Sunday, June 17, 2018

Andover High School Turmoil over Fake Goebbels Quotation

The New York Times of 16 June 2018 has an article about Andover High School in Massachusetts that was distressed to discover a Nazi quote in its yearbook.  The relevant passage:

The quote, which reads “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it,” is widely associated with Hitler and Goebbels’s use of propaganda to build the Nazi empire. The quote is not attributed in the yearbook, and appears in black text underneath the photo of the student, who has not been identified.
Now, the quotation is a reasonable summary of the principles of Nazi propaganda (or, indeed, of much advertising and political discourse), but it is not a direct quotation from either Hitler or Goebbels.  Part of it is based on Hitler’s widely misquoted discussion of the “big lie” in Mein Kampf.  Although Hitler was entirely willing to lie, he is accusing the “Jewish press” of Vienna of the tactic.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, it would be a poor sort of propagandist who publicly proclaimed that he lied.

There are lots of fabricated quotations out there (Lincoln, Churchill, etc.), but fake Nazi quotations are the pit bulls of political controversy.  As Godwin’s Law has it, they stop conversation.  The worst one could charge an enemy with in the past was being a tool of the Devil.  Since belief in him has diminished, the Nazis have taken his place.  During the Bush years, thousands of Internet posts proclaimed that he was following Goebbels’s principles, often using the quotation this blog follows. Then it was Obama’s turn to be the new Goebbels.  Now Trump…. Actually, after Singapore I think the better historical reference for Trump may be Neville Chamberlain (“Peace for our time”), but that’s another matter.