Thursday, January 20, 2011
Outrage at the Outrage of Congressman Cohen
There's a momentary online/news-cycle of outrage 'n infamy swirling around Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen for comments he made this week criticizing opponents to the Health Care Reform Act. He said there was a "big lie" made when claims were made that the law was a government takeover of health care, and he attributed the power of a repeated lie to Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels.
Here's a link to the actual speech from Rep. Cohen (I did not hear him say the word "Nazi".)
Predictably, outrage at his outrage followed from Republicans.
Likewise, a steady defense of Rep. Cohen's comments and views emerged too, such as from TN blogger Vibinc. Vibinc points to the reality that "propaganda" tactics harm the nation, and he's right about that.
Everyone, including the congressman, is having a tough time accurately detailing where the phrase "big lie" or about repeating lies originates.
It was Lenin who said "A lie told often enough becomes truth."
Hitler - according to WikiPedia - coined the phrase "Big Lie" in his 'Mein Kampf" book, claiming Jews used such a tactic to lay blame for World War 1.
Goebbels wrote that is was the British who used "big lies" to create truth. "The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it."
In the U.S., a psych profile from the OSS on Hitler during the war reads:
"His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."
As Vibinc wrote - the tactic being overworked in our time is relentless propaganda.
Truth or facts are dubious clouds we might perceive but cannot grasp as they shoulder out the sun above. And apparently, for most folks, history is a murky place from which we draw out incorrect information at a steady clip.
Passionate cries of outrage overlap and fill news reports and political commentary, obscuring the issues. Word games obscure policy debates, and we all lose when that happens.