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The Big Lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf for a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously".

Contents

Use of the expression by Hitler

The source of Big Lie technique, from Chapter 10 of Mein Kampf:

But it remained for the Jews, with their unqualified capacity for falsehood, and their fighting comrades, the Marxists, to impute responsibility for the downfall precisely to the man who alone had shown a superhuman will and energy in his effort to prevent the catastrophe which he had foreseen and to save the nation from that hour of complete overthrow and shame. By placing responsibility for the loss of the world war on the shoulders of Ludendorff they took away the weapon of moral right from the only adversary dangerous enough to be likely to succeed in bringing the betrayers of the Fatherland to Justice.
All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in 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.

—Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X[1]

In the chapter from Mein Kampf quoted above, Hitler accused "the Jews" of what he claimed was their use of the Big Lie.[1]

Use of the expression by Goebbels

Later, Joseph Goebbels put forth a slightly different theory which has come to be more commonly associated with the expression big lie. Goebbels wrote the following paragraph in an article dated 12 January 1941, 16 years after Hitler's first use of the phrase big lie, entitled "Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik", translated "From Churchill's Lie Factory". It was published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one's secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.[2]

Used in Hitler's psychological profile

The phrase was also used in a report prepared during the war by the United States Office of Strategic Services in describing Hitler's psychological profile:[3][4]

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.[5]

The Big Lie in popular culture

George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four refers to the Big Lie theory on several occasions. For example:

  • “The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts”.[6]
  • “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed...”.[7]

Frank Zappa continually refers to "the Big Lie" in his book, The Real Frank Zappa Book. He uses it to describe organized religion, government, and the music industry. The song "When the Lie's So Big" from Zappa's 1989 album Broadway the Hard Way also deals with the concept.

Richard Belzer defines The Big Lie in his book UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Believe as "If you tell a lie that's big enough, and you tell it often enough, people will believe you are telling the truth, even when what you are saying is total crap."

Roald Dahl's novel Matilda features the Trunchbull, who cites the theory as how she gets away with child abuse.[citation needed]

In Six Days of War by Michael Oren, "The Big Lie" is used in a similar context to describe the widespread accusation (primarily by Syria and Egypt), that the Arab defeats during the Six Day War were a consequence of direct United States and United Kingdom military intervention. The use of this falsehood by Syria and Egypt further alienated the US and also critically worsened relations with the Soviet Union, which wished to avoid further escalation.

Marillion's 1994 release Brave opens with a song entitled, "Living with The Big Lie", about propaganda in the Western world.

In 2002, French journalist Thierry Meyssan wrote a controversial book called 9/11: The Big Lie, which argued that the 9/11 attacks were the result of a conspiracy by the United States government.

Ian Fleming references the "Big Lie" in his book On Her Majesty's Secret Service when he has the pilot of a helicopter flown through French airspace illegally, respond to the flight controller's question as to who authorized the flight that he (the flight controller himself) authorized it.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b "Project Gutenberg of Australia - Mein Kampf tr. James Murphy". http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200601.txt. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  2. ^ Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941. Die Zeit ohne Beispiel. Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. 1941, pp. 364-369 [original German: Das ist natürlich für die Betroffenen mehr als peinlich. Man soll im allgemeinen seine Führungsgeheimnisse nicht verraten, zumal man nicht weiß, ob und wann man sie noch einmal gut gebrauchen kann. Das haupt-sächlichste englische Führungsgeheimnis ist nun nicht so sehr in einer besonders hervorstechenden Intelligenz als vielmehr in einer manchmal geradezu penetrant wirkenden dummdreisten Dickfelligkeit zu finden. Die Engländer gehen nach dem Prinzip vor, wenn du lügst, dann lüge gründlich, und vor allem bleibe bei dem, was du gelogen hast! Sie bleiben also bei ihren Schwindeleien, selbst auf die Gefahr hin, sich damit lächerlich zu machen.]
  3. ^ A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler. His Life and Legend by Walter C. Langer. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Washington, D.C. With the collaboration of Prof. Henry A. Murr, Harvard Psychological Clinic, Dr. Ernst Kris, New School for Social Research, Dr. Bertram D. Lawin, New York Psychoanalytic Institute. p. 219 (Nizkor)
  4. ^ Dr. Langer's work was published after the war as The Mind of Adolf Hitler, the wartime report having remained classified for over twenty years.
  5. ^ Hitler as His Associates Know Him (OSS report, p.51)
  6. ^ George Orwell. 1984 (edition?) p. 221
  7. ^ ibid., p. 223

General references

  • Baker White, John (1955). The Big Lie. Evans Brothers. OCLC 1614230. 

External links








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