One thing one can’t deny about the “Big Lie,” it sure works.
An H. F. Elson from Bethesda, Maryland indignantly writes the editor of the Washington Post:
“The April 10 news article “Senate Republicans block wage-equality legislation” reported that Republicans “say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.” Pardon my sarcasm, but existing laws have worked really well, haven’t they? Republicans fear the bill would increase civil lawsuits, but the threat of lawsuits is the only way to get these needed changes in compensation made. When are Republicans going to stop antagonizing thinking, intelligent women?”
Let’s see…it’s hard to write such an incompetent and irresponsible letter while simultaneously being snotty about it, but H.F. was up to the challenge:
1. Discrimination based on gender IS already illegal. The law in question was Democratic showboating with a bad bill that would permit lawsuits when no evidence of intentional gender discrimination exists.
2. Yes, H.F., the existing laws have worked very well indeed. The remaining differences in pay by gender are almost entirely due to factors other than discrimination.
3. The only way to get the changes made in compensation would be for women to behave exactly like men, and adopt the same priorities and career paths. Lawsuits, on the other hand, are just a way to increase the costs of doing business, lose jobs, and give more money to trial lawyers—who are overwhelmingly male, by the way.
4. “When are Republicans going to stop antagonizing thinking, intelligent women?” The real question is when will “thinking, intelligent women” stop accepting on faith outright misrepresentations about gender pay inequities, and do some research before adopting partisan talking points and writing snotty letters to the editor?
There are virtually no serious analysts of this topic that accept the proposition that “women get paid only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same jobs” as an accurate measure of discrimination in the workplace and gender inequity. The misleading nature of that statistic and similar ones has been thoroughly explained and vetted in scholarly documents and the news media for decades, yet whenever Democrats want to activate their “base,” which includes a disproportionate number of women, their candidates and leaders shamelessly use the same dishonest figures. Obama and Biden used this tactic during the 2012 sliming of Mitt Romney, for example, because, after all, the ends justify the means, and besides, mean old Romney kept all those poor women in binders.
I just about fell off of my chair when President Obama sank to this abysmal deceit again in his 2014 State of the Union message, when he intoned,
“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”
The embarrassment is that the President of the United States would lie so audaciously while addressing Congress and the nation. I condemned this at the time; Washington Post Factchecker Glenn Kessler, who only criticizes Democrats when their dishonesty is off the charts, gave the statement his worst rating and wrote,
“Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis surveyed economic literature and concluded that “research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap.” They cited one survey, prepared for the Labor Department, which concluded that when such differences are accounted for, much of the hourly wage gap dwindled, to about 5 cents on the dollar.”
Even the five cents probably overstates the role of discrimination. There is a lot of evidence suggesting that women tend to sell their services too cheaply, and fail to negotiate higher salaries and benefits that men are more likely to fight for. This is a cultural and behavioral problem, and lawsuits are not the way to address it.
When those in power repeatedly put forth a claim they know is untrue in order to defeat political adversaries, the technique is “the Big Lie,” a propaganda device championed by Adolf Hitler and his henchman, Joseph Goebbels, who allegedly wrote,*
“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.”
Der Fuhrer, of course, explicated the theory in detail in “Mein Kampf”:
“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.”
Let me pause a nonce to dismiss the inevitable claim that I am breaching”Godwin’s Law,” which was devised to discourage illicit and exaggerated comparisons with Nazi Germany in political discourse. The law holds that the first one to evoke the Nazis in any political debate “loses the argument,” as such comparisons are presumptively unfair and hyperbolic. It is, however, a rebuttable presumption, and in this case, the rebuttal is:
1. The Big Lie tactic is despicable, dishonest and unfair;
2. It was defined and used in its most destructive form by Hitler and the Nazis;
3. No American politician or party that intentionally employs such a tactic should escape comparison with the tactic’s originator, for that is the best way to discourage its use in the future;
4. Repeated use of a misleading statistic, knowing that it is false and why, for electoral gain and as a way to hold on to power is the epitome of a Big Lie tactic.
5. The “77 cents” statistic is such a misleading statistic, and
6. Democrats keep using it.
In addition, the Democratic exploitation of Republican refutations of the statistic are also right out of the Nazi playbook. Use your adversary’s denial of the Big Lie to your advantage. Hence refusal to enact policy based on the Big Lie is, in the words of the President’s surrogates and others, proof that Republicans are waging “war on women.” How horrible they are!
You have to admit, though, it’s a great tactic. Look at that antagonized, thinking, intelligent H. F. Elson. She believes the Big Lie. Why? Her leaders tell her it’s true. Her party embraces it. They are the good people, or a thinking, intelligent woman wouldn’t support them. And look! The bad Republicans deny it! That proves that it’s true! She wants the lie to be true, so she chooses to believe it, and doesn’t bother to confirm the data before using it to join in attacks on Republicans.
Now, Democrats and progressives, as well as journalists (but I repeat myself) should, if they have proper reverence for truth, fairness, candor, and responsible policy-making, and I include in this women who are fair and logical in addition to being ” thinking, intelligent,” should be as offended and insulted by their leaders’ use of Mr. Hitler’s favorite tactic as I am. So why does it persist, and why are we still hearing either the Big Lie itself or its aftershocks?
At least Kessler is trying. He took on Obama’s latest versions of the BL, as when the President said this in his April 8 remarks on the subject…
“Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns…in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.”
Gee, that sounds just like what he said in January! And he knew it was a lie then. Next, in his April 12 radio address, the president said,
“Earlier this week was Equal Pay Day. It marks the extra time the average woman has to work into a new year to earn what a man earned the year before. You see, the average woman who works full-time in America earns less than a man – even when she’s in the same profession and has the same education. That’s wrong. In 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.”
Kessler flagged the lie again, this time giving it half as many Pinocchios ( two, as opposed to the maximum four) as he gave virtually the same statement in January. Why fewer? Because, he says, Obama left out the blatantly misleading “77 cents.” Kessler tries, as I said, but he is instinctively a Democratic apologist and hack. Obama DID use the fake statistic, but was just sneaky about it: Equal Pay Day only “marks the extra time the average woman has to work into a new year to earn what a man earned the year before” if you apply and misconstrue the “77 cents on the dollar” falsehood.
It’s a lie. It’s a Big Lie. Our President and his party are using a cynical, Nazi-championed tactic of pure propaganda to sow divisiveness, misinformation, anger (remember H. F.!) and hate. Do journalists, Democrats and journalists accept that kind of deception and manipulation as responsible leadership and fair governing practice in a democracy? If not, why do they tolerate it? Or do they, like H.F., just believe what they are told?
The “Big Lie.”
Still effective, after all these years.
Warning: Any comment that dares to include the ethics non sequitur “Republicans do it too” will be taken down. But I promise to print names as I ridicule such responses unmercifully.
* UPDATE: I am persuaded by a diligent commenter that the Goebbels quote, which I found in multiple sources, is of dubious origin. Thus I have added “allegedly,” for the quote is widely attributed to him. Given that Joe was the head of Hitler’s propaganda machine, and that he shamelessly wielded the Big Lie like Mike Trout wields his bat, the quote is, if not genuine, an accurate description of his views, based on his conduct. I won’t use it again.
Sources: Washington Post