Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The “big lie” was Adolf Hitler’s term in Mein Kampf for the propaganda tactic of telling a lie so “colossal” that nobody would believe anyone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Far from being specific to Nazism, this technique of political persuasion has been to varying degrees universal. These days, the masters of the “big lie” are the Leftists and those progressives who, addled by Trumpophobia, regularly promulgate whoppers that today’s internet can easily discredit.
Of course, from the Russian collusion fabrication to the Ukraine “quid pro quo,” the Dems have publicized numerous lies and distortions of facts. Now they’re at it again with hysterical attacks on Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. During the last debate, Mike Bloomberg charge that Trump “defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don’t have the organization we need,” a lie seconded by Joe Biden who added, “He cut the funding for the entire effort.” As the New York Post, commented, “It’s a lie that can only sow fear: The CDC budget is higher than when Trump took office. Same for the National Institutes of Health. And top career officials from both have been working with the White House for weeks to direct the US response.” This lie was so “colossal” that the AP––which was so skewed toward Democrats during Obama’s tenure that wags said AP stood for “administration’s press”–– ran a headline that read, “AP FACT CHECK: Democrats distort coronavirus readiness.”
This penchant for accepting lies as truth, however, has warped the minds of Leftists both hard and soft ever since New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty lied about Stalin’s engineered famines in the 1930s. They have accepted the Marxist, as in Groucho, stance “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” One of the best examples is Bernie Sanders’ stubborn, unapologetic support for vicious totalitarian regimes like the Castro cartel in Cuba, based on a variation of the fascist excuse that Mussolini “made the trains run on time” combined with the old proverb favored by communists, and used in print by Duranty, that “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
On Sixty Minutes, for example Sanders defended his affection for Fidel Castro by saying, “But, you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. When Fidel Castro came to office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” Of course, the real question is what are you teaching them to read––regime propaganda or facts? Moreover, apart from the moral idiocy of suggesting that improving literacy is worth imprisoning and torturing political enemies, and murdering up to 140,000 people, saying that Castro substantially raised Cuban literacy rates is a big lie.
So too are other excuses for Castro’s tyranny, such as improving health care, infant survival in childbirth, access to food and consumer goods, and per capita GDP. A typical example of such historical malfeasance is the following statement from the esteemed London Sunday Times in August 2006: “Fidel Castro can look back on some unquestionable achievements. Under his rule, the impoverished Caribbean island has created health and education systems that would be the envy of far wealthier nations . . . and there is near full literacy on the island.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Mike Gonzales has summarized a State Department report that explodes these common canards:
A study by the State Department’s Hugo Llorens and Kirby Smith shows, for example, that in infant mortality, literacy rates, per capita food consumption, passenger cars per capita, number of telephones, radios, televisions, and many other indicators, Cuba led when Castro took over on New Year’s Eve 1958. The United Nations statistics leave no doubt. In infant mortality, Cuba’s 32 deaths per 1,000 live births was well ahead of Japan, West Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain (40, 36, 39, 33, 34, 50, and 53 respectively), and many others.
In food consumption, in terms of calories per day, Cuba was ahead of all of Latin America except cattle-rich Argentina and Uruguay.
In automobiles per 1,000 inhabitants, Cuba’s 24 was ahead over everyone in Latin America except oil-producing Venezuela (27).
As for literacy rates, Cuba’s 76 percent in the late 1950s put it closely behind only Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica. Giant Brazil’s percentage, by comparison, was 49 percent.
And Cuba’s gross domestic product per capita in 1959 was higher than those of Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, most of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, again according to U.N. statistics. In most vital statistics, therefore, Cuba was on a par with Mediterranean countries and southern U.S. states.
Humberto Fontova has documented even more specifically the monstrous lie at the heart of most people’s understanding of the Cuban Revolution and the presidency of Fulgencio Batista in his book Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Of course, like today the media have long been the enablers of this rank propaganda being taken as history. Indeed, as Fontova reminds us, Fidel and Che acknowledge the contributions of American newspapers, especially the New York Times, to the success of the “revolution.” As Che wrote in his diaries, “Much more valuable to us than recruiting military recruits for our guerrilla army was recruiting American reporters to export our propaganda.” And Castro, as he pinned a medal on Times reporter Herbert Matthews, a Duranty-class useful idiot, said “To our American friend Herbert Matthews with gratitude. Without your help, and without the help of the New York Times, the Revolution in Cuba would never have been.” The latest historical outrage from the Times, the “1619 Project” claiming “that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery,” is merely the latest example. These days, fake news is the first draft of fake history.
Worse yet, today’s progressives believe lies to be true despite their egregious falsehood. Then progressive state governments act on beliefs that biological sex can be changed by choice, that an aborted human being isn’t a human being, that infants surviving abortion can still be killed, that the modern industrial world can run on solar panels and windmills, that money can be endlessly appropriated and redistributed, that a region like California should dump precious water to protect a bait fish, that hordes of bums and hobos polluting public spaces require no action, and that our enemies can be mollified by soothing words and foreign aid rather than by mind-concentrating deeds.
These lies and their dangers have been worsened over the last few decades by the degeneration of education from grammar school to university. The millennials who comprise the passionate Bernie Bros are some of the worst-educated young people in American history. The postmodern and Leftist hijacking of history in particular has substituted “diversity” melodramas and left-wing propaganda for knowledge of historical data and the complex causes of events. Their historical horizon reaches to about 1990, with everything before that an undifferentiated mass of random historical events and figures, jumbled together like a cubist painting with no perspective depth to give them their meaning. So why shouldn’t badly educated millennials believe the Left’s fabrications? They probably think that the white landowner’s son Fidel (of Spanish ancestry) and the middle-class Che (Spanish, Basque, and Irish) are “people of color.”
As of now, the chances don’t look good that Bernie Sanders secures the nomination and then beats Donald Trump, particularly now that Joe Biden has won the South Carolina primary. But they are not nil. Twenty years ago very few people would have bet that an avowed socialist and political gadfly who serially apologizes for history’s most bloody tyrants, at the same time he obviously dislikes his native land, could last more than one debate in a presidential primary. But the rot in our educational system has been spreading for decades. It infects popular culture, movies, social media, newspapers, television, and even sports. Corporations, no doubt seeking to build brand-loyalty among millennials, have embraced the “woke” propaganda and based their corporate strategies on its shibboleths like transgender rights, “intersectionality,” and global warming. All it will take is some disaster and its unforeseen consequences––the current coronavirus crisis suggests one possibility––that will scare voters into gambling on a false prophet promising impossible utopias.
Then we might see for ourselves what George Orwell famously prophesied in 1984 as the consequences of the big lie:
If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death . . . . And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’
The progressive corruption of history demonstrates their control of the past. Their dangerous policies currently control much of the present. If they triumph in November, we all may have to experience the grim wages of their control of the future.
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