James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Bushies and the Big Lie

Now and then, in a letter to a newspaper or a call to a radio station, some citizen compares the Bush administration with the Nazis of World War II.

Bush supporters go apoplectic, of course, and even liberals tend to be a bit offended by the comparison of an American president to the most despised despot and mass murderer since Genghis Khan.

It’s interesting that the accusers always refer to the Bush crowd’s disdain for human rights or its disregard for the Constitution of the United States. No one that I’ve heard or read has tied them to the one area – other than an apparent belief in the efficacy of torture -- where they unquestionably and deliberately have copied the Nazis.

That is in manipulation of public opinion.

Karl Rove, and probably a couple of the other evil gnomes of the Bush Administration, clearly have studied the life and works of Joseph Goebbels, the twisted genius of Nazi propaganda. No one of the few remaining residents of this country who have studied the rise of Nazi power in Germany can doubt that. The methods are unmistakable.

And no ordinary public relations expert of today would dare do what the Bush crowd is doing. The tactics are too outrageous; that, in some instances, is why they work. The average citizen can’t believe that people at the highest levels of government would say such things if they weren’t true.

My friend Will Shapira, who wrote a piece about Republican Jews for this space a couple of months ago, keeps asking me in wonderment: "Why isn’t anyone talking about ‘the Big Lie?’"

I keep telling him, to my own great dissatisfaction, that it is because hardly anybody in this country younger than 60 has heard the term, let alone knows what it means. Most people have never run across the concept by any name. When Will and I were school kids just after World War II, and in college in the late 1950s, the Big Lie was a topic of class discussion, at least here in what is now Blue Country, but it disappeared from public awareness decades ago.

In a nutshell, it is this: Someone in a position of power can make the public believe anything, regardless of how false or absurd, if he simply keeps repeating the lie, endlessly repeating it, even in the face of absolute evidence of its falsity. In fact, the more outrageous the lie, the more successful it is likely to be.

Thus: Jews are responsible for all of Germany’s ills.

Thus: The invasion of Austria was to rescue the Austrian people from their brutal government.

Also thus: Puny, poverty-stricken little Iraq is an immediate threat to the United States of America. (Never mind that inspectors say there are no "weapons of mass destruction." Never mind that those aluminum tubes could not possibly be used in nuclear weapons. Never mind...etc., etc.)

And thus: Social Security is in crisis and the only way to save it is to establish private (oops, excuse me, I mean "personal") investment accounts.

Many people have refuted the Bush claims of Social Security’s imminent failure, notably economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Newspapers and magazines have printed many pieces showing that the Bush claims are entirely false – although mostly the newspaper articles are on editorial and op-ed pages, which are ignored by almost everyone who leans right.

Even more damning is that right before George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech, a top White House staffer briefed reporters on the administration’s Social Security plan and admitted flat out that those private investment accounts would do nothing to resolve the financial problems that Social Security will face some years in the future unless some relatively simple steps are taken to prevent that.

In fact, the Bush aide admitted, the plan for private accounts will require about $664 billion in borrowing to establish and another $90 billion for interest on the debt, thus greatly increasing an already terrifying federal deficit by 30 percent. And, he also admitted, there’s a very good chance that people who get private accounts actually would end up with less retirement income than they would have with Social Security as it is organized today.

The timing of the briefing was such that the White House (Rove, probably) knew it would get virtually no coverage, buried as it was under the weight of the State of the Union speech. And in that speech, Bush spewed falsehood, claiming that his "reforms" would "solve the financial problems of Social Security once and for all."

You have now met the Big Lie.

Of course, the briefing for reporters was almost entirely ignored by news agencies around the country, yet if backed against a wall – which rarely happens these days – the Bushies can say they did tell the press the truth. That’s a nice little twist that may be Rove’s own invention; I don’t recall Goebbels coming up with that one, although it’s been many years since I studied the rise of Nazism, and I may be forgetful of some details.

A poll reported a few days ago showed that a majority of people in their 30s and younger favor the private investment accounts. The generation that rarely reads has bought the Big Lie hook, line and sinker.

They and their children are the ones who are going to have to pay off the enormous debt being run up by the Bushies – payments that inevitably will cost them major hunks of their incomes and their retirement money.

If you’re looking for the Bush crowd’s motivation for tearing up Social Security it’s easy to find. The most succinct explanation came from close Bush ally Stephen Moore, a leader of the extreme right Free Enterprise Fund and Club for Growth.

"Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," Moore said in a speech to another right wing organization. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

By "welfare state," he means, of course, all social programs that don’t directly put cash into the pockets of the very rich.

There is one useful thing about Bush & Co.’s Big Lies: They telegraph where the administration is going to strike and pretty much let us know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s a pity there aren’t any journalists covering the White House who have picked up on that simple fact. Or perhaps one or two have and simply lack the guts to act on what they know.

Hitler and Goebbels were never so entirely predictable. Often, their lies followed their actions; listen to Bush, and you know what’s coming to an amazing degree.

What’s coming is exactly the opposite of what he says he intends.

In the state of the union speech, Bush said his budget would contain "strong funding" for renewable energy. The budget includes big cuts in government support for renewable energy.

In the same speech, Bush talked about giving stronger support to veterans returning from Iraq. The budget contains further cuts in an already badly damaged veterans’ benefit program, notably on health care.

Not long ago, Bush announced an "action plan" to fight the devastating effects of pollution and over-fishing on the seas. His budget asks for a cut of about 40 percent in funding of the National Ocean Service and cuts government support of the National Marine Fisheries Service by 12 percent.

In many speeches, Bush has talked up the importance of education. His budget slashes funding for Head Start, vocational training, college loans and other help for low-income students, and school construction and maintenance, among many other educational targets.

He talks about affordable health care and – well, the people reading this already know about the phony "initiatives" granting pharmaceutical and insurance companies great financial boons at the expense of the public.

The list is long. The point is that when Bush says he’s going to do something for the American public, it means the Bushies and their toadies in Congress are going to do something rotten to us.

By looking 180 degrees from what he says, you can see what they will do. With Bush’s Big Lie, you at least know when to duck – if you have room.
Next: Other techniques perfected by Goebbels now enthusiastically used by Bush & Co.
For a brilliant take on the Bushite's "new morality" -- let the grandkids pay -- go to http://www.jimklobucharwrites.com