A “big lie” is an extreme distortion of the truth, used for the purpose of spreading propaganda. It is often somewhat outrageous.
In theory, people will more easily believe a big lie than a smaller one, because most people assume that there is evidence to support any statement of great magnitude.
The term was coined by Adolph Hitler in his autobiography, Mein Kampf.
Hitler wrote that “the great masses of the people… will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.”
He also claimed that if propagandists repeated a lie often enough, people would come to accept it.
Eventually, that lie would inform people’s thinking on other related issues.
Hitler did not say that he, himself, was spreading a big lie. Rather, he accused European Jews of spreading “falsehoods and calumny” about Germany’s role in World War I.
However, Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, is closely associated with the technique as they implemented the “Final Solution.”
In our own times, pundits love to accuse leaders of peddling “the big lie.”
A 2013 column in the Los Angeles Times charged that then-President Barack Obama had told the American people a huge lie when he promised that nobody would lose their existing healthcare plan when the Affordable Care Act came into effect.
Just a few years later, the media was full of articles about “Donald Trump’s big lie.”
CNN pointed out a major irony: Trump’s opponents believed that he had spread a “big lie,” but Trump’s supporters argued that his successor was the liar.
Another CNN piece noted Trump “has spent months spreading lies about the 2020 election, which he himself is now calling ‘THE BIG LIE’ as he continues to claim that a massive conspiracy robbed him of a second term.”
CNN concluded that Trump was the true liar.
Use of “Big Lie” in a sentence:
- The spread of “the big lie” about the 2020 election has contributed to a substantial increase in political polarization in the United States.
- To counteract the effects of “the big lie”, many media organizations are focusing more heavily on fact-checking and providing accurate, non-partisan news coverage.
- The persistence of “the big lie” demonstrates the powerful role that misinformation can play in shaping public opinion and discourse, even in the face of overwhelming factual evidence.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.