The Republic of T.

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Goebbels Got it RIght

When he said this.

“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.”

And this.

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”

At least, that appears to be the case. If the American Psychological Association is right, then Goebbels must have been right too.

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Whether people are making financial decisions in the stock market or worrying about terrorism, they are likely to be influenced by what others think. And, according to a new study in this month’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), repeated exposure to one person’s viewpoint can have almost as much influence as exposure to shared opinions from multiple people. This finding shows that hearing an opinion multiple times increases the recipient’s sense of familiarity and in some cases gives a listener a false sense that an opinion is more widespread then it actually is.

…The studies found that an opinion is more likely to be assumed to be the majority opinion when multiple group members express their opinion. However, the study also showed that hearing one person express the same opinion multiple times had nearly the same effect on listener’s perception of the opinion being popular as hearing multiple people state his/her opinion.

Repeat it often enough, and it becomes popular opinion. It will be believed, the absence of evidence notwithstanding. It’s a lesson the Bush administration learned well, and practiced diligently, for as long as they could get away with it. They even refined it, by understanding that you need not say it explicitly for people to believe it, but merely repeat two ideas close together.

There the example supreme example of Dick Cheney.

There’s also an entire collection of quotes from the Bush administration, but a just a few will suffice.

“This is a man who has got connections with Al Qaida. Imagine a terrorist network with Iraq as an arsenal and as a training ground, so that a Saddam Hussein could use this shadowy group of people to attack his enemy and leave no fingerprint behind. He’s a threat.” – Remarks by the President in Texas Welcome, White House (11/4/2002) – Whitehouse.gov

“Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses, and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other planes — this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.” – President Delivers “State of the Union”, White House (1/28/2003) – Whitehouse.gov

“I have argued in the past, and would again, if we had been able to pre-empt the attacks of 9/11 would we have done it? And I think absolutely. We have to be prepared now to take the kind of bold action that’s being contemplated with respect to Iraq in order to ensure that we don’t get hit with a devastating attack when the terrorists’ organization gets married up with a rogue state that’s willing to provide it with the kinds of deadly capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed and used over the years.” – Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, NBC (3/16/2003) – BushOnIraq.com

“We did have reporting that was public, that came out shortly after the 9/11 attack, provided by the Czech government, suggesting there had been a meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, and a man named al-Ani (Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani), who was an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, at the embassy there, in April of ’01, prior to the 9/11 attacks. It has never been — we’ve never been able to collect any more information on that. That was the one that possibly tied the two together to 9/11.” – Transcript of Interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Rocky Mountain News (1/9/2004) – BushOnIraq.com

The effect was as intended.

In his prime-time press conference last week, which focused almost solely on Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11.

Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was “personally involved” in Sept. 11, about the same figure as a month ago.

Sources knowledgeable about US intelligence say there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda. Yet the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein’s regime.

“The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection [between Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein],” says Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.

…The point, says Eric Larson, a senior policy analyst at RAND who specializes in public opinion and war, is that the US public understands what Hussein is all about – which includes his invasion of two countries and the use of biological and chemical agents. “He’s expressed interest – and done more than that – in trying to develop a nuclear capability,” says Mr. Larson. “In general, the public is rattled about this…. There’s a jumble of attitudes in many Americans’ minds, which fit together as a mosaic that [creates] a basic predisposition for military action against Saddam.”

That was in March 2003, before the invasion. By September 2003, perhaps because now that we were engaged in a war based at least in part on the fictive connection of Iraq and Saddam to 9/11 we either had to continue to believe that fiction or face what that believe had wrought, some 70 percent of Americans believed it.

Nearing the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks, even though the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence of this.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the latest Washington Post poll. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The main reason for the endurance of the apparently groundless belief, experts in public opinion say, is a deep and enduring distrust of Hussein that makes him a likely suspect in anything related to Middle East violence. “It’s very easy to picture Saddam as a demon,” said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University and an expert on public opinion and war. “You get a general fuzz going around: People know they don’t like al Qaeda, they are horrified by September 11th, they know this guy is a bad guy, and it’s not hard to put those things together.”

Although that belief came without prompting from Washington, Democrats and some independent experts say Bush exploited the apparent misconception by implying a link between Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the months before the war with Iraq. “The notion was reinforced by these hints, the discussions that they had about possible links with al Qaeda terrorists,” said Andrew Kohut, a pollster who leads the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

By 2005, according to a Zoby poll, 41% believed Saddam had “strong links” to Al Quaeda and 22% believed he “helped plan and support” the 9/11 attacks.

A 2006 Zogby poll said that 85% of American troops in Iraq believed the were there because to retaliate for Saddam’s role in 9/11

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

In March 2004 39 percent of Americans in a Gallup poll believed “Saddam Hussein was personally invovled” in the 9/11 attacks. In January 2007 a Gallup poll said 34% still believe we went to war in Iraq “because of 9/11.”

This, despite the 9/11 commission and the Bush administration itself eventually disavowing any link.

Enough of us bought it long enough for the ends of the Bush administration to be achieved, and that’s all that matters.

Yup. Goebbels got it right. And so did Dick, and George.

4 Comments

  1. Great post.

    I’m sure Goebbels said it first and most thoroughly, but I really like Aldous Huxley’s distillation of this principle: “Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth.” That ironic gem is from _Brave New World_. My friend and co-host Kevin and I discussed the passage on our podcast (website given above), and since then, it has stuck in my brain.

  2. This doesn’t make any sense on a number of levels.

    First of all, 90% of the public thought Saddam was involved in 9-11 the DAY AFTER. The percentage steadily went down as Bush administration officials told the media that Iraq wasn’t involved and the percentage kept going DOWN, not up, as the administration made further statements.

    I know you people hate and loathe this president but it shouldn’t DESTROY your ability to think with reason. Sadly, it has.

  3. Pingback: Pacific Views

  4. Let’s not forget that as a politician they are trained and taught that truth telling especially to the masses is considered a vice, and that the only virtue is spin, lies, and justification or perspective of the truth. It is a common belief held that any leader or ruler who has ever told the truth to his or her subjects has been historically diposed due to voluntary truthfullness.

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