One Big Lie

Hey all, it’s been a while. Despite the lapse in posting, a lot has been on my mind. At the forefront, today, is this analysis by the Washington Post revealing that Donald Trump has now surpassed the 2,000 mark in overtly false or misleading claims since taking office last January. You can read the article here.

One Big Liar

It’s a staggering number — roughly 5.6 per day. Our president simply lies,  chronically, overtly, and without shame. But perhaps even more shocking is how many people in America still support him, despite his Ruthian prolificacy at lying.

Which begs the question, how? How can anyone — let alone tens of millions of people — continue to believe in and support a president so objectively and verifiably dishonest? How can so many believe so many lies?

One Big Lie

The answer, I think, is fairly simple. It all boils down to what I call the “One Big Lie.” The One Big Lie started out as a simple narrative with (arguably) just enough of a kernel of truth to take seed: that the mainstream media, and in particular, the major television news networks at the time, had a liberal bias. Over time, the narrative was expanded to include not only television news, but other purveyors of thought, information, and opinion that conflicted with a neo-Christian/conservative worldview and its emerging political agenda. The One Big Lie now encompasses not only the mainstream media, but the vast majority of our nation’s newspapers, journalists, intellectuals, scientists, writers, thinkers, historians, philosophers, fact-checkers, and many others. Anyone or any thing that does not adhere or conform to strict conservative orthodoxy is now covered under the One Big Lie.

It was a simple, brilliant strategy. The One Big Lie is a threshold lie. If you can convince people to believe it, then a thousand other lies can be spread like butter. And it wasn’t a hard sell, because the One Big Lie tells people what they want to believe — that they are right, and that the people and facts that conflict with their beliefs are wrong and need not be given any credence.

One Big Mess

Everything in American politics changed with the One Big Lie. I believe it to be the most significant political and cultural development in America over the past 50 years, and it could prove to be the most significant ever. It could, feasibly, lead us into a nuclear war. Less fatalistic, but equally dire, is that it could prove the undoing of what was once the world’s greatest democracy.

In many ways, it’s already happening. Who could have imagined twenty years ago that we would now have a reality tv star for a president, who rose to political prominence by advancing a false conspiracy theory against a sitting president with the aid and support of a media empire holding itself out as a “fair and balanced” news agency? That we would have a president with no history of public service, no knowledge of world events, no conception of history, no understanding of our Constitution, and no grasp on policy? One who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by at least 19 women, and was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women’s crotches without their consent? One who lies with impunity 5.6 per times per day, who criticizes and defames our press, our legal system, our justice department, and our federal law enforcement officials, among numerous others? Who conducts foreign policy via twitter, derisively mocking other world leaders with pet nicknames like “rocket boy,” and praises foreign enemies while putting down our allies?

Who foresaw that we would now have heads of government agencies with no substantive knowledge or experience in their areas of responsibility, whose primary goals are to undermine or destroy the very agencies they serve? That we would have a ruling party in Congress that refuses to investigate, acknowledge, or rectify proven foreign interference in our electoral process, and are actively engaged in covering up possible collusion and corruption by our president? Who are rushing bills to vote in their barest, preliminary draft forms, without hearings or public debates or comment periods, let alone analysis by neutral government agencies regarding their possible effect? That pedophiles and convicted criminals like Roy Moore and Joe Arpaio would be viable candidates for the U.S. Senate? That known alt-right racists and conspiracy theorists would have positions in the White House?

All of it is as bad as it sounds, and worse. All was made possible by the One Big Lie. And all of it could bring us down.

One Big Challenge

How this all ends is yet to be written, but one thing seems certain to me: if we’re ever going to restore sanity, balance, and true democratic principles to our country, we’re going to have to begin making inroads into reversing the One Big Lie. If we’re ever going to begin bridging the political divide between us, finding bi-partisan solutions to real problems, and seeking common ground in our ongoing culture wars, we must penetrate the One Big Lie. This may well be the defining challenge of our times.

As always, my best to all, and thanks for reading. – T

10 thoughts on “One Big Lie”

  1. Wow. You certainly know how to return with a bang, Tim. And that’s good. It’s been too long.

    I’m intrigued with your idea of the “one big lie.” However, I’d suggest that it’s worse than that.

    The media sources I admire include New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, and a growing number of journals including the Atlantic and Vanity Fair. I rarely watch TV news as I believe it’s become too focused on keeping the viewers entertained rather than enlightened. That’s not totally the fault of the networks though; I think it’s the reality of our 30- second attention span. I’ve heard it called the “Laugh-In curse” from the … I digress.

    Try this on for size: The media (print) isn’t biased to the Left as much as they are filled by people who still hold dear the basic tenets of American democracy. The Right has abandoned most of them in favor of worshiping at the altar of the almighty dollar. Here are the specifics I’m thinking of:

    Which side favors a movement toward and ever expanding inclusion? Maybe we all couldn’t vote in the early days, but over the years we’ve added women and Blacks, and now in some States, felons who have finished their sentences. Always expanding.

    Which side holds dear the idea of equality under the law? That all citizens have the same rights and responsibilities and that all laws are applied equally and fairly, that there are no favored groups with preferential treatment. And that no one is above the law. I’m writing a blog piece on privilege these days and so this is greatly on my mind.

    That’s enough. I could go on. I’m thinking the RIGHT (for lack of a better word, though use of the term is rather ironic) has forgotten the basics. They’ve gotten away from basic principles that our country was founded upon. And we aren’t teaching this stuff in school anymore. The media isn’t Left-leaning; it is America-leaning. Somehow we’ve have to get THAT message out.

    Where’s Superman when you really need him? Remember, he fought for “Truth, Justice, and the American way.” And everyone knew what that meant.

    1. Janet, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t believe the legitimate MSM — and particularly our remaining great newspapers– are left-leaning in any material, meaningful sense. Perhaps in certain ways they lean that way, although in others, they clearly do not. I hope my comment about the “kernel of truth” didn’t convey that message. If anything, there seems to me to be something of an inherent tension between “liberalism” (not “political” liberalism, but “liberalism” in terms of thought/thinking), and certain neo-christian/conservative ideals. Christianity is an obvious example. At its core, it is a belief system that believes in a singular truth at the exclusion of all other possibilities. Any media coverage, however unbiased, that does not regard it as fact, or that affords equal consideration to other faiths, will be deemed to be “biased” by its adherents, no matter how neutral or objective it is. It’s part of the reason, I think, the “One Big Lie” is/was so attractive to those with a certain bent. All of which reminds me of a quote from one of our great historical newsmen, Walter Cronkite: “I think being a liberal, in the true sense, is being nondoctrinaire, nondogmatic, non-committed to a cause – but examining each case on its merits. Being left of center is another thing; it’s a political position. I think most newspapermen by definition have to be liberal; if they’re not liberal, by my definition of it, then they can hardly be good newspapermen. If they’re preordained dogmatists for a cause, then they can’t be very good journalists; that is, if they carry it into their journalism.” Powerful food for thought. Thanks, as always, for weighing in :).

  2. Tim — The truth about this statement…

    “All of it is as bad as it sounds, and worse. All was made possible by the One Big Lie. And all of it could bring us down.”

    …is what’s so incredibly frightening.

    1. Laurie – thanks very much for reading, and for passing this along :). It truly is frightening, I think. And while I wish I could be more positive, I think it’s important to keep our eyes on just how far we’ve fallen, and how vulnerable our institutions truly are. It’s hard to avoid the normalization of this insanity. ‘may there be sunnier days ahead!

  3. Thanks, Tim,
    “One Big Lie” is a perfect insight into the lunacy plaguing much of our society at present. I’m reminded of your analysis of the desire of many of our “religious” folk to have an “authoritarian” leader, due in large part because of their belief in an authoritarian God. As good old Buster might say, “Oh, woe is us!”

    1. Thanks, much, Walt! I think ‘ol Buster indeed has his paws on the pulse of our current state of affairs. It’s enough to make many of us want to howl. You’re right, too, that I’ve hit on this subject before, both directly and indirectly. I obviously think it’s important. At the core of it all is a belief that there are a lot of good people out there who have been unknowingly swept along in a current of misinformation, and that, if we could somehow penetrate this information divide, we might be able to begin narrowing our political and cultural ones.

  4. I fear for our country! Will we ever get back to sanity? Listening to a black preacher hollering about “what the president said” not what we are saying came out of his mouth(on the news). Always making excuses for him. If I could get my husband to go I would be one of the 8.7 million Americans that don’t live in this country—we already spent 30 years in Europe.

    1. Susan, thanks for your comment. It’s nice to see a new face around these here parts :). Like you, I’m also afraid for our country. If anything, the past twelve months have shown us just how vulnerable our democracy is. I have to admit, I’ve also given thought to expatriation — less so for me than for my daughters and their future children. There are some critical dominoes still standing and putting up a good fight (the press, our legal system, etc.), but if any of them begin to fall, we’ll know we’re in serious trouble. It’s critical we get through these next ten months then take back at least partial control next November…

      1. Absolutely for November but will everyone forget because one good thing happens? We checked into moving to England but they did away with their retiree visa a few years ago and hubby doesn’t want to go anyplace else.

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