… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; Even though the facts . . . 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 . . .
—Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X
The big lie may be the most successful stand-alone propaganda technique in history. We swim everyday in a sea of such lies and yet we rarely, if ever, notice them. Like an optical illusion, we focus our entire attention on it while it jumps and squirms and evades our ability to bring it fully before our senses. And so we must bring reason to bear in addition to our senses to detect the big lie. What to do with one once we’ve found it, we’ll leave for another time.
Protection from Islamo-facism
Since the big lie is as difficult to pin down in the abstract as it is to detect in reality, let’s start with an example. I choose this example because it’s the easiest for us anti-imperialists to grasp. The lie is that we need a large and powerful globe-spanning military to protect us from rabid, suicidal foes who want nothing more than to kill us and take our stuff. We’re told that our freedom will end the minute we stop razing villages, imprisoning farmers and shepherds, overthrowing democratically elected foreign governments, and supplying firepower to brutal dictators. Reality, in this case, is available to anyone with a few hours of research and some very basic critical thinking skills. In reality, the U.S. military has spent the last 100 years, conservatively, creating an army of rabid, suicidal foes bent on revenge. It has swelled the number of those willing to fight by starving, torturing and killing legions of mothers, sons, brothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, and friends.
As we see from the above example, the big lie is not simply not true. It is the opposite of the truth made difficult to detect by its over-the-top audacity. Even now, having stated what is real, my mind wanders in search of scenarios in which an Army-less America is overrun by . . . somebody from somewhere. These are the ‘traces’ of the big lie, the result of imperfect deprogramming after dozens of years of propaganda.
Just Say “No”
Let’s look at the big lie around drug prohibition–anti-imperialists are also frequently opposed to jailing people who’ve committed no crime. The big lie is that the war on drugs exists to decrease drug dependency, drug related crimes and the violence of the drug trade. The staying power of the big lie is illustrated by the drug war. Even with a prison system overflowing with non-violent drug users, hundreds of thousands of bodies littering Central and South America and billions of dollars “up in smoke,” this choice piece of propaganda persists. Even those who would legalize marijuana can’t understand that society would not erupt into madness if “hard” drugs were legalized. The primary effect, guaranteed by iron-clad laws of economics, would be to radically decrease the price of drugs. The 99% markup that allows for the marketing of drugs to kids, the arming of the most violent criminals, and the need to steal and trick to get a fix would vanish. And with it, the distinction between legal and illegal drugs–so crystal clear to the propagandized mind–would dissolve away.
Here’s a hard one we might not have noticed. We who believe that human beings are all valuable understand that denying someone an education is the surest way to limit their potential for self-fulfillment. Literacy is key to economic freedom and human progress, and we look back with shame at the times when society attempted to deny this ability to women, slaves, and various immigrant groups.
Our genuine and honorable feelings about the value of education pave the way for a big lie: without public education, the poor would be uneducated. Non-labor jobs would be the domain of the males of the dominant ethnic group. Illiteracy and the resulting stratification of society would lead to massive injustice as the poor languished, the rich thrived and the middle class desperately sought some way to scrimp and save in order to educate their kids.
Of course, government schools do not educate the poor. They do guarantee that white men dominate the non-labor workforce. They result it the highest illiteracy rates in the history of this continent. The rich thrive in carefully gerrymandered school districts or private schools. The poor endure 12+ years of boring, degrading and brutal “child” care, and the middle class scramble to locate themselves in the districts of the wealthy or budget for private school.
The very circumstances we fear above all others–those we are told to fear by “experts”–are precisely the outcomes of the government remedies we are told we must accept. Financial chaos, lack of healthcare, oppressed minorities, suffering of the elderly; whenever we’re told to be afraid and that only the coercive might of the state can protect us from a dismal outcome, we must attempt to escape our programming and look for the big lie.