A letter to the editor of the Bennington Banner from David A. Durfee, which was published on Aug. 10, ended with a powerful thought that deserves elaboration. After he recalled the “big lie” technique of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Durfee’s letter concluded: “There is a danger that the ‘big lie’ technique may prove the Nazi’s disastrous ‘gift’ to us.”
Durfee left it unsaid, but what comes immediately to mind is the big lie spread by Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Trump bellowed this lie to the American nation so loudly that a horrifying number of people believe it and are prepared to act on it. A lengthy article by investigative reporter Jane Mayer in the current New Yorker magazine documents in astonishing detail the extent to which big money is backing Trump’s big lie — with serious and alarming potential for consequences for the future of democracy itself. Goebbels was dead right in this case; Trump’s big lie has been told so often that millions believe it.
One could follow up and suggest another reason why this big American lie has found such credence, and that has to do with Fox News and other right-wing media that preach an entire alternative planet of information. Disinformation is powerful, indeed. The thugs who followed Trump’s orders to engage in insurrection at the Capitol building on Jan. 6 offer further evidence of the strength of a Goebbels-type big lie having taken firmly hold.
This situation is a fact of 21st century life in the United States, whose Founding Fathers would be horrified.