By Raymond Freeman
There is nothing new about this election. Donald Trump simply mastered old propaganda techniques and Twitter.
Hitler wrote in 1923 that “The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed” because people are “more easily prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.” Writing on propaganda techniques, George Orwell said that a “Big Lie” boldly told would become the accepted truth.
Big Lie theory is simple. If everyone is saying the same thing, it must be true. Very Important People on Very Serious Political Shows were all gibbering on about Iraq’s WMDs that would Kill Us Any Second. Bush’s Big Lie became the accepted truth.
Repetition is essential. Sarah Palin’s “death panel” lie concerning Obamacare was parroted moronically. It got Politifact’s Lie of the Year in 2009. Trump’s Big Lie, parroted moronically, is that he will Shake Things Up because he is richer than God and a brilliant business negotiator. Why is it, then, that he was involved in 3,500 lawsuits, four business bankruptcies, 20 major business failures, has a nearly bankrupt campaign and will not release tax returns?
Trump’s first wife revealed that he read Hitler’s speeches avidly to master the art of lying. Trump lies shamelessly and confidently, saying one thing in one interview and contradicting it in the next. Journalists are overwhelmed. It would take armies of fact-checkers with hours of airtime to debunk Trump’s barrage of lies. Though there are websites for this, few voters visit them.
The pressure inside the corporate media to secure interviews is intense. Hence, Trump would send out tweets at 4 a.m. By 9 a.m., he was on the air, phoning in lie after lie. Interviewers did not ask him tough questions, for fear he might refuse the next interview request, causing ratings to drop.
Trump’s campaign accordingly won Lie of the Year for 2015. No one particular lie stood out from his torrent of lies. They were all so brazen that his entire campaign got the grand prize for the lot.
Trump blusters that national debt is a threat, and claims he can make it vanish, because he knows nobody understands economics. Voters swallow this claim whole, having fallen for the Big Lie that our problems are due to “big government” that must be “drowned in a bathtub” because we are “taxed enough already.”
In reality, America is a lightly taxed country and most of the national debt was run up by Republicans. Prominent economist Joseph Stiglitz is adamant that America’s fundamental economic problem is not government debt. In his book, The Price of Inequality, he says we need to focus on growing the economy, not killing it with “deficit fetishism.”
Smears are as good as lies. Fox News won 2014 Lie of the Year for suggesting that President Obama was ignoring Ebola. And nobody could attack President Obama for being black. So Trump attacked his birth certificate and let racial smears do the rest. Trump smears Mexicans and Muslims, blaming them for America’s problems.
America’s problems have nothing to do with Mexicans. Economists by the boatload have pointed out that America’s main problem is the concentration of income and wealth at the very top. This inequality is the greatest since the 1920s. Second, most Americans’ incomes have been stagnant since 1975, reducing economic growth from “demand deficiency.” Canada does not have these problems. Hence, the average Canadian is now richer than the average American.
Our third main problem is the huge deficit on current account because we export so little and import so much. Bernie Sanders criticized America’s trade policies long before Trump did. These policies have led to massive wealth gains for the top 0.1 percent. Trump could not give two hoots for the deficit on current account because he does not understand it, and because nobody cares about economics. He knows his crocodile tears over trade policies go down well with angry old men. Like Mitt Romney before him, he knows they are far too stupid to realize that they were impoverished by Republican-driven policies in the first place.
Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary, goes blue in the face offering solutions to these problems. He stated, “The short-term solution is for government to counteract this shortfall by spending more, not less. The long-term solution is to spread the benefits of economic growth more widely.” Sanders agrees. Both emphasize investing in infrastructure, thereby creating jobs, producing wages and consumer demand, thus growing the economy.
Mark Twain nailed it: “The problem ain’t what people don’t know; it’s what they know that ain’t so.” The trick is to add to the rubbish already in their heads. Trump simply took this idea and ran with it; unlike Sanders, who told the truth.