21. February 2005 · Comments Off on The Big Lie · Categories: General, Media Matters Not

The world has changed… I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air. The power of the enemy is growing.
(From LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring)

That is the power of the Big Lie, the outrageous falsehood that is repeated, and repeated and repeated. Eventually it is everywhere, all at once, so omnipresent that it is worse than a many-headed hydra; no matter how many times you bash away at it, it regenerates, re-grows, it is always there, no matter how many times you cut it down. Once it is repeated enough, it is accepted passively as true, and it is always there, in the water, the earth, the air… in the magazines one reads, the television shows, the movies… so saturated amongst the media that one begins to think that it is in their very DNA.

The other seductive power of the “big lie”, besides constant repetition, is that a good portion of those who hear it are predicated to believe it. They very much want to believe it. It slots easily in to an existing world-view and set of values and beliefs. If you are convinced that international Jewry controls the economy, or that the UN’s black helicopters are patrolling the Western US, or that Karl Rove is a Machiavellian puppet-master, you are already prepped for belief, having been excused the hard labor of looking at uncomfortable and contradictory— or even ambiguous facts and thrashing out some sort of reconciliation in the middle ground. Black and white is ever so much more satisfying than shades of murky grey. The “big lie” is even more embraceable if it serves to deflect blame from an individual, a country, or a cause, and reaches the highest form of usefulness if it can park that blame squarely at the door of whoever it would most richly satisfy the party of the first part to blame.

One of the “big lies” of my time was that of the of the freaked-out, atrocity committing, guilt-ridden Vietnam vet. It was perpetrated by a lazy news media, seized upon eagerly by anti-war activists and grubby politicians hoping to ride a popular cause and finally exploited by the entertainment media looking for the cheap and easy cliché— took on a horrible half-life of its own, poisoning attitudes about the military for decades. Need a handy villain? The military would do! A cheap bit of bathos? Bring in the guilt-ridden veteran! An enduring cliché? Cue up the stock footage of hovering Hueys over a rice paddy with “All Along the Watchtower” on the audio track! I was ultimately and forever put off the “X-Files” when one of their nastier episodes featured a massacre of half-aliens by a unit of the US Army: the show encouraged a very sick kind of paranoia, I thought, and that the show’s writers thought that particular plot twist to be remotely credible said more about them than the Army. I realized how pervasive that big lie had become, when watching news coverage of the build-up to Gulf War I. Most of the reporters actually doing coverage of the American forces could hardly contain their air of pleased surprised at how utterly normal, well-spoken, and… and just darned nice all those military people were, in their funny hats and dusty chocolate-chip cammies. Who would have thought it? Not a murderous hopped-up psychopath among them.

Perhaps this will explain in a small way the almost universal anger of various milbloggers at CNN’s ex-functionary Eason Jordan. Those of us with long memories of how the Vietnam vet “big lie” distorted military service in the eyes of the general public cannot endure to see this happening again, without protest— not from the egregious Mr. Jordan, not from Sy Hersh, not from 60 Minutes. We have to engage the “big lie”, to whack it back to the ground again and again, to fact-check, to post our own stories, to bear witness to events we see happening before our own eyes, to demand an accounting of those who perpetrate the “big lie” for their own ends.

And if that be a blogger lynch mob… be a sweetheart and hand around the torches and pitchforks, please. We have work to do.

To the barracades, my friends!

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