hitler. Both Bannon and Bormann were in the background of the machine, and popped up after others were tossed aside.

  5. I laugh when the conservatives dismiss the Hollywood elites as out of touch. Why? Because their President (who is #NOTMYPRESIDENT) is watching Fox Spews and is the biggest NY elite of them all! Who else gets up in the middle of the night to check the number of (Twitler) mentions in the press and wears makeup every day? And gets his hair done with stay pins and hair spray? And uses scotch tape on his ties? A billionaire my fanny! Can you believe this bloviator? Come on people, we have to use Trump’s antics to the fullest to show those that voted for that clown that he is just a patsy for the bigoted right wing monsters in his shadow, like the Wizard of OZ behind that curtain. They are the real reasons we need to fear this administration. Every day we wake up to a new horror story and the whole freaking world is watching. 1.6 million people have signed a petition in the UK to ban Twitler from a state visit with the Queen! That’s more than the population of Indy! I do believe our worst fears are coming true.

  6. “The Big Lie Era” began in earnest during Trump’s fascist, tyrannical campaign and came to fruition 11 days ago when his destructive onslaught on democracy had it’s legal beginning. No time was wasted before he began using his Sharpie to put his destructive, hateful campaign threats into effect. No time was wasted by protesters who began the same day and continues, unabated today and is escalating with each edict Trump signs, and like a first grader, proudly shows his large, easy to read Sharpie signature.

    Lies take many forms; in the Indianapolis Star this morning is a column, “Refugee order delivers on a broken promise”. A lie within itself, the column repeats but distorts the meaning of refugee vetting orders, and their success or failure, enacted under President Obama’s administration. The author of this column is James Robbins, he is reported as being “…an expert on national security, foreign affairs and the military, is an author and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors”. In whose opinion? Just as “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”; success and failure is in the eye of the beholders of those protesting or upholding Trump’s unAmerican Executive Orders and other signed documents.

    On the same page of the Star is a Eugene Robinson column (in much larger and bolder print), “Immigration ban betrays our values”. He ends this column with these words, “It was a betrayal of our most fundamental American values”. Which version do you believe? I will remain with Mr. Robinson and my memories of the misquoted and distorted version of President Obama’s administration as written by James Robbins.

    Theresa; as always, speaks wisely when she states we will remain a “divided nation”. In recent years the political division has deepened; Trump’s GOP supported campaign and election has returned this country to the mid-1880-s and the total racial divide resulting in the Civil War – resulting in more deaths of Americans than the total of all those lost in wars which came after. We have already begun another Civil War; I fear there will be more losers than winners due to our current “The Big Lie Era”.

  7. Things are almost to the point where I feel live I’m going to wake up and William L. Shirer, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, is going to be sitting in my great room waiting to explain this all to me. The parallels between Germany in the early 1930’s and right now are striking in many, many disturbing ways. Shirer lived it and then wrote about it in his seminal book. I have no doubt that this very strange period in our history is going to be the grist for a whole lot of additional scribbling.

  8. TLentych,

    Don’t think for a minute that the people in charge don’t know exactly what they are doing. Trump may be clueless, but those directing this ochestra of shame are most certainly not.

  9. Unfortunately, the Big Lies are peddled by some on the Left as well (“GMO food are harmful” and “Vaccines cause autism”). But, overall those pale in comparison to what’s going on in D.C.

    The problem as I see it is that the people who need to understand they are being lied to don’t really care. They are happy to have their world views validated.

    As for thoughts of impeachment, I think those are pipe dreams. The House GOP is as wacky as they come. They have demonstrated again and again that they put party over country. Even if a miracle happens, is this Senate going to vote to remove Trump from office? A handful of the current Republican Senators might, but McConnell? To paraphrase Donald Trump, he could shoot a young boy on live television and McConnell would find a way to defend it.

    The nation’s only hope is that in 2018 the Democrats pull off an upset and gain the majority in the Senate. Right now, that’s not looking very likely.

  10. I think that many assumed that the GOP had assigned Pence to baby sit for Trump as Chaney had for Bush II. It now appears to me that Pence has been shoved aside by Bannon who only has allegiance to the voices in his head.

    As bad as Pence at the real helm would be, Bannon seems infinitely worse.

    Now we have a rogue totally unelected government as unpredictable as rabid badger.

    In may well be that the Repupublican Party is also hostage to the situation.

    I can’t tell you how funny it feels for me to be on this side of conspiracy theory, I have never been here before.

    What will the situation look like 3 weeks in?

  11. Heather Cox Richardson is Associate Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of “The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901” and of “The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War”. She posted this on Facebook on January 29th.

    I don’t like to talk about politics on Facebook– political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends– but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.

    What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries– is creating what is known as a “shock event.” Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.

    Last night’s Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.

    Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.

    My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like. I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is. If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.

    But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event. A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union. If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln’s strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power. Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

    Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.

  12. I do not agree that Trump in unimpeachable. I think that he will at some point have reached a sufficient number on the outrage spectrum to trigger enough Republicans to forget about the next primary challenge and vote for America’s survival by removing him from office, and I think this is more likely be initiated in the Senate than in the House, though impeachment proceedings must constitutionally be initiated there. Not all Republicans adhere to the tea party and libertarian philosophy of nihilism and the hard right’s “feed the beast aka Wall Street” obsession in return for campaign contributions (aka bribes). Some are principled but go along with their caucus so as not to draw a primary opponent or otherwise upset their success in the next election.

    Likewise, some, like yesterday’s heroine, the Acting Attorney General, may opt to leave government in a blaze of glory based on principle, having ignored the rampant lying of the Bannons and Kellyannes stemming from the world in which the clueless wonder operates. Our everyday task is to separate truth from fancy, apply principle, and go from there. It is bullied Republicans who got us into this mess, and if enough of them wake up to the impending loss of our democracy, it may well be Republicans who save us from their near-fatal mistake. Let us hope.

  13. Gerald; MAYBE, when we begin voting Republicans out of state and local offices and out of Congress impeachment will become a possibility. The Republican Congress and now ownership of the Executive Division of this government will not give up their total power and control easily or in the near future. We must stay strong; spring and summer are close and I believe that will bring out protesters, marchers and rallies across the country.

  14. Article II US Constitution.

    “Section 4.

    “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

  15. High crimes and misdemeanors

    This article is about the legal term. For the Ann Coulter book, see High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. For the Woody Allen film, see Crimes and Misdemeanors. For the 2002 film, see High Crimes. For the 1973 film, see High Crime.
    The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct peculiar to officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming, and refusal to obey a lawful order. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.

  16. “High” in the legal and common parlance of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of “high crimes” signifies activity by or against those who have special duties acquired by taking an oath of office that are not shared with common persons.[1] A high crime is one that can only be done by someone in a unique position of authority, which is political in character, who does things to circumvent justice. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” when used together was a common phrase at the time the U.S. Constitution was written and did not mean any stringent or difficult criteria for determining guilt. It meant the opposite. The phrase was historically used to cover a very broad range of crimes.

    The Judiciary Committee’s 1974 report “The Historical Origins of Impeachment” stated: “‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors’ has traditionally been considered a ‘term of art’, like such other constitutional phrases as ‘levying war’ and ‘due process.’ The Supreme Court has held that such phrases must be construed, not according to modern usage, but according to what the framers meant when they adopted them. Chief Justice [John] Marshall wrote of another such phrase:

    It is a technical term. It is used in a very old statute of that country whose language is our language, and whose laws form the substratum of our laws. It is scarcely conceivable that the term was not employed by the framers of our constitution in the sense which had been affixed to it by those from whom we borrowed it.”[2]

  17. Thank you, GALJohnson for posting Prof. Heather Cox Richardson’s very astute and on point analysis of what Bannon is up to.

    In the last few days, It’s become more clear than ever Bannon is now the de facto President of the United States. And after reading Prof. Richardson’s essay, I think Bannon’s plan is to keep throwing hits at us to disorient us to the point those who oppose him and his agenda just wear down, and can’t react anymore.

    Terrifying is not too strong of a word!

  18. The Hitler history of vague grandiose orders and chaotic divide and rule below fits the Trump administration to a “T.”

    “ . . . Nazi government ended up being what one historian described as “polycratic chaos”.
    * * *
    “Hitler was not an experienced politician. . . . He instead preferred to dictate grandiose visions and vague orders, leaving the details and specifics to be devised by his subordinates. Those who pleased Hitler by presenting him with good suggestions or policies were praised and rewarded; some were welcomed into his inner circle, the highest accolade of all. This created a culture of competition and sycophancy, as leading Nazis competed against each other to impress the fuhrer.”

    * * *
    “He made these decisions as he saw fit, often on a whim and without consulting relevant branches of the government.”

    “Historians have long debated why the Nazi state evolved into this jumbled contraption of competing organisations. Two schools of thought have emerged: intentionalism and functionalism. Intentionalist historians argue Hitler operated with a broad, pre-conceived plan; every decision he made was done with a purpose. The intentionalists believe the creation of a confused and complex Nazi state was a deliberate ploy on Hitler’s part, allowing him to ‘divide and rule’ and enhance his own power. The functionalist school contends Hitler had no such plan: he simply made decisions on a day-by-day basis, as they were put to him. Functionalist interpretations stress divisions, competition and rivalries as important factors in the Nazi movement. They also query whether Hitler’s power was as absolute as is claimed by intentionalists, and that he often made decisions to protect his own position.”

    In 1933, there were over 70 cabinet meetings. By 1936,there were only 4, and by 1938, they ceased completely.

  19. JoAnn – Republicans do not give up power with their impeachment of Herr Trumpf. They still have Pence in power, a man who in important respects is worse than Trump, and whoever Pence might appoint as his V.P., like Jerry Falwell, Jr., in Pence’s campaign to merge church and state.

  20. Gerald: I agree that Pence is not very good, but he’s so extreme that his ideas wouldn’t get very far because most Republicans would hold their nose at his proposals, especially the extreme ones. None of us knows the extent to which Herr Trumpf is in the pockets of the Russians, the Saudi Arabians, or others, which is why he will never voluntarily release his tax returns. [Can someone get Wiki Leaks to obtain the tax returns for a price? I’ll chip in]. Pence doesn’t have that issue. He’s never been extremely successful financially. In fact, this is the best-paying job he’s had. He also doesn’t have the ego issues that Herr Trumpf has. Pence is an ideologue, but he’s not mentally ill. Herr Trumpf is mentally ill and subject to manipulation. Pence would be marginally better, and would be less likely to pull stunts like the Monday massacre. Pence is also a lawyer and would listen to the Justice Department if they told him something was unconstitutional. He doesn’t have a good track record with federal courts.

  21. Mean while as the Trumpet and his entourage spew their toxic smoke, Republicans are taking advantage of the smoke and mirrors to implement some other long sought after goals:
    The Bill would sell off 3.3m acres of national land, unnerving outdoor enthusiasts
    Land totaling the size of Connecticut has been targeted in a new bill in the Republican House, uniting hunters and conservationists in opposition.

    The new piece of legislation would direct the secretary of the interior to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”.

    Chaffetz introduced the bill alongside a second piece of legislation that would strip the BLM and the US Forest Service of law enforcement capabilities, a move in line with the Utah delegation’s opposition to all federal land management.
    Dictators no matter who they are must gain control of the country’s political, economic, social and cultural institutions. Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party bided his time until all the people that would support him were in place and then the purges could begin.

    It is a common thread also that by creating and even encouraging chaos has the predictable result that the Dictator must through the powers of the police state impose law and order. Trump is the King of creating Chaos. The right to demonstrate may even be at risk. At the extreme (but what else would expect from a Republican) In North Carolina, a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to criminalize protestors heckling politicians in the state after an incident over inaugural weekend in Washington, D.C. in which demonstrators persistently shouted at the state’s former governor Pat McCrory.

    The Republicans are not going to impeach Trump, he serves as their cover for their Corporatism, and Crony-Capitalists Schemes.

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