The Big Lie and big-ish lies
When we established this theme, we were thinking about the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and the Democrats stole it. But the more we talked about it, the more we realized that there are a lot of big-ish lies out there, not just one Big Lie.
The definitive Big Lie of the 20th Century
After World War II, the US Office of Strategic Services (precursor of the CIA) presented a profile of Hitler and described his use of the Big Lie in this way:
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. (Printed in The Jewish Virtual Library)
THOUGHTS ON THE THEME
This brings us to the Big Lie of our time
Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 election in November. He spent the following days and weeks repeating that the Democrats had stolen the election, that mail-in ballots were fraudulent, that dead people had voted in great numbers, and on and on. When the courts denied his challenges he continued to make the same claims of fraudulence. He never admitted that his claims were wrong and continually accused Democrats of being out to destroy him as President.
It might have seemed that this would end with the failed attempt to reject the electoral college results on January 6, but instead it continues and has been amplified ever since. And sure enough, people believe Trump’s Big Lie. This has consequences. Legislatures in more than 47 states have acted on that lie: responding to the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, they have enacted dozens of new laws to restrict voter access to the ballot, not to eliminate fraud, but to eliminate voters.
Whose interest is served by eliminating voters in a democracy?
As capital is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, it gives the very rich ever greater power over politics, government and society. We are witnessing the transfer of responsibility for public goods and services from democratic institutions to the wealthy, to be provided to the few for the profit of the few. This is autocracy: “Ruling governments ﬁrst attack the media and civil society, and polarize societies by disrespecting opponents and spreading false information, only to then undermine formal institutions.”
The other element is that one individual governs on behalf of a small group. Thus, the main achievement of the Trump Administration was a huge cut in taxes for corporations and the rich, and the steady elimination of regulations that protected the public and conditioned the actions of corporations.
Going to the polls in 2022
The only possible brake on this would be an organized mass of voters going to the polls to send their own representatives to the halls of Congress and State legislatures. Keeping that from happening is one function of the Big Lie. Be sure to pick up the paper next month when our theme is “The ballot or the bullet.”
What about those other, big-ish lies?
There’s a whole list of such lies—we generally refer to them as “narratives.” These are in service of an overarching lie: that capitalism and capitalists work for the majority of ordinary people. Here’s a list of such narrative-lies. Some of them stimulated our cover. Some of them are addressed in this issue. You can argue with this list, amend it, or add your own. We look forward to hearing from you.
That we went to war in Afghanistan to save Afghani women.
That public schools are failing and the solution is to replace them with private charter schools.
That building more “market rate” housing will produce homes that working people can afford.
That rampant homelessness is caused by people making “bad choices.”
That a massive military is what protects our country and defends human rights globally.
That immigrants and refugees are a drag on the economy.
That if things get better for black people it’s only at the expense of white people.
That Israel is defending itself when it bombs Gaza.
That people refuse to work because they got an unemployment of $1200/month.
That rich people are to be admired and the very richest should be in charge.
July—The ballot or the bullet. Deadline June 15
August—Some things are changing; some are not. Deadline July 15
September—Back to school. This theme is a metaphor for taking time to re-think and learn a-new. And also a chance to reflect on the role of school and teachers in our democracy. Deadline August 15.