Big Lie

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique. It was defined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography "Mein Kampf" as a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously".

Use of the expression by Hitler

It is often erroneously claimed or implied Hitler had advocated the use of the Big Lie as a viable propaganda technique. However, Hitler, when writing of the Big Lie in "Mein Kampf", was in fact criticizing "the Jews" for their perceived use of the Big Lie. The source of Big Lie technique, from Chapter 10 of "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 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. 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. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.

From time immemorial, however, the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited. Is not their very existence founded on one great lie, namely, that they are a religious community, whereas in reality they are a race? And what a race! One of the greatest thinkers that mankind has produced has branded the Jews for all time with a statement which is profoundly and exactly true. He (Schopenhauer) called the Jew "The Great Master of Lies". Those who do not realize the truth of that statement, or do not wish to believe it, will never be able to lend a hand in helping Truth to prevail.

Adolf Hitler
"Mein Kampf", vol. I, ch. X [cite web
title=Project Gutenberg of Australia - Mein Kampf tr. James Murphy

Use of the expression by Goebbels

Later, Joseph Goebbels put forth a slightly different theory which has come to be more commonly associated with the expression "big lie". Goebbels wrote the following paragraph in an article dated 12 January 1941, 16 years after Hitler's first use of the phrase "big lie", entitled "Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik", translated "From Churchill's Lie Factory". It was published in "Die Zeit ohne Beispiel".

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one's secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous. [Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941. "Die Zeit ohne Beispiel". Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. 1941, pp. 364-369 [original German: Das ist natürlich für die Betroffenen mehr als peinlich. Man soll im allgemeinen seine Führungsgeheimnisse nicht verraten, zumal man nicht weiß, ob und wann man sie noch einmal gut gebrauchen kann. Das haupt-sächlichste englische Führungsgeheimnis ist nun nicht so sehr in einer besonders hervorstechenden Intelligenz als vielmehr in einer manchmal geradezu penetrant wirkenden dummdreisten Dickfelligkeit zu finden. Die Engländer gehen nach dem Prinzip vor, wenn du lügst, dann lüge gründlich, und vor allem bleibe bei dem, was du gelogen hast! Sie bleiben also bei ihren Schwindeleien, selbst auf die Gefahr hin, sich damit lächerlich zu machen.] ]

Used in Hitler's psychological profile

The phrase was also used in a report prepared during the war by the United States Office of Strategic Services in describing Hitler's psychological profile: [ [ A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler. His Life and Legend] by Walter C. Langer. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Washington, D.C. With the collaboration of Prof. Henry A. Murr, Harvard Psychological Clinic, Dr. Ernst Kris, New School for Social Research, Dr. Bertram D. Lawin, New York Psychoanalytic Institute. p. 219 (Nizkor)]

His primary rules were: 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. [ [ Hitler as His Associates Know Him] (OSS report, p.51)]

The Big Lie in popular culture

George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four refers to the Big Lie theory on several occasions. For example:
* “The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts”. [George Orwell. 1984 (edition?) p. 221]
* “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed...”. ["ibid.", p. 223]

The 1994 song "Living with the Big Lie" from Marillion's album "Brave" references the use of government and media-driven propaganda to disillusion the general population and to make them sympathetic to the government's ultimate goal.

ee also

*Noble lie is a similar concept.

*"The Big Lie" was also the name of a book by John Baker White on British black propaganda during World War II. [Baker White, 1955]



General references

*cite book
last = Baker White
first = John
authorlink =
title = The Big Lie
publisher = Evans Brothers
series =
year = 1955
doi =
oclc = 1614230

External links

* [ The German Propaganda Archive (GPA)] (Calvin College)

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • big lie — big′ lie′ n. gov a false statement of outrageous magnitude used as a propaganda measure • Etymology: 1945–50 …   From formal English to slang

  • big lie — or the n. 1. a gross falsification or misrepresentation of the facts, with constant repetition and embellishment to lend credibility 2. the propaganda technique, as in politics, of using this device …   English World dictionary

  • big lie — noun Usage: sometimes capitalized B&L Etymology: translation of German grosse lüge : untruth on a large scale consciously used as a propaganda technique on the assumption that it is more likely to compel belief than untruth on a modest scale * *… …   Useful english dictionary

  • big lie — noun Usage: sometimes capitalized B&L Date: 1946 a deliberate gross distortion of the truth used especially as a propaganda tactic …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • big lie — a false statement of outrageous magnitude employed as a propaganda measure in the belief that a lesser falsehood would not be credible. [1945 50] * * * …   Universalium

  • big lie, the — {n.}, {informal} A major, deliberate misrepresentation of some important issue made on the assumption that a bold, gross lie is psychologically more believable than a timid, minor one. * /We all heard the big lie during the Watergate months./ *… …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • big\ lie,\ the — noun informal A major, deliberate misrepresentation of some important issue made on the assumption that a bold, gross lie is psychologically more believable than a timid, minor one. We all heard the big lie during the Watergate months. The… …   Словарь американских идиом

  • 9/11: The Big Lie — L Effroyable imposture [Thierry Meyssan, L Effroyable imposture , 2002, ISBN 2 912362 44 X] (or The Horrifying Fraud ) is the original French title of a highly controversial 2002 book by French journalist and political activist Thierry Meyssan.… …   Wikipedia

  • the big lie — a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the facts, esp. when used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body …   Useful english dictionary

  • big — (adj.) c.1300, northern England dialect, powerful, strong, of obscure origin, possibly from a Scandinavian source (Cf. Norwegian dial. bugge great man ). Old English used micel in many of the same senses. Meaning of great size is late 14c.; that… …   Etymology dictionary

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