The Big Lie, which led to a violent and deadly insurrection in Washington DC on January 6, is that the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. Trump and his supporters have employed many lies in support of the one Big Lie.
The Big Lie was meant to allow Trump to hold onto power. When that didn’t work, rather than distance themselves from him, the Republican Party adopted the Big Lie for its use: selling the idea that the election was so corrupt a massive effort must be expended to make voting “more secure.” Of course, the voters primarily affected by this effort will be Democrats, liberals, and minority groups. The idea is to make voting hard enough that Republicans won’t lose elections just because the majority of Americans don’t support them.
The Big Lie tactic has a very bloody history. It was used by the burgeoning Nazi movement to gain influence and power in Germany throughout the 1920s. It eventually led to the deaths of millions, wholesale murder on an industrial scale, and the near-total destruction of a large part of Europe.
Adolf Hitler understood the power of the Big Lie and why it was so effective. The idea is to make the lie so big that people would assume it was true because who would tell such a massive falsehood? As he wrote, “It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so 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.”
What was the Big Lie in Germany? Immediately after the loss of World War 1, a loss that many Germans could not accept, it was this: Germany didn’t lose; it was “stabbed in the back.”
From “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer:
The legend was fraudulent. General Ludendorff, the actual leader of the High Command, had insisted on September 28, 1918, on an armistice “at once,” and his nominal superior, Field Marshal von Hindenburg, had supported him. […] Hindenburg flatly stated that the military situation made it imperative “to stop the fighting.” No mention was made of any “stab in the back.” Only later did Germany’s great war hero subscribe to the myth.
In a hearing before the Committee of Inquiry of the National Assembly on November 18, 1919, a year after the war’s end, Hindenburg declared, “As an English general has very truly said, the German Army was ‘stabbed in the back.’” In point of fact, the civilian government headed by Prince Max of Baden, which had not been told of the worsening military situation by the High Command until the end of September, held out for several weeks against Ludendorff’s demand for an armistice.
One had to live in Germany between the wars to realize how widespread was the acceptance of this incredible legend by the German people. The facts which exposed its deceit lay all around. The Germans of the Right would not face them. The culprits, they never ceased to bellow, were the “November criminals”—an expression which Hitler hammered into the consciousness of the people.
Later, “November criminals” came to include not just the Weimar Republic, but all supporters of democracy, socialists, labor unionists, and others. And behind them all, in Nazi thinking, were the Jews. It was the Jews, the Nazis held, who were responsible for World War 1 itself. Later, Hitler even blamed World War 2, a war he started, on the Jews.
Today we see more lies being compounded on the Big Lie of a “stolen election.” Certain Republican Senators, like Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, blame the insurrection on “antifa.” Also, the violence that day was somehow the fault of Nancy Pelosi.
The pump is being primed for more insurrection, violence, and death. The Big Lie Hitler told took hold and began to be accepted as a historical fact. Already we see the same thing happening here as legislators around the country use the Big Lie as an excuse to restrict voting rights.
And for what else will it be used? It makes me shudder to think how Big Lies can so easily take hold among people who have lost the very concept of verifiable fact.