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Memories of the 28th Century

Big Lies and Fake News

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A lie told often enough becomes truth.
Nicolai Lenin

The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." from Mein Kampf

“...a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.” from Machiavelli's, The Prince, note 2, at ch. XVIII

The idea of telling big lies has been around for longer than we would like to think. We shouldn’t be surprised that Trump is using that technique that was loved by his heroes, Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. But we should keep in mind that big lies are falsehoods, and they usually hide even bigger lies. When Trump first starting calling news that did not please him “fake news”, it was a signal that Trump was telling lies and trying to use the big lie technique of repeating his lies until people started to believe them. Don’t be fooled; a lie remains a lie regardless of how many times it is repeated.

It wasn’t very long ago when broadcast news was generally believable. Sometimes the reporters were confused or misinformed, but they didn’t tell direct lies. On occasions when they learned that they had reported something that turned out to be wrong, the reporter would apologize. And that was only a few decades ago.

When network made false reports about the Vietnam War in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, it was because they had been lied to, or their informant was ignorant. Some have apologized for giving false information years afterward. Even Robert McNamara eventually apologized for not giving the whole truth.

In the past fake news was deliberately reported only as part of satire or from ignorance. Edgar A. Poe wrote “The Balloon Hoax” in the 1840’s, and it appears to have been done as an attempt at humor. More than a hundred years before that Jonathan Swift had written “A Modest Proposal” as satire, but it was so well done that some people took it at face value. Mark Twain wrote a number of things that were presented as if they were factual even though they were not. We can forgive people who write satire, because they do not intend to be taken at face value, and the real meaning is usually easy for a discerning reader to determine.

More recently, weather forecasts started being included in TV news, even though the data and understanding of weather processes was not well enough known to be reported as fact, and professional meteorologists consider being correct 30% of the time to be good. That was when false reporting first became acceptable, and has gotten worse since then.

In the past century the problem of fake news has become too big, and the use of lies to push political ideology makes it even worse. Trump has put the technique together in a way that wasn’t previous been seen in the U.S.A. We have learned that when Trump claims that something is fake news, it usually means that it is accurate but it is something that Trump does not want to have generally known.

Trump has lied hundreds of times, and people have run down the facts:

To counter his lies he claims that the actual facts are “fake news”, and characterizing them that way is yet another ‘big lie’. There are people who actually believe that Trump’s lies are the truth, so his use of the “big lie” is partly effective, but there are places and people who check; is one, and this link is to their Trump Archives.

The Washington Post had an article in May of this year about the 3001 lies that Trump had told. There probably are a few more by now.

Trump has interesting company, and one can tell a lot about a person from the company he keeps: ‎Goebbels, Lenin, Hitler. The only way to fight big lies is with facts. He has to be called on every lie he tells.