- For the 1951 anti-communist propaganda film, see The Big Lie.
The Big Lie (Template:Lang-de) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, for a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." Hitler believed the technique was used by Jews to unfairly blame Germany's loss in World War I on German Army officer Erich Ludendorff.
Hitler's use of the expression
The source of Big Lie technique is this passage, taken from Chapter 10 of James Murphy's translation of Mein Kampf:
Goebbels's use of the expression
Later, Joseph Goebbels put forth a slightly different theory which has come to be more commonly associated with the expression "big lie." Goebbels wrote the following paragraph in an article dated 12 January 1941, 16 years after Hitler's first use of the phrase "big lie," titled "Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik" and translated "From Churchill's Lie Factory." It was published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.
That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one's secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.
Usage in Hitler's psychological profile
His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
The Big Lie in popular culture
- “The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”
- “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed....”
Frank Zappa continually referred to "the Big Lie" in his book, The Real Frank Zappa Book. He used it to describe organized religion, government, and the music industry. The song "When the Lie's So Big" from Zappa's 1989 album Broadway the Hard Way also dealt with the concept.
Richard Belzer defines The Big Lie, in his book UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Believe, this way: "If you tell a lie that's big enough, and you tell it often enough, people will believe you are telling the truth, even when what you are saying is total crap."
In Six Days of War, by Michael Oren, "The Big Lie" is used in a similar context to describe the widespread accusation (primarily by Syria and Egypt), that the Arab defeats during the Six Day War were a consequence of direct United States and United Kingdom military intervention. The use of this falsehood by Syria and Egypt further alienated the US and also critically worsened relations with the Soviet Union, which wished to avoid further escalation.
Ian Fleming referenced the "Big Lie" in his famous James Bond book On Her Majesty's Secret Service when he had the pilot of a helicopter, who had flown it through French airspace illegally, respond to the flight controller's question as to who authorized the flight that he (the flight controller himself) authorized it.
- Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; no text was provided for refs named
- Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941. Die Zeit ohne Beispiel. Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. 1941, pp. 364-369 [original German: Das ist natürlich für die Betroffenen mehr als peinlich. Man soll im allgemeinen seine Führungsgeheimnisse nicht verraten, zumal man nicht weiß, ob und wann man sie noch einmal gut gebrauchen kann. Das haupt-sächlichste englische Führungsgeheimnis ist nun nicht so sehr in einer besonders hervorstechenden Intelligenz als vielmehr in einer manchmal geradezu penetrant wirkenden dummdreisten Dickfelligkeit zu finden. Die Engländer gehen nach dem Prinzip vor, wenn du lügst, dann lüge gründlich, und vor allem bleibe bei dem, was du gelogen hast! Sie bleiben also bei ihren Schwindeleien, selbst auf die Gefahr hin, sich damit lächerlich zu machen.]
- A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler. His Life and Legend by Walter C. Langer. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Washington, D.C. With the collaboration of Prof. Henry A. Murr, Harvard Psychological Clinic, Dr. Ernst Kris, New School for Social Research, Dr. Bertram D. Lawin, New York Psychoanalytic Institute. p. 219 (Nizkor)
- Dr. Langer's work was published after the war as The Mind of Adolf Hitler, the wartime report having remained classified for over twenty years.
- Hitler as His Associates Know Him (OSS report, p.51)
- George Orwell. 1984 (edition?) p. 221
- ibid., p. 223