Weaponizing Lies to Spin a War, Kill Democracy…and Only God Knows What Else
And now — in the midst of a war between Gaza militants and Israel, when people around the world are desperate to know what’s happening — Elon Musk has personally recommended that users follow accounts notorious for promoting lies. “For following the war in real-time, @WarMonitors & @sentdefender are good,” --Musk posted Sunday.
“War Monitor” has posted that “the overwhelming majority of people in the media and banks are Zionists,” thanked Kanye West “for being the only man with influence to stand up and talk about the injustices going on,” and, according to The Washington Post, posted that a correspondent should “go worship a jew lil bro.”
-from Robert Reich, Professor, Commentator, and former U.S. Labor Secretary
For me to begin to truly understand the ease with which the Trump followers and co-conspirators push out baseless claims and knowingly mislead Americans, I had to accept these (my) obvious conclusions:
- Intentional liars are without a basic moral compass or conscience.
- Those using lies to overthrow democracy don’t give a damn about this country or its people.
- Those using lies to garner all power and wealth of America with the help of the clueless, don’t give a damn about any country or people.
- Those who believe the lies must believe there is something in it for them---they hate the same people, they assume they are the “chosen” ones, and they are truly deplorable.
- These liars are not unique. The gutters of history are lined with their debris.
Like the Texas governor who is unbothered by babies sent to their deaths in rivers, Elon Musk and others of their ilk have the capacity to spew lies about people being slaughtered in Israel.
In the dark shadows of their inhumanity our only light comes from the media members and other public communicators who still have the courage to pull back the proverbial curtain and reveal the wizard leader of lies is not all powerful but mostly bullshit and a little smoke:
Ewan Palmer wrote in Newsweek, How Donald Trump's Oil Waiver Gave Iran $6 Billion,“ In the wake of the Hamas attack against Israel, a number of Republicans claimed that the Biden administration helped play a role in the violence by unfreezing $6 billion of Iranian oil money in exchange for the release of five American hostages.Paus
However, even if the claim that the now available Iranian money was used to fund Hamas was true, the $6 billion figure came from a decision made by Trump. In 2018, Trump granted eight countries, including South Korea, a waiver that allowed them to continue purchasing oil from Iran even after the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Gulf nation after Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal.”
Big Lies live at the core of the Trumpism base. While he’s not the inventor, he is the user of Big Lie tactics.
Everyone should know by now that The Big Lie is a thing. Adolf Hitler coined the term in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, written while he was serving a five-year sentence for high treason. Hitler used the term to accuse Viennese Jews of trying to discredit German activity during World War I. Hitler wrote, “unqualified capacity for falsehood” and “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.”
The Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Strategic Services psychological profile of Hitler turns the tables on the Nazi leader by describing his use of the big lie, it includes:
Never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.
This behavior is from the playbook of Trump, the extreme Republican right, and their followers/enablers, like Musk. They’ve gone from the subtlety of dog whistles to outright, bold-faced racism, nationalism, and fascism. When Trump said that the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley should be executed for treason, he reached a new level in his attempts to build support for a fascist America with him as its unelected leader. Trump claims the general made calls to China behind his back. The general was doing his job to de-escalate talk of war with China, assuring them the U.S. was not going to attack. I call what the general was doing as cleaning up after the elephants in a parade, or after a diabolical liar on borrowed time in the White House.
Lies as Weapons of Mass Destruction
What we today call, The Big Lie, was rooted in the persistent accusation of election fraud despite all evidence to the contrary, intended to keep Trump in power after his expiration date in office. Federal indictment in this case alleges that Trump and his co-conspirators used lies for the criminal purpose of overturning the 2020 election. For some scholars this behavior fits the historical pattern of breaking the law to retain power.
New York University history professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat said "All authoritarian leaders have cults of personality….Meaning, they propose themselves as all-powerful, as the only solution possible to the nation's ills. 'I alone can fix it.' "
As we’ve seen, the “it” is often exaggerated or even made up nation’s ills.
Ben-Ghiat likens Trump’s tactics to those used by Hitler and Mussolini. "The use of lies takes place in a larger effort to turn the public against alternate sources of authority. Those sources might include independent courts, legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies. Or — it may be the fourth estate.”
It is common for a so-called strongman to immediately try turning the public against the media. Sadly, I know people who spent their lives working in newsrooms who are now believing Trump’s lies and turning against their former colleagues.
In his warning about Elon Musk’s use of X, formerly known as Twitter to stifle truth, Robert Reich cites a study by the European Commission that concluded that Russian propaganda about the Ukraine war reached more people on X this year than last year. He calls X a “cesspool of odious lies, hate speech and powerful people directing people to misleading sources.”
These are people who live next door to us, work at jobs with us, or conduct job interviews who, like proverbial sheep eating their way to slaughter, consume the lies right wing extremists because somewhere in those lies they see themselves and their interests. And this tells us the absolute truth about them.
The truth can’t destroy democracy, but lies can.”
right-wing-Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom