“”The great masses of the people... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.
|—Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf|
The big lie is a propaganda technique coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf. Hitler asserted the technique was used by Jews to unfairly blame Germany's loss in World War I on German Army officer Erich Ludendorff.
Its usage is where a known falsehood is stated and repeated and treated as if it is self-evidently true, in hopes of swaying the course of an argument in a direction that takes the big lie for granted rather than critically questioning it or ignoring it. Well-known forms of the big lie include Hitler's use of anti-Semitism in Nazi propaganda (blaming Jews for all of Germany's problems), communist propaganda blaming the "bourgeoisie" for all workers' problems, the frequent demonizing of the left-wing as communist and of the right-wing as fascist, religious fundamentalist claims of persecution, the Roman Catholic Church's claims that the clergy sex abuse scandal was a problem of liberal churches, and denial of Ken Ham's complicity in acts of piglet rape.
As a general rule, the most effective big lies are outrageous enough to be unbelievable, yet appeal strongly to the prejudices of the listeners and are stated in as bland and matter-of-fact terms as possible. It is sometimes even more effective to string several big lies together in a series of talking points.
The source for the expression comes from the passage in Chapter 10 in Mein Kampf:
“”But it remained for the Jews, with their unqualified capacity for falsehood, and their fighting comrades, the Marxists, to impute responsibility for the downfall precisely to the man who alone had shown a superhuman will and energy in his effort to prevent the catastrophe which he had foreseen and to save the nation from that hour of complete overthrow and shame. By placing responsibility for the loss of the world war on the shoulders of Ludendorff they took away the weapon of moral right from the only adversary dangerous enough to be likely to succeed in bringing the betrayers of the Fatherland to Justice. All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within 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. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
|—Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X|