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February 19, 2010
The 'Big Lie' explained by a good man
Lying, as a daily practice, is hard, because you have to remember the lie and keep repeating the lie, never forgetting it, especially, if the liar begins expanding on the original deception.
Many of us are aware of something known as the ‘big lie.' A lie so colossal, so unbelievable, and so inexplicable, the lie is believed because the originator, the teller of the lie, couldn't possibly believe or make such an incredibly, grotesque and inaccurate statement.
I decided to trawl through the internet and drop in on some websites, and of course, the majority of sites attribute the ‘big lie' to the usual suspects. McCarthy is the big one. You know how those right-wingers are.
I persevered, reworked the search and locate the best source, which is utterly credible and unimpeachable, to learn about the ‘big lie.'
I found the words of the most undereducated, non-Ivy League president in American history, Harry S Truman* who, in 1952, gave a speech before the National Conference on Citizenship. I've included here the relevant portion of a lengthy address:
...it is the duty of our political parties and our candidates to go before the people with the facts.
Now, there are various ways of doing this, and some of these are more dramatic and interesting than others. But in a democracy, everyone engaged in politics has a duty--a moral duty--to try to keep public debate reasonable and based on a fair discussion of the issues.
That brings me to another danger which threatens our democracy from within, and that is the "big lie." The "big lie" is a weapon of political warfare which was developed by the Communists and perfected by Hitler, and is now being used on a worldwide scale by the Soviet Union.
The technique of the "big lie" consists of two things. It consists first of making a charge against one's opponents which is frightening and horrible and so extreme that nobody could believe that a decent person would make it if it were not true. Hitler explained this very clearly. He said that if a lie is bold enough people will think there is some truth in it because it would never occur to them, in their own experience, to lie on such an exaggerated scale.
The second part of the "big lie" technique is to keep repeating the lie over and over again, ignoring all proof to the contrary.
The "big lie" technique is immoral and subversive. It is not a weapon which democratic society can afford to use. It violates the rules of the political game which underlie our constitutional form of government. It violates them in just the same way that riot and revolution violate them.
We have no place for this sort of thing in America. If we permit its use, our constitutional form of government can be destroyed. It is a tool used by Hitler and Stalin, and it is just as un-American as they are.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency in this country today to resort to the use of the "big lie" in order to reap personal and partisan advantage. It is a "big lie," for example, to say that we tolerate Communists and other disloyal persons in our Government. It is a "big lie" to attack one of the greatest generals and patriots whom this country ever had and call him a traitor.
A man who uses the weapon of the "big lie" is not a good man. He should be rejected by all good citizens, regardless of party. Partisan feeling often runs high in election campaigns. That is understandable. But it should not lead us to permit the use of this dangerous Communist technique in American politics.
These are some of the dangers that threaten our Government from within today. I am sure that we will overcome them. I am sure that the work of this Conference will help overcome them, and will lead to a better understanding and a wider exercise of the precious rights of American citizenship.
What President Truman said needs to be read again and again, because he lived it, close up and personal. Truman was a commonsense president who saw the ‘big lie' for what it was as well as what a good man should do.
*For those who may not know, there is no period after the ‘S' because Harry Truman did not have a middle name, just the letter, because he liked the sound of it.