Populism, Democracy and the Big Lie

The news media lies to you, but probably not in the way you are thinking.
When you think of news media lies you probably think of Saddam's WMDs and his fictional ties to al-Qaeda.
This lie was the exception because the news media was lazy. They lied about something specific that could be easily disproven, which was unusually sloppy for them. Most of the media's lies are much larger and harder to disprove and usually involve half-truths and lies of omission.

The media is universal in agreement that populism is bad for democracy.
Populism is dangerous. Populists are authoritarian. Populists, of both the right and the left are racists.
It's centrists that love democracy and moderation will protect democracy.
There is virtually no disagreement with this assessment, so it was surprising that I found this article.

My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.
...Some of the most striking data reflect respondents’ views of elections. Support for “free and fair” elections drops at the center for every single country in the sample. The size of the centrist gap is striking. In the case of the United States, fewer than half of people in the political center view elections as essential.

I could say something about Russiagate and our "sacred elections", but instead I'm going to move onto the critical subject of freedom.

In almost every case, support for civil rights wanes in the center. In the United States, only 25 percent of centrists agree that civil rights are an essential feature of democracy.

So centrists aren't very fond of democracy, elections, or civil rights.
So what do centrists value?

I find, however, evidence of substantial support for a “strong leader” who ignores his country’s legislature, particularly among centrists. In the United States, centrists’ support for a strongman-type leader far surpasses that of the right and the left.

Keep in mind that these are the very same people that are telling us not to trust the other guys, and that only they stand for freedom.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Who are the populists? They are generally the people in the streets. They are often affiliated with the left or the right.
Who are the centrists? They aren't the streets. They are most often part of the establishment, which brings up their disdain for primary challenges, an essential part of democracy.

A 2018 poll conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress and data analytics firm YouGov Blue showed that 54% of Democrats agree that, "Democrats should provide a clear, positive agenda to contrast with Trump and the Republican culture of corruption. Primary elections ensure the strongest Democrats emerge to advance that agenda."
Only 35% of Democrats believed that, "Democrats should focus on providing a check against Trump and the Republican culture of corruption. Drawn-out primary fights among Democrats are counterproductive."

What is happening with Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, the Yellow Vests in France, third parties in the U.S., is a rise in real democracy.
The establishment is telling you to hate this democratic activism because it is a threat to their "democracy". You are being told to hate the things that can save us and to embrace the things that are killing us.
You want primary challenges? You must want the Democratic Party to lose.
You want to vote third party because they share your values? You are throwing away your vote.

It's the Art of the Big Lie, and it's not new.

"All this was inspired by the principle - which is quite true in itself - that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation."
- Hitler, Mein Kampf

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OzoneTom's picture

I'm out of NYT clicks for the month, but look forward to reading soon. The charts you excerpted tell the story...

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Azazello's picture

Very few people do. Most of 'em think Big Lie theory has to do with repeating a Big Lie until it becomes Truth. They miss the psychological point that Hitler is making about the way most people lie; by stretching the truth, by exaggeration, little lies.

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because if a government has "always" been beneficial people refuse to believe that it would "suddenly" betray them. America is becoming - has become - a fascist kleptocracy because it has been so (superficially) beneficial to the American people.
The prosperity and happiness of the 50s and 60s did not make people "soft", it conditioned them, and like Skinner said, it takes a lot more time and effort to break conditioning than to instill it. They assume that the government is striving to make them happy and prosperous, even after the happiness and prosperity is long gone. It's not that we never saw it coming, it's that we didn't believe what we saw.

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A PROUD Hillary hater since 1993


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contain multiple parts. They need to be broken down into their separate pieces.

"Democrats should provide a clear, positive agenda to contrast with Trump and the Republican culture of corruption. Primary elections ensure the strongest Democrats emerge to advance that agenda."

One can easily agree with the 1st part of the above statement and disagree with the Trump section and the part about primaries.

Repubs and a culture of corruption? Give me a break. Dems are every bit as corrupt. Primaries? You mean the primaries rigged in favor of HRC and the primaries where progressives are knee-capped locally?

I don't know why a pollster would combine all of those concepts in one question.

"Democrats should focus on providing a check against Trump and the Republican culture of corruption. Drawn-out primary fights among Democrats are counterproductive."

Again, this statement has multiple parts that could elicit either agreement or disagreement.

So, I don't think the conclusions drawn by the author you cite are valid. It sounds like a poll designed to find what the author wanted to find.

(not that I disagree with your points in this post, just that the poll questions aren't that helpful)

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@dfarrah Reading it, I felt I just saw a ghost. It strikes me that if there were a "centrist" poll these would be the type of questions that would be asked.

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that the poll questions are part of "the big lie". Obviously we can only draw so much info from the results when the question is in and of itself a lie.

I always loved it when Dennis Kucinich would say "I reject the premise of your question"....

Thanks for another fine essay GJohnSIt.

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@wouldsman Yes

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divineorder's picture


I always loved it when Dennis Kucinich would say "I reject the premise of your question"....

The media, and not just the mainstream, has often maligned his work to get us nice things.


Dennis The Menace Strikes Again: Kucinich Seizes On Guns In Ohio Guv Primary
By Cameron Joseph
April 3, 2018 6:00 am

Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has seized on gun control to propel his underdog gubernatorial campaign, worrying state Democrats that he has a real chance to win the primary — and damage his party’s chances in a key race.

Kucinich, a former presidential gadfly candidate who’s been one of Russia’s more prominent left-wing apologists in recent years, is giving a spirited challenge to former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (D), the candidate strongly preferred by most party leaders.

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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

but I would disagree with one thing. I don't think the msm swallowing of the Hussein WMD lie was simple laziness. I think there were plenty of lazy and ignorant journalists involved, but I think there were willful decisions not to examine the assertions of the Bush administration critically. I see the same sorts of decisions now with the Russia narrative. In both cases assertions have been repeated without critical analysis so often that they have become accepted facts for the msm.

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Centaurea's picture

@Roy Blakeley @Roy Blakeley

I remember how scary that time was, in the early 2000s. Our civil liberties were being demolished, the Patriot Act, TSA, Homeland Security. What a dystopic term, "Homeland". Do you recall hearing that term applied to the USA before 9/11? I don't. It still gives me the creeps.

Anti-war protestors were herded into "First Amendment zones" blocks away from where Dubya was appearing. The American public was openly and directly admonished not to criticize or question, but to keep our mouths shut, support the president, and spend money shopping.

What did the MSM do? It acted as cheerleader-in-chief and water carrier for the Bush administration and the MIC.

News reporters (so-called "journalists") consistently allowed their interview subjects to control the interview and turn it into pro-MIC PR. No in-depth, critical questioning, no follow-up to BS statements.

Instead of providing independent, truly journalistic coverage of the military action in Afghanistan, they allowed themselves to be "embedded" in military units.

I recall the actions of the MSM as one of the scariest parts of that time. In retrospect, I can see that it was gaslighting of the highest order. Something terrible was being foisted upon us, and the MSM not only failed to acknowledge it, but actively promoted it.

So yeah, it was not mere laziness on the part of the news media when they propagated the "weapons of mass destruction" nonsense.

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"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep."

"If you want revolution, be it."
~Caitlin Johnstone

divineorder's picture

@Roy Blakeley to it than lazy. That said, as a long time appreciator of his work I am pretty sure gjohnsit knows there is more.

Here's something interesting which I found just now in a search, from back in 2007 that describes what happened .


Media complicity and disinformation on the Iraq war
By Jane Cutter
Apr 03, 2007

A new report by the progressive media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting shows the complicity of the capitalist media in selling the U.S. invasion of Iraq to a skeptical U.S. public.

The war and occupation of Iraq has passed the four-year mark. Increasing numbers of people in the United States are

expressing open opposition to the war. Many who once supported the war have now joined the anti-war movement, most notably soldiers and their families. How come so many people were convinced to support the war in the first place?

The role of the bought-and-paid-for corporate media in selling the Bush administration’s lies cannot be overstated.

It is well known that all the justifications for the invasion have been proven to be lies. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq posed no threat to the safety or security of people in the United States. Iraq had no ties to terrorist organizations and had nothing to do with the World Trade Center attacks.

However, even in fall 2002, activists and critical journalists raised these issues and questioned the line being peddled by the administration that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the United States.

On the 4th anniversary of the US “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, FAIR prepared a critical timeline of media coverage of the Iraq war build up from fall 2002 into the first few months of the war and occupation. The timeline paints a damning picture of media complicity in as cheerleaders for the drive to war and silencing even the mildest of anti-war views.

Some excerpts from the shameful media behavior catalogued in the timeline are the following:

Includes excerpts from, and link to, the larger Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting report.

Seems like this crap is the norm these days, and money to be made pushing narratives and memes and more.

Poll-Rigging for Trump and Creating @WomenForCohen: One IT Firm’s Work Order
Behind the scenes, Michael Cohen hired RedFinch Solutions, then allegedly stiffed it—and his boss

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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

@Roy Blakeley they work extremely hard on pushing propaganda.

How do the commenters manage to say almost the exact same words across different networks.

There is a puppeteer somewhere.

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mimi's picture

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The frustrating thing is to read an essay, agree with it, but it feels like there is something missing, something you can't put your finger on. This, to me strongly moves thinking forward. Sort of a step in the unified field theory of how and why we're being screwed. If you think "strongman" it doesn't have to be a Trump. It could be Oprah and nothing would change. At it's core there is just one party, the rest is hot buttons for our benefit, to feel we have some say in our lives.

I'm starting to feel a little hopeful. The internet is starting to work for us. There's a pattern emerging that will be able to be trace actions and motives to individuals from the past to today. There is the question of "what are we going to do about it?"

I don't know but when I read this:


something clicked. That we take too much personal responsibility for actions designed for us to fail. Job loss, medical bankruptcy, student loans that last for eternity, homelessness, poverty. We're all "personally responsible" for our lot, and we should be ashamed of ourselves if we fail. It trains us to never say "please sir, may I have a little more?". We should sacrifice to help the humanitarian crisis at our border for non citizens suffering to enter the US no matter the cost, or we should just build a wall at all costs to keep that brown non English speaking horde out. One thing we should never do is give the neighbor that got stomped on by life a hand up. That would be rewarding failure. They want help? Do a go fund me.

The 99% is huge. We should be tyrants in the power of our numbers? Why aren't we?

Then there are the 10 year olds, old enough to start exploring the world, paying a new type of attention to life. For them, this is normal. This is future way-back-when-I-was-a-kid-time. They deserve better, and so do we. In this I have come around to agree the geezers fucked up. We never should have left the streets until whatever we accomplished was the new normal, and not so easily undone.

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