Awakening to the Big Lie
As humans, we have the choice to believe and act how we choose—this is called free will. To be completely free, we must have the skills to think freely and rationally, and we must be able to discern the truths from the illusions or lies. Some percentage of the world’s population understands that George Orwell’s novel 1984 was written to send a message to society and to warn about conditioned responses, the designs of the few, and how so many can be unwittingly co-opted to work on behalf of the controlling elite in society.
Published in 1949, this dystopian novel is set in the future (in 1984) in an area formerly known as Great Britain, a province in a super-state, which is engaged in nonstop wars and under the control of a privileged elite. They manipulate the public with propaganda and lies and persecute those expressing individualism and independent thinking. Look closely. We are experiencing this in our society today, when a person can’t speak freely on a college campus for fear of retribution or even a riot, stand during the national anthem, or question anything, just because their point of view is contrary to the approved narrative.
In the book, the main character loses his identity, while living under a repressive regime. The government in 1984actively hides and destroys all traces of corruption, deceit, and lying. The privileged elite does whatever is needed to maintain and gain power, without regard for society and the planet. The end, namely total domination and control of the citizenry, justifies the means, such as freedom of thought.
The novel takes as its frame of reference something called The Big Lie theory, which is credited to Joseph Goebbels, who was Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister. Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” He further said that, “A lie can only be maintained for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic, and/or military consequences of a lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus, by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.” Adolf Hitler, in his 1925 book Mein Kampf, wrote that, if one is to lie, then “make it colossal, as then the masses could not believe that anyone could have the arrogance and impudence to distort the truth so famously.”
Rocker Frank Zappa referred to The Big Lie in his book The Real Frank Zappa when he referred to government, politics, religion, and the music industry. Those doing so understand that to have a better chance of selling a lie, the public must be consumed or distracted with other concerns—such as their day-to-day survival, where the next meal will come from, and mountains of debt. All of this impedes a person’s capacity to question a lie or even take the time to investigate and come to their own conclusion.
Even if we believe that we are a very independent-minded people, we are truly underestimating how mentally conditioned we may have become from early childhood. This is just not something that happens in countries historically rich in propaganda but happens every day in so-called open and democratic societies like the United States. We are constantly conditioned with massive amounts of repetitive messages filling our mental atmosphere and minds with manufactured thoughts designed to influence our perceptions. We have a twenty-four-hour news cycle, filled with panels of pundits, repeating over and over again these manufactured thoughts, many of which stick and become what we believe. We are exposed to more mass suggestion than at any other time in our history, whether through advertising, news media, or any other medium of thought provocation.
Long before Eat Popcorn and Drink Coca-Cola, Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, used his uncle’s insights into the subconscious to apply to mass media to promote roles, desires, and status symbols, all with the intent to increase his clients’ corporate profits. He and his business partner were known to have said, “People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.” Two of Bernays’ many written books were Crystalizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928). So, deliberate conditioning of the masses is nothing new. Some even believe that governments use “mind control” techniques on its citizenry, for all kinds of purposes and desired conditioning.
In Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, he writes, “Leave people alone without mass media and they will be lost and confused. They will not know what to support, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise.” Today, people are not left alone, as they have their smart phones and computers at their fingertips telling them what to think and believe each and every day. We consciously and subconsciously absorb a message and become conditioned to believe and react in a certain manner. The messages create reference points for right and wrong, how to behave, and how to think—not just individually, but in groups—in ways that discourage creativity or individual responsibility. We gravitate toward what are the most comfortable thoughts to hold, based on what has already been defined by the perceptions within our mind.
So, how do we know whether what we are told is true or fabricated? Are we so sure that some correspondent is actually reporting from a remote location or pretending to be on location while reporting from a TV studio? How do we know that the people on the streets are demonstrating for real and are not actually paid instigators or actors? If we participate in a demonstration, how do we know that we are not just being even more conditioned or manipulated? How do we know that official government statistics are factual or have been designed to misdirect and influence public opinion? How do we know that the facts we are taught in school are really true? Can we really believe with 100 percent certainty that the science of an Earth that has existed for billions of years is really settled? Remember, the Earth used to be flat. As Eduardo Galeano. Uruguayan journalist and considered “a literary giant of the Latin American left,” put it, “The majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated, and of power to the weak.”
To be clear, this post is not about resigning. It’s about taking control of our perceptions. The antidote to any illusion is a personal willingness to discern the truth. Knowing is a product of learning, and there is no learning without thinking, and central to thinking is questioning. Small numbers of people have accumulated staggering amounts of wealth, at the expense of massive amounts of depravity and suffering. Why is this remotely acceptable? Politicians promise, but few ever deliver. Why do we still elect them? People start wars, not countries. So, why do we condemn countries? People cause financial collapses. Yet, why does it seem that no one is ever held accountable or goes to jail? People get sick. But, how many people really question why and who benefits? Why can high-ranking government employees violate the law and nothing ever happens? The truth is that people within the hierarchy of the managers of society collude to gain more power, control, and wealth at the expense of others’ misfortunes, whether self-created or inflicted. The only way to change our condition is to awaken to this reality.