The Big Lie

The headline, one of many examples now, reads “Trump blames rising German crime rate on immigrants.” Yes, that’s what he said, so in that sense that is the “news.” Now his legions of the night will repeat it ad infinitum. But the facts are quite different, as is so often the case with the President of Mendacity: German crime is way down (as in the U.S.), so Trump is actually incorrect. But the headline variety of news, which more people see/hear than not, megaphones his dangerous propaganda.

As George Lakoff argues, media should be reporting Trump’s statements, an astonishing proportion of which are untrue, within a reality or truth “sandwich” which brackets the untruth with the actual facts and some fact-checking. Everything else plays into Trump’s hands. On one of those malignant hands, he needs the media, because it fuels his monstrous media-made celebrity; on the other, he and his allies attack the press, one of the foundations of democracy, in ways unprecedented in our history but very familiar in the regimes Trump has avowedly praised: Russia, China, North Korean. Trump himself has called reporters the “enemies of the people” because some of them do challenge his lies and his administrations’ lies. The NRA’s spokesmodel has called for journalist to be “curb-stomped” and the fascist protege of American Museum of Natural History Trustee Rebekah Mercer has called for journalists to be assassinated. 

The Nazis called the opposition press, before its liquidation, Lügenpresse, the lying press, and some of Trump’s supporters have actually revived the word.

There have been a lot of Nazi analogies flying in the air of late. Nazism is historically specific, and while Trump has disgustingly praised neo-Nazis as “fine people,” it’s really the mutable beast of fascism that we need to be looking at. MAGA is text-book: a cultural revivalist fantasy, vague enough to mean whatever you want, powerful enough to attract nativists like shit does flies. See also the tactic of the Big Lie, perfected by Hitler and Goebbels, in which lies are bold and often. Key too is the targeting of some scapegoated portion of the population. This has worked repeatedly for conservatives over the years: communists! immigrants! blacks! Muslims! immigrants! MS-13!

See Fintan O’Toole for more on these days of “pre-fascism,” the testing out of barbarism, the preparing of Republicans to accept even more outrage and savagery.

Now, we know that facts do not necessarily change people’s opinions. Many actually double-down in determination (nobody wants to be wrong) when presented with evidence that they’re wrong. Cognitive scientists and Republicans know this very well. When we combine authoritarian-mindedness, fear, and ignorance, with perhaps a soupçon of conspiracy-thinking, there’s a hardcore of Trumpian zombies out there. They’re a minority, but their party is working hard to lock in its minority power by hook and by crook. And every single lie of Trump’s bakes them in further.

I’m continuously stunned that people fall for this garbage, but there you go. I suppose it’s garbage in, garbage out for these fools. They actually remind me of the crowds that gathered for lynchings. It was a big ol’ picnic for many of those folks. These public displays of torture were a communal celebration of white supremacy, a performance of terror that validated their racism. They took home souvenirs — pictures of the corpse, pieces of burnt flesh. They displayed castrated genitalia in store fronts.

And no doubt they all claimed to be good Christian folk thinking themselves besieged by their enemies, who they fantasized were as legion and vast as the night.

Every action and contribution counts: some thoughts on resisting behind the scenes.

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