The Big Lie and truth are in an epic battle for the soul of America
The media must explode this generation’s Big Lie: Donald Trump’s assertion that he really won the election and “voter fraud” handed a false victory to Joe Biden.
Trump and his handmaids on Fox, et al, have pushed his Big Lie so hard and so far that more than half of Republicans fully believe it —thus some are predictably acting on it, from the January 6th failed coup to armed protests at state capitols all around the nation. As long as they believe the Lie, they’re not going to stop or go away.
If our media keeps failing to point out that voter fraud largely doesn’t exist in America, and that Biden won by about 7 million votes fair and square, our political crisis will slide from bad to worse, more blood will be shed, and our republic may never recover.
The media must point out the fact that Trump is simply repeating the old fascist Big Lie playbook that, 80 years ago, brought the world to its knees, and nearly shattered our federal government.
They must tell the truth to the two-thirds of Republicans who fully believe the election was stolen by voter fraud.
Trump’s Big Lie is now so widely believed among Fox-watching, Limbaugh-listening, Facebook-reading police and military members that the Secret Service is vetting individual soldiers coming into DC for the inauguration out of fear that Big Lie true believers among the National Guard may use their weapons to make a second try at an internal coup or even attempt to assassinate President Biden or Vice President Harris.
Trump brought us this, but it’s not new.
Adolf Hitler rolled out his Big Lie at the 1924 Beer Hall Putsch, claiming that Germany didn’t actually lose World War I, but that a premature surrender negotiated by Jews and communists prevented Germany’s final and inevitable victory.
He fired a shot into the ceiling of a busy Munich beer hall to get everyone’s attention, gave a fiery hour-long speech that whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and ordered them to march to the nearby seat of Bavaria’s government to invade the building and seize the state. It was the failed coup attempt that landed him in prison.
But even in prison, Hitler continued to preach his Big Lie. He said the disastrous inflation and national humiliation caused by the French occupation of Germany’s industrial heartland (the Ruhr), and the World War I (the “Great War”) surrender under the punishing terms of the Treaty of Versailles were not the fault of Germans and were not accepted by most Germans.
Germany actually could have won the war, Hitler said, but Jews and socialists tricked German negotiators into surrendering to the Allies while there was still plenty of fight left.
The German defeat was a lie, Hitler preached, a massive hoax, and patriotic Germans must rise up, overthrow the traitors who’d engineered the German surrender, and thus make Germany “great” again.
The more often Hitler told his Big Lie, the more people believed it; soon he could easily win elections based on it.
And the German media ignored his Big Lie, even as it spread and grew, because they considered it so simplistic and absurd, so frankly banal, that it was beneath them to even bother to specifically address or try to rebut in detail.
Unfortunately, Hitler had no shortage of German politicians in the 1920s and early 1930s who were more than happy to use him and his Big Lie to advance their own careers.
They treated it like an innocent exaggeration; agreeing with it got them more followers and voters and increased their proximity to Hitler. They were pretty certain nothing bad could come from such an small misstatement or inaccuracy.
The Germany media also largely ignored Hitler’s Big Lie that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by Jews and socialists, or just mildly called it an “exaggeration” or “untruth,” assuming that because it was a lie it would die out on its own.
Instead, it grew like a cancer and eventually devoured Germany itself.
Donald Trump started his own Big Lie in January 2016, three days after he was elected, saying that Hillary Clinton didn’t actually beat him by 3 million popular votes; those numbers, he said, were because of “voter fraud.”
Trump promoted his Big Lie at every rally and in every possible venue for all four years of his presidency; he said it literally thousands of times.
Hundreds of Republican elected officials repeated and amplified Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud, both to ingratiate themselves to him and his followers, and to give their state legislatures an easy excuse to crank up voter suppression efforts.
The American media’s response to Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud was to laugh at it. They showed pictures of the relative sizes of his inaugural crowds, or made snarky remarks about his claim of 3 million “illegal voters.” They gently snickered at his Big Lie or simply ignored it, as he repeated it day after day, month after month, year after year.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans paid close attention to Trump’s stolen election/voter fraud Big Lie, just like Germans who felt humiliated by the loss of the Great War listened to Hitler’s Big Lie about traitorous Jews and socialists who’d “stolen” Germany’s victory.
Politicians like Georgia’s Brian Kemp, then the Secretary of State with oversight of his own state’s elections, used Trump’s Big Lie to justify throwing hundreds of thousands of mostly Black and Hispanic people off the Georgia voting rolls in the two years leading up to his beating Stacy Abrams in 2018 by about 50,000 votes.
Across the country, Republicans repeated Trump’s Big Lie, sometimes making their own variations on it, and a few, like Kansas’ Kris Kobach turned it into a mini-industry, charging big bucks for “consulting” while marketing his Interstate Crosscheck program. State after state made it harder to vote, always citing the Big Lie of voter fraud as the reason.
During that same time, year after year, right-wing media stars on talk radio and Fox News promoted Trump’s Big Lie, breathlessly focusing on every little anecdote about the rare examples of people who voted without legal authorization.
It became so fevered that two years ago a Texas mother of seven, Crystal Mason, thinking she could vote after she finished serving her time for a felony charge, was arrested and sent to prison for five years for casting a ballot that election officials had caught and rejected. Her vote was never counted, but she still went to jail, and national conservative media highlighted her incarceration as an example of a national crisis of voter fraud.
Not surprisingly, millions of Americans totally believed Trump, Fox hosts, right-wing talkers and Republican politicians. Then it became tens of millions. It’s probably now pushing over 100 million people, a bit less than a third of the population, who believe Trump’s Big Lie.
In an earlier rant, I pointed out that when people truly believe that an election’s been stolen, it’s not at all weird or unreasonable for them to get into the streets and protest in every way they can. Our country was founded, after all, on an illegal revolution that we celebrate every year on July 4th.
With a consistent message that voter fraud is rampant in America coming from virtually every Republican politician, all across Fox News, rightwing talk radio and from the President of the United States himself and echoed by his Vice President, only the most naive could imagine there would be no consequence.
Germany’s media could have stopped Hitler’s Big Lie before it destroyed their nation, but failed to do so because they thought it was so obviously a lie there was no need to address it head-on, and rebutting it was a boring, wonky argument that required a lot of detail and history to debunk anyway.
American media has just a few months left to expose, once and for all, Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him through voter fraud, before our political crisis becomes a full-blown disaster.
Time is running out, and surveys show that over half of all Republicans now fully believe Trump’s Big Lie that Black Democrats in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Phoenix, and Milwaukee stole the election for Joe Biden using voter fraud. Fully 68 percent of Republicans believe Trump was “robbed” of his rightful victory by voter fraud committed mostly in those inner cities.
Arresting people who acted out on Trump’s Big Lie is essential but — because they believed him, Fox’s hosts, and their local Republican politicians — it also creates new martyrs for Trump’s cause; for many, these absolutely necessary arrests strengthen their belief that something nefarious did, indeed, happen.
And that they can become the heroes of the Trump/Rambo/George Washington movie that’s playing out now in real time.
America’s media must get the message out now, loud and clear. With facts in easily understood format, complete with stories, pictures and graphs.
They could start by reading and amplifying this article in The Washington Post that summarizes nine major studies of billions of American votes over the past few decades, proving beyond any possible doubt that, outside of a few dozen exceptions-that-prove-the-rule per nationwide election, there really is no such thing as voter fraud in America.
As Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney told his colleagues in the Senate, “The best way we could show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth” that the election was not stolen.
Until the truth is so clearly and widely spoken in multiple venues that even hardcore Trump voters realize he’s been lying to them about voter fraud all along, America’s rightwing violence will metastasize to consume our nation in ways from which we may never recover.
We must kill the Big Lie.