The Big Lie August 29, 2010Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
Tags: President Obama, Republican propaganda
“The Big Lie” is an expression coined by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf that refers to a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”. In 1984 George Orwell explains how it works. “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.”
And as a propaganda technique it is working very well for Republicans.
Our maddening times demand that the truth be forthrightly stated at the outset, and not just that the president has nothing in common with the führer beyond the possession of a dog. The outlandish stories about Barack Hussein Obama are simply false: he wasn’t born outside the United States (the tabloid “proof” has been debunked as a crude forgery); he has never been a Muslim (he was raised by an atheist and became a practicing Christian in his 20s); his policies are not “socialist” (he explicitly rejected advice to nationalize the banks and wants the government out of General Motors and Chrysler as quickly as possible); he is not a “warmonger” (he promised in 2008 to withdraw from Iraq and escalate in Afghanistan and has done so); he is neither a coddler of terrorists (he has already ordered the killing of more “high value” Qaeda targets in 18 months than his predecessor did in eight years), nor a coddler of Wall Street (his financial-reform package, while watered down, was the most vigorous since the New Deal), nor an enemy of American business (he and the Chamber of Commerce favor tax credits for small business that were stymied by the GOP to deprive him of a victory). And that’s just the short list of lies.
Polls measure just how effective it is:
In 2008, 13 percent of Americans were under the misimpression that he was a Muslim. Now the figure is 24 percent. One explanation may be that Obama’s connection to his Chicago church was fresher in the public mind then. But the deeper problem is a growing number of people who think the president is not just disappointing or wrongheaded but dangerous. More than half of Republicans surveyed (52 percent) think it’s “definitely true” or “probably true” that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.” This says more about the mindset of the GOP than about Obama. It reflects not just the usual personal and partisan animus of the age (George W. Bush was subjected to exceptionally nasty attacks from the left) but a flight from facts—a startling disconnect between a quarter of the country and what some of Bush’s aides once disparagingly called “the reality-based community.”
Part of the difference between the use of the Big Lie by today’s conservatives and ordinary partisan bickering is that the Big Lie is being promoted by mainstream political figures:
Meanwhile, the right-wing and left-wing backbenchers who once sharply attacked each other in Congress, then walked off the floor arm-in-arm as colleagues, now barely speak. And the congressional leadership is getting into the venom game. When the racist Gerald L.K. Smith charged in 1937 that FDR was a secret Jew (he later called Dwight Eisenhower a “Swedish Jew”), no one could have imagined that the Senate minority leader would be asked about it, much less tacitly endorse the claim. But there was Mitch McConnell last week saying that “I take the president at his word” when he says he’s not a Muslim. That’s what’s known in politics as a “dog whistle”—a coded message to followers. Many conservatives don’t accept Obama’s “word” on anything. McConnell was thus giving them permission to consider the president’s faith an open question, even as he said it wasn’t in dispute.
Why would a “responsible” politician like McConnell engage in Big Lie propaganda? As usual in Republican politics, just follow the money. Via Frank Rich in the NY Times:
ANOTHER weekend, another grass-roots demonstration starring Real Americans who are mad as hell and want to take back their country from you-know-who. Last Sunday the site was Lower Manhattan, where they jeered the “ground zero mosque.” This weekend, the scene shifted to Washington, where the avatars of oppressed white Tea Party America, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, were slated to “reclaim the civil rights movement” (Beck’s words) on the same spot where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream exactly 47 years earlier.
Vive la révolution!
There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are. […]
Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.
Last week the Kochs were shoved unwillingly into the spotlight by the most comprehensive journalistic portrait of them yet, written by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Her article caused a stir among those in Manhattan’s liberal elite who didn’t know that David Koch, widely celebrated for his cultural philanthropy, is not merely another rich conservative Republican but the founder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which, as Mayer writes with some understatement, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception.” To New Yorkers who associate the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet, it’s startling to learn that the Texas branch of that foundation’s political arm, known simply as Americans for Prosperity, gave its Blogger of the Year Award to an activist who had called President Obama “cokehead in chief.”
The other major sponsor of the Tea Party movement is Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, which, like Americans for Prosperity, is promoting events in Washington this weekend. Under its original name, Citizens for a Sound Economy, FreedomWorks received $12 million of its own from Koch family foundations. Using tax records, Mayer found that Koch-controlled foundations gave out $196 million from 1998 to 2008, much of it to conservative causes and institutions. That figure doesn’t include $50 million in Koch Industries lobbying and $4.8 million in campaign contributions by its political action committee, putting it first among energy company peers like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Since tax law permits anonymous personal donations to nonprofit political groups, these figures may understate the case. The Kochs surely match the in-kind donations the Tea Party receives in free promotion 24/7 from Murdoch’s Fox News, where both Beck and Palin are on the payroll.
And we should be under no illusions about these benign public-spirited businessmen trying to make our country a better place to live.
When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket (it polled 1 percent), his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn’t changed. As Mayer details, Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial — a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business. While Koch foundations donate to cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, Koch Industries has been lobbying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying another product important to its bottom line, formaldehyde, as a “known carcinogen” in humans (which it is).
So when can we expect the Democrats to fight back against the Big Lie? Frank Rich is not holding his breath.
When John Kennedy’s patriotism was assailed by Birchers calling for impeachment, he gave a major speech denouncing their “crusades of suspicion.”
And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself.
Obama is too busy burnishing his bi-partisan credentials trying to win the votes of people who think he eats babies for breakfast.
For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com