Saturday January 1, 2011

In 1925, Adolf Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf" that if you repeat a lie often enough it is eventually believed to be the truth.

While you didn’t hear politicians, corporations, pundits and shady organizations literally repeating the line in 2010, many of them deployed the "big lie" strategy to discredit political opponents and their ideas.

Many of the lies were specious, spurious and outright falsehoods but it didn’t stop the credulous from being duped, especially if the lies corresponded with their own willfully ignorant perspectives on the world.

Of course, many of those big lies were in response to President Barack Obama’s election and his policies.

Who can forget (please, can we?) Sarah Palin and her "death panels" and the way the media jumped on the bandwagon?

And then there were the claims by the "birthers" that Obama wasn’t born in the United States or that he is a secret Muslim.

But the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times’ fact checking website politifact.com named its biggest lie of the year one espoused by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and a number of other Republican officials and Tea Party leaders, who claimed the passage of health-care reform legislation was "a government takeover of health care."

Again, the media did its part to spread the misconception.

"In 2010 alone, ‘government takeover’ was mentioned 28 times in the Washington Post, 77 times in Politico and 79 times on CNN," wrote Bill Adair and Angie Drobnic Holan on the website.

Adele Stan, on alternet.com, also singled out David Koch, the billionaire who founded Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks, for helping to propagate the lie about the government takeover of health care.

Koch, opposes government regulation of any kind, whether it’s of the health-care industry, the energy industry or the financial sector. Maybe that’s because his family made most of its fortune in the oil and gas sectors, wrote Stan.

Other big lies singled out by Stan included: Andrew Breitbart’s "creative editing" of comments made by U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, which made her sound like a racist, leading to her dismissal and that liberal financier George Soros, a Jew, was a Nazi collaborator during WWII. The heinous aspersion leveled against Soros was made by Glenn Beck, who Stan calls "the master of the Big Lie."

Why Soros, who was 13 years old when Germany conquered Hungary, hasn’t launched a defamation of character suit against Beck is a mystery to us.

Beck, and his fellow truth-speaker (sarcasm intended) Rush Limbaugh, is also responsible for a concerted attempt to paint Obama as a racist, a black man with "a deep-seated hatred for white people."

No matter how outrageous Beck’s and Limbaugh’s lies and distortions are, their disciples eat up their proclamations and spit them out without thought.

Here’s another good one, from that master of reasoned debate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., founder of the House Tea Party Caucus: She claimed that Obama’s recent trip to India cost American taxpayers $200 million per day, which was unquestioningly and with frightening rapidity picked up and repeated by many media outlets.

But as factcheck.org pointed out, it costs $190 million a day to arm, equip and provision America’s 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

"The ($200 million-a-day) claim is simply too ridiculous to be contemplated, let alone believed," wrote Jay Bookman, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Yet many who hate Obama believed it and still believe it.

A smaller lie was also put forth that Obama cannot speak without a teleprompter, which supports the belief of many people "that the black president is too stupid to speak without a machine scrolling text presumably written by white staffers," wrote Stan.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle also deployed the big lie during the run-up to last year’s elections, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson dubbed his Republican challenger, Daniel Webster, "Taliban Dan," and declared in an ad that Webster "wants to force battered women to remain in abusive marriages."

Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan was accused by a union advocacy group of skipping out on a vote to save auto industry jobs, when he was actually in a hospital recovering from surgery. (In a side note, the bill easily passed.)

In Nevada, Republican Sharron Angle claimed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders."

The Democratic National Committee released an ad that falsely accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of spending foreign donations to influence elections in America.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, other lies included the accusation that Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln of receiving millions of dollars from big oil, that during San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome’s tenure the city’s murder rate had risen more than 45 percent, that Michele Bachmann’s opponent Tarryl Clark would tax "your corndog and your deep-fried bacon," and that Democrats wanted to cut $500 billion from Medicare.

The lies just go on and on and people continue to swallow them, avoiding the easiest of tasks by just going on the Internet and checking out their veracity on their own.

In the end, other than the consumers of information, broadcast media is the most to blame for big lies that take on a life of their own.

There are more than a few media outlets which don’t seem to have the staff or the will to do their own fact checking and like the gullible, accept without a forethought utterances by bloggers and extremists with not-so-hidden agendas.

"The media have been exemplary -- not in a wittingly conspiratorial way, but in a, gee-these-sensational-claims-will-really-boost-our-ratings kind of a way," wrote Stan.

We hope in 2011 the media make a more diligent attempt, or any attempt at all, to get to the bottom of "facts" spread by less-than-reputable sources and expose them for what they are ... lies, lies and more lies.

But let’s just say we won’t be holding our breath for the next 365 days waiting to see if they do so.