Archive | January, 2016

Thank You, Reichsminister Goebbels

11 Jan

Here we are at the beginning of yet another election cycle.  A report about FactCheck.org and the whoppers being told by the presidential candidates on CBS This Morning really got me thinking.  The propagation of a lie has become so easy in the 21st Century.

Adolf Hitler allegedly said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed” (Hitler, n.d.).

Hardly a day passes that either my email or social media doesn’t bring me something that tests my gullibility.

  • There are areas in Michigan or is it Texas or is it Oklahoma that have abridged the Constitution and the state’s legislative pronouncements and implemented Sharia law.
  • The President has subverted the Constitution through the use of executive orders.
  • President Obama is an alien.
  • Government officials encourage stoning police officers.
  • Bacon purchases monitored.
  • Facebook is giving away money.
  • Facebook is going to charge per post.
  • Polygamy causes flooding.
  • White sugar makes you rot.
  • [Fill a religion] is destroying America.
  • [Fill in name of personality] is destroying America.

Sadly, these things arrive in multiple increments and via multiple platforms: emails, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Goebbels “materially aided Hitler’s rise to power in 1933” (Psywarrior, n.d., para. 3).  He “knew the power of controlling what people thought” (Lisciotto (H.E.A.R.T.), 2007, para. 11).  He said,

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.  It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State”

(Lisciotto (H.E.A.R.T.), 2007).

Today, it is just not the State.  Anyone can pull this off.  Just keep repeating the lie.  Send an email.  Post a tweet.  Bombard social media.  Ask friends and followers to forward or retweet or share.  We’ve all seen those postings warning children about the Internet and how rapidly postings move through this electronic world.  Lies move faster … and seem to become more viable with each retelling or reposting.

Actually, “people tend to limit their exposure to … [information] that goes against their own beliefs – instead, they are drawn to sources that they find agreeable and in so doing bolster their beliefs – when multiple people do the same thing and use the same sources they create what has become known as echo chambers” (Yirka, 2016, para. 2).  This same thing happens on the Internet (Yirka, 2016).[1]  It’s a closed loop that simply allows the lie to get bigger and bigger and bigger.  Whereupon it becomes the truth.

Ich danke Ihnen, Reichsminister Goebbels.  (Was that a maniacal laugh that I just heard?)

Bibliography

Hitler, A. (n.d.). Adolf Hitler Quotes. Retrieved from GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/30691.Adolf_Hitler

Lisciotto (H.E.A.R.T.), C. (2007). Joseph Goebbels. Retrieved from Holocaust Research Project: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/goebbels.html

Psywarrior. (n.d.). Joseph Goebbels. Retrieved from Psychological Operations: http://www.psywarrior.com/Goebbels.html

Yirka, B. (2016, January 5). Facebook study suggests online users reinforce their views by creating echo chambers. Retrieved from Phys.org: http://phys.org/news/2016-01-facebook-online-users-views-echo.html

 

[1] For more information see Michela Del Vicario et al. The spreading of misinformation online, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517441113.