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The Success of the Big Lie

September 19, 2004

(archived broadcast )
Back in my native home in Tennessee for Rosh Hashanah — yes, there are Jews in Tennessee. I grew up there. Stop changing the subject! — I spoke with some of my extended family that are actually planning to vote for George W. Bush. To my shock and chagrin, I discovered that many of the Big Lies told by Republican operatives and FOX News, their propaganda mouthpiece, were actually being believed by intelligent human beings who simply do not follow politics and world affairs as closely as I do for this radio show.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Hitler’s Big Lie worked tremendously well, and I have written extensively about Joe McCarthy’s Big Lies and why they succeeded in the 1950’s media (and would likely continue to succeed today).
Well, I’m sorry to report the Republican Big Lies are working in one Red State as effectively as Hitler’s and McCarthy’s. People actually don’t know that Roger Ailes of FOX News directs the Republican propaganda machine there. Some seem surprised and disbelieving when I tell them of Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s (and Reagan’s and Bush I’s) support for Saddam Hussein. Some actually believe Zell Miller’s lies about Kerry being against certain weapons systems or cutting intelligence spending. (Frequent listeners to this show know that Kerry, though showing concern for fiscal discipline in all his votes, has a voting record on these weapon systems and intelligence spending more “hawkish” than Dick Cheney or the Republican Party. Click here for more information on this point.)
They actually believe that Kerry has flip-flopped on Iraq by citing his vote on the $87 Billion ($67 Billion for US troops and $20 Billion for Iraqi Reconstruction), because they don’t know of Kerry’s strong conviction that Americans earning more than $400,000 annually should have reduced their massive tax cuts by a small percentage to pay for it, rather than — as Bush has insisted, even at the risk of not funding our troops! — running up a huge debt plus interest to be paid for by millions of our children who have no right to vote on the issue today. (The Bush Plan: Don’t Make the Rich Pay Today What All of Us Can Pay With Interest Tomorrow!) They actually say stupid things like “Kerry voted for the war” when we all know that Kerry voted for “authorization for the Iraq war” when the President promised he would NOT go to war without giving the inspectors and the U.N. a chance to succeed. (See Bush Misled Based on False Evidence and Republicans Misstate Kerry Positions .) They don’t understand their own illogic when they suggest, in effect that they will vote for Bush because Kerry should have known better than vote for a war authorization based on Bush’s lies.
Some of my Republican family suggested, laughably, that Bush, the biggest government spending and debt-ridden President in the last 60 years, would — get this — actually try to cut spending and bring us to fiscal conservatism in his second term. That made me laugh pretty hard until I realized that they seem to believe this nonsense. I suspected it was more of a “will to believe,” and “devil’s advocate” debating tricks. In other words, these people wanted to vote for Bush for whatever reason and were grasping at straws searching for justifications that they had never seen any evidence whatsoever to support. When it came to Bush’s words v. Bush’s deeds, they took Bush at his word and ignored the clear evidence before their eyes. When it came to Kerry’s words v. Kerry’s deeds v. Bush’s words, they believed what Bush said Kerry said or did rather than seeing what Kerry had said or done himself. That was amazing in itself: to believe what Bush said Kerry said rather than looking at the documented record of what Kerry said.
Then, I had two family members say to me that they “weren’t even sure” if Kerry would have retaliated for 9/11!!!!!! That was a remarkable slander. It didn’t have even a ring of truth. It would be like a Leftist arguing, “Bush Hates America.” If there was a chance that anyone in America believed such absolutely disgusting nonsense, I knew I had to do this show.
How do you debate folks who don’t believe 2+2=4?
How do you convince people who refuse to look at cold, hard evidence?
It’s one thing to support Bush because you believe in a more theocratic America, because you love assault weapons and grenade launchers, because you’re a polluter who makes higher profits the more you dump arsenic in our drinking water, because you think that children in America get TOO MUCH help from government loans to go to college, if you believe all abortion is murder and that women who have abortions should get the death penalty, if you’re a big oil company being made rich by Bush’s taxpayer-subsidizing corporate welfare, if you love our dependence on foreign oil, or simply, if you’re a multi-millionaire who thinks that it’s impossible to be hard working and poor but it’s OK to inherit money and never have to work.
Then, it makes sense if you want to vote for Bush. But for people to actually believe the Republican lies that are provably false if they would do just the smallest amount of Internet fact-checking? That still stuns me. Maybe I’m just too idealistic.
Why are the Republican Big Lies working? Do you have friends and family planning to vote Republican? What reasons do they give? What do you tell them? How can we help — gently or forcefully — to get the truth out in a land where the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and large swaths of the media are controlled by one party? In a land where most of the rest of the media is too lazy to dig up and report the truth? And much of the public does not take the time to go past the sound bites and spin to discover who is really telling the truth?

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  • Kiwifrank November 8, 2004 8:19 pm

    September 11 terrified people and wanted protection; Bush offered it to them, like some mafia gangster in old time Chicago.
    For people to question their allegiance to their “Protector King” requires them to question their own judgement. People don’t like doing that. They might be wrong.
    So them embrace the lies; the illusions; and not worry about the realities of life.
    In short, those who blindly voted for Bush – despite the proven lies – are avoiding their responsibilities.
    Better to be the “child”, safe in the arms of their father-figure.
    September 11 – it damaged the American psyche more than anyone has realised.

  • Don Feinberg September 20, 2004 5:27 pm

    Will Lester of the AP wrote Friday that “Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited, and men will marry men if liberals win in November. ”
    The literature shows a Bible with the word “BANNED” across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word “ALLOWED.” The mailing tells West Virginians to “vote Republican to protect our families” and to defeat the “liberal agenda.”
    In the old days it was bra burners the conservatives were worried about. But you know what? There are millions of deeply religious liberals across the country. They should be outraged that the Republicans are tying to impugn their beliefs by saying that liberals are trying to ban the Bible. This is deeply offensive.
    The Republicans can’t win on issues, so they’re making this stuff up. They’re fighting to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to fly it into the Twin Towers of traditional religious values, of true patriotism, and love of country. Just as Saddam wished. But the President stopped Saddam, and he can also stop the cultural terrorism of the liberal Democratic agenda.
    Tragically, for millions of Americans this is a compelling argument. They and the ultra wealthy — they’re the “base”.
    So donate now, or die!