The Big Lie
Often to understand what’s happening in the news we need context – sometimes of larger events, but sometimes of the techniques that are being used. The continued Republican attack on the FBI (using the debunked Nunes memo) is such an example. In order to see what’s being done, we need to understand the power and use of the propaganda technique, the “Big Lie”:
“In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
The words are Hitler’s, from Mein Kampf, but the technique is used by Trump – and now the Republicans – again and again. The Nunes memo, an outrageous conspiracy theory that purports to blame the FBI for doing Hillary’s bidding in surveilling Trump campaign associate Carter Page, is just the latest example.
This week, Trump refused to release a rebuttal memo from Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic lead on Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee, insisting that it contained classified information – something that didn’t bother him in the least when he released Nunes’s memo. The reason that it’s important to see the Trump/Nunes effort as a Big Lie is that the media struggles to report it for what it is, instead reverting to their “he said/she said” safe space. We – and our representatives – must continue instead to call the lie a lie and to tell the truth: it’s a proven fact that Russia intervened in 2016 to help Trump. There’s ample evidence of intent to collude by the Trump campaign. A number of Trump associates have already been arrested and charged. Mueller is a Republican and a widely-respected for his fairness and dedication. And the FBI, if they showed any bias at all, demonstrated it by helping Trump clinch the election.
Four Inch Stilettos for Eight Hours Straight
Congress finally passed a spending bill, one that will lift the spending caps (“Sequestration”) put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program was extended from six years to ten, Community Health Centers were finally refunded and money was appropriated for disaster relief from last year’s hurricanes and fires. Left unaddressed was the fate of the DREAMers, causing consternation for those who withheld their votes in the hope of forcing a resolution to the DREAMers’ plight. Among them was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who held forth for eight hours straight on the floor of the House – the longest speech in modern House history – on behalf of the DREAMers, hoping to force Speaker Paul Ryan to let the House vote on a bill to resolve their dilemma.
Ryan is the main stumbling block to a solution: he continues to insist on using the “Hastert Rule” which stipulates that he will only bring bills to the floor for a vote if they are approved of by a majority of the majority. The rule, named for notorious pederast/abuser Dennis Hastert, blocks any legislation that would pass with bipartisan support but not the overwhelming support of the majority party. Unless and until Ryan will allow a vote, the hard-right anti-immigration forces in the Republican Party will continue to prevail, despite the fact that Americans overwhelmingly want to see the DREAMers protected. The battle continues.
The Myth of Republican Fiscal Responsibility Takes a Hit
The spending bill, which will add an additional $320 billion to the deficit, included spending for defense as well as social programs. What it also did was dramatically increase the deficit – though at least for programs which were needed, unlike the Republican tax giveaway passed last December, which showered riches on the already rich at the expense of everyone else. Much was made of the Republicans’ abandonment of fiscal probity. However, if we look back honestly, the Republicans only criticize deficits when they’re not in power. Historically since Reagan, Republican rule has seen increases in the deficit, while during Democratic rule the deficits are reduced. In other words, the Republicans have never been the party of fiscal responsibility. The Democrats have.
In related news, the stock market continued to plunge for much of the week. This shouldn’t be surprising. Republicans, who voted with near unanimity against the stimulus requested by then-president Obama in 2009, at the height of the financial crisis when the markets were in a state of near-collapse, are now adding an enormous stimulus to an economy that’s operating at full capacity. Both moves are the exact opposite of what any reasonable economist would recommend: the government should stimulate the economy when it’s struggling and pay down debt when things are roaring along. Building up debt now instead will leave us with fewer tools to use when the next downturn comes.
An Abusive White House Endangers National Security
Also this week, scandal once again roiled the White House. Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, resigned in disgrace when news emerged of allegations (supported by photographs) that he had beaten both of his ex-wives. Chief of staff John Kelly had allowed Porter to stay on the job despite the fact that he hadn’t received a security clearance due to the allegations of abuse. This matters because the staff secretary sees everything that passes the president’s desk and Porter could have been blackmailed about the allegations, compromising national security. In addition to leaving Porter in his post, Kelly also apparently sought to have his staff lie about it. Kelly, Trump and others all defended Porter and showed no sympathy whatsoever for the women he had allegedly beaten. What else should we expect from this most abusive and incompetent White House?
In Other News…
- Trump accused Democrats of “treason” for not applauding his State of the Union address, then later in the week announced plans for a big military parade – you know, the kind they used to have at Red Square. And Nuremberg. Both were the moves of a dictator.
- Rachel Brand, the number three person at the Department of Justice, announced that she was leaving to take the top attorney job at Walmart. This may allow Trump to replace her with someone who would be willing to do his bidding and fire Mueller if Trump fires Rod Rosenstein.
- Teens in Kansas, having discovered a loophole that they don’t have to be of voting age, are running for governor. At least one teen candidate made it clear that the reason for his campaign was to increase youth engagement in voting.
- After being ordered by the state Supreme Court to redraw their gerrymandered districts fairly, Pennsylvania Republicans redrew them – unfairly, with the same lack of balance as before, despite greater geographic proximity. On another front, a member of the state legislature moved to have the justices involved impeached, since he was unhappy with their decision. In Wisconsin, governor Scott Walker is leaving open state senate seats unfilled until next year because he’s afraid that Democrats will win those seats. This is what Republican politics looks like these days: cheating, cheating, cheating. That may sound like a “partisan” response. It’s not. It’s a realistic one. The Republicans have apparently gone past the point of no return and are working overtime to destroy representative democracy. They must be stopped.
How Trump uses language matters. And how we use it matters, too. Please plan to join us for an evening with cognitive linguist George Lakoff on February 26th as he presents a positive, proactive plan to address the needs and hopes of the American majority.
Finally, the Blue Wave won’t happen without our hard work and help. Join us as we work to flip California House districts blue!
Have a great week!
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org.
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, here’s a summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.