Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sighting Report #4

Goebbel's famous non-quote about telling a lie big enough and often enough to get people to believe it is finding a home in quite a few titles on Google Books.
  • One interesting sighting is in David Rankin's book, The Things I Wish They'd Told Me: ... as I Was Growing Up. The false quote appears on page 378 in a list of quotations about "Truth."
  • R. Thomas Risk and colleagues used it on pages 228 and 229 in their book, Where We Find Ourselves: Portrait of a Modern Infidel. The book includes footnotes, but does not give a source for the Goebbel's quote.
  • William Campbell Hunter, Jr., used the quote on page 138 of his 2008 Drew University doctoral dissertation on "The Value of the Filmic Encounter as a Pedagogical Tool for Empathy Promotion in Allied Health Undergraduates." He sources the quote in a footnote as follows: "Reference is being made to Joseph Goebbels the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda."

Sighting Report #3

A search of Google for postings during the last 24 hours indicates that the false Goebbels quote is flying around cyberspace.

It was used, and then apparently removed, on the right-leaning White House Dossier website.

It appeared on Digg in response to an article titled, "Drug Czar Claims Hemp Fiber Contains THC."

Harry Hopkins used the quote in his letter to the editor of the Bloomington, Indiana Herald Times. That paper's website makes it difficult to tell what Mr. Hopkins was responding to! Maybe that's not even important since Goebbel's non-quote seems to work for any situation of someone not agreeing with what someone else has said--especially the media.

Bruno Korschek used the quote in an article on ArticleSnatch titled, "Orwell, Goebbels, And Obama -- The Triumvirate Of Language Control." Mr. Korschek is the author of the book Love My Country, Loathe My Government.

Finally, the website "Evolution--No Intelligence Allowed" used it in an article titled "Evolution: Fact, theory, Hypothesis" to discuss scientific theory, models, and facts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sighting Report #2

There are 31 new hits for the phrase in the last 24 hours.  The most interesting is Fraudonomics, which looks at “the interaction between government, the media, and Wall Street.” It looks to be on the political right. It has the quotation at the top of the page.  Rather amusing that a blog with the name “Fraudonomics” is the victim of a fraudulent quotation.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sighting Report #1

Along with tracking reports on the number of citations, we will also post new Internet pages that use the fabricated quotation. 

A Google search on 12 April 2012 finds 171 new search results for the last week.  Here are two of them.
  • Sago, a conservative blog that claims to be “handcrafted opinion served fresh daily” has a post dated 8 April 2012 that criticizes President Obama: “By his remarks, he is making it clear that objective reporting is neighter necessary nor desired.  This thinking is reminiscent of Joseph Goebbels when he said, ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it....’
  • My Common Sense Politics  is a blog to the left of Barack Obama. It has a long list of quotations to the bottom left of its pages.  One of those quotations is the fabricated quotation by Joseph Goebbels.
We will post interesting sighting reports as we come across them.

Tracking Report #1

We will regularly update the number of times the phrase “truth is the greatest enemy of the State” appears in a Google search.  There will be exceptions, but nearly all of the hits will be pages that use the quotation, or parts of it.

For 12 April 2012, Google provides 521,000 results. This is up from 500,000 in December 2011.

An Outline of the Problem

Some years ago I (Randall Bytwerk) got an e-mail from someone trying to track down the Goebbels quotation at the top of the page.  Since I’ve read a great detail of material by Goebbels, it did not sound right.  After considerable effort I could find no source for the quotation, even though at the time tens of thousands of web pages cited it.

I talked with my colleague Quentin Schultze and we decided there was something interesting going on.  We’ve now been following the spread of the quotation for three years and will soon publish the article mentioned in the previous post.  We’ve decided to keep up on the interesting spread of a fabricated quotation on this blog.

Here’s the situation as discussed on my German Propaganda Archive:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and or military consequences of the 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.”
Last I checked (December 2011), this shows up on 500,000 web pages and twenty published books (most of which are vanity press productions, evidence for the value of publishers who still believe in editors). It is attributed to Joseph Goebbels. No one ever gives a citation to the source. A fair number of web citations are to “Joseph M. Goebbels.” That wasn't his middle initial. One book credits it to “Joseph Goebbel.”
There are several hundred pages in German that cite the statement, but none give a source, and one site (perhaps the earliest) notes that is “retranslated from English.”

Goebbels wouldn’t have said that in public. He always maintained that propaganda had to be truthful. That doesn't mean he didn’t lie, but it would be a pretty poor propagandist who publicly proclaimed that he was going to lie. I know of no evidence that he actually said it. I haven’t read everything Goebbels wrote, but I have been through a lot of it.
Goebbels actually accused others of using the technique. In a 1941 article titled “ Churchill’s Lie Factory,” he wrote:
“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.”
He accuses the English of the “big lie,” and suggests that, were he to use such a technique, he would not publicly announce it.

The quotation usually seems to be used by those on the political left and right, who find it helpful in to associating those they don't like with the Nazis.

What has happened since then?  That is the subject of future posts.

On Don Quixote and the Internet

Like Don Quixote, are we engaged in a hopeless quest in tilting at Internet windmills?

First, who are “we”?  We’re Quentin Schultze and Randall Bytwerk, both professors in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College with a long interest in the Internet (we co-taught an early course in web design in 1996).

Second, we have a forthcoming article in Etc.: A Review of General Semantics that studies the spread of the quotation at the head of this blog — an alleged quotation by Joseph Goebbels that as best we can determine is fabricated.  Nonetheless, it is currently on nearly 500,000 web sites.

Our goal, which will be reported in this blog, is to reduce the number of citations.  That is a challenging task and we are not at all confident of success. The next post outlines the challenge.