The excitable MSNBC host recently asked why President Obama doesn’t just put the suspicion and rumors to rest by giving the OK for Hawaii to release his original birth certificate, thus proving that he was born a U.S. citizen and ending the claims that Obama is really foreign-born and never was eligible to become President of the United States. By lending his credibility and perceived legitimacy to the lament of the birthers, Matthews has engaged in irresponsible conduct and done a disservice to the President, the office of the President and the nation.
Why? Here is why, from the toxic mind of Adolf Hitler:
“…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…”
The claim that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. was always a Big Lie, designed specifically to isolate him as “the other,” because he was black, because he came from a Muslim family, and because to question his qualifications for office was to sap him of power. It does no good, as Hitler understood well, to argue against a Big Lie, or even to disprove it. The facts are always of minor interest to the liars. What is important is the lie itself. Responding to the Big Lie gives it more credibility, not less. Responding to the Big Lie strengthens it.
Disproving Big Lies also doesn’t make them go away. Democrats continued to claim that George W. Bush “stole” the 2000 Presidential election throughout his eight years in office, because the constant repetition of the lie undermined his popularity. The tactic was designed to appeal to ignorant citizens who didn’t understand the Electoral College, to whom the fact that the loser of the popular vote still won the election was proof enough of chicanery. Post-election recounts using consistent criteria for assessing “undervotes” and “overvotes” that showed that Bush “probably” won Florida (and “probably” was as certain as it was ever going to get) made no difference to the liars, and an official Hawaiian birth certificate will similarly do nothing to stop birthers from claiming a conspiracy.
The best way to counter a Big Lie is to call it what it is, and ignore it. By asking the same question as the birthers, which carries the implication that if the accusation isn’t true, the President should be eager to do everything in his power to disprove it, Chris Matthews (he was joined by columnists David Corn and Clarence Page) is following Hitler’s script. A supposed student of history and politics, he should know better.