The Power of a Lie That’s Repeated Often Enough

The Nazis figured it out: Make up a preposterous story and keep repeating it, and eventually people will believe it. That’s what the McCain campaign frequently did in last year’s presidential election, and that’s what some Republicans are still doing.

One of the most preposterous lies is the claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and is therefore not eligible to be President of the United States. The story surfaced during the campaign with someone asserting that the President’s birth certificate displayed on the web was a Photoshopped version of his Hawaiian-born sister’s certificate. There were lawsuits and more lawsuits – all rejected as frivolous by the courts.

The story gained enough traction to be checked out by the McCain campaign, but even they soon realized there was nothing there for them to exploit. The lie would be too easily refuted. Barack Obama was born at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, on August 4, 1961. And there is ample documentation to prove it.

In a story published Friday, The Washington Independent’s David Weigel quotes McCain campaign general counsel Trevor Potter as saying:

We never saw any evidence that then-Senator Obama had been born outside of the United States. We saw rumors, but nothing that could be sourced to evidence. There were no statements and no documents that suggested he was born somewhere else. On the other side, there was proof that he was born in Hawaii.

So why is the story still in the news?

Probably because television producers like wacky stories. What could be more entertaining than a group of “Birthers” chanting the Pledge of Allegiance at a Republican rally after insisting that Obama cannot produce an American birth certificate? So the “protest” gets on camera and is repeated over and over on every “news” show for days.

Of course, by doing that, the “news” media contribute to the power of the lie. The more often it is repeated the more likely viewers are to wonder whether there might be some truth to it. After all, what if it were true? Wouldn’t that be a helluva note?

antichristIt’s the same as saying something like, “The President denies beating his wife.” Repeat the denial often enough and skeptics are going to figure it must be true or he wouldn’t have to deny it.

But lies – even preposterous ones – die hard in this crazy culture. Early in the presidential campaign, my brother, Peter, (who listens to Rush Limbaugh) earnestly assured me that Obama is the Antichrist. No, I am not kidding. My own flesh and blood! I guess living in North Carolina has done something to his mind.

And, in case you’re wondering, no I don’t have any documentation to prove Obama is not the Antichrist. But then I don’t have any proof that you aren’t, either.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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