The Daily Commercial-Choice Edwards: Propaganda and misinformation

Choice Edwards  Guest Columnist

Lies, and damn lies, euphemistically referred to as misinformation, disinformation and alternative facts these days, are a threat to our democracy and, as in decades ago, the world.

Nazi Joseph Goebbels was a master liar. He said if you tell a big lie enough and repeat it often enough, people will come to believe it. 

“The rank and file,” Goebbels said, “are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious.”

The skilled liar also said, “If we have power, we will never give it up again unless we’re carried out of our offices as corpses.”

A big lie is a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the facts, especially when used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body. The expression was coined by the hate-filled Adolf Hitler when he dictated his 1925 book “Mein Kampf” about the use of a lie “so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, according to psychologist Tom Stafford. Researchers performed one study in which the participants were asked to rate how true each statement seemed on a six-point scale, and one where they just categorized each fact as “true” or “false.” Repetition pushed the average item up the six-point scale, and increased the odds that a statement would be categorized as true.

PsychCentral, a mental health website, ponders, why does some misinformation “stick” in the public consciousness? Why do people continue to believe untrue things, even after they’ve been proven to be lies?

According to the researchers, misinformation is especially likely to stick when it conforms to our pre-existing political, religious or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult to overcome. This means that, if a person believes something for political or religious reasons, it’s far harder to change that person’s mind and have them understand a fact that differs from that person’s belief.

The researchers found that it is extremely difficult to dislodge strongly held beliefs through rational or logical methods. (Tell me about it!)

This is a reason why many still believe the big lie that there was systemic fraud sufficient to steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. With his long history of lying, Trump laid the groundwork for his big lie before he ran by saying he could only lose if it was stolen. However, many Republicans won on the same ballots while Trump lost — and they did not say there was fraud.

Persistent misinformation about political and financial issues can create considerable harm. For financial gain, some people want big lies to be true, like those perpetrated by Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. They become mesmerized to believe lies and are deaf to reality. So, Madoff made off with the financial futures of many. Ever the grifter, Trump even hoodwinked his base and made off with millions of dollars.

As the lawyers for Sidney Powell, Trump’s lying lawyer, said, “Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would know what she is saying about election fraud is not true.”

By not punishing Trump for his big lie, misinformation and actions leading up to the Capitol siege and beyond, Independents, Republicans, Democrats and the United States Department of Justice are condoning the big lie that, if you lose by 74 electoral college votes and 7 million popular votes even after exhausting all legal means, you can storm the Capitol to attempt a coup d’état!

No citizen, criminal, Supreme Court justice’s spouse — not even the president — past, present or future — at any time — is ever above the laws of the United States!

Finally, Goebbels said one truth: “There will come a day when all the lies will collapse under their own weight and the truth will triumph again.”


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