If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed. –Adolf Hitler
Alabama’s Governor George C. Wallace once appeared on a Sunday talk show during his heyday as a demagogic segregationist. There, he proclaimed a profound truth — one that has stood the test of time, and is particularly timely right now. He stated, “Baloney is not cheap!” Anyone who knows anything about the quintessential Wallace no doubt believes this rhetorical pronouncement was attached to racism, and they would be right.
Governor Wallace was faced with a rather strangely formulated question from some aggressive reporter, whose name I have conveniently forgotten. I’m paraphrasing here.
“Governor, on a typical Sunday afternoon in the state of Alabama, white folks return from their church service to have a nice fried chicken and vegetable dinner. Black folks returning from their church have to eat baloney. Why is that, Governor Wallace?” the reporter asked.
“First of all, I do not accept the premise of your question, and you obviously don’t know anything about Sunday afternoons in Alabama. But let’s suppose your mistaken assumptions were correct. It might be because chicken is a dollar fifty six cents a pound, and Baloney is a dollar ninety two cents a pound. Baloney is not cheap!” Wallace crowed.
This retort was repeated for weeks to come in every diner, union hall, cotton gin and Masonic Lodge in the South. Wallace had, indeed, stuck it to that Yankee reporter. His economics were factually incorrect, thus giving the Governor an opportunity to humiliate him and make a factually accurate appeal to his bigoted “base.”
Facts won the argument. However, that was in an era when truth still mattered and facts still had power.
The Internet is the permanent home of Baloney
Today in America we find ourselves drowning in lies, that we all used to easily recognize as pure Baloney. Today’s lies bombard us from every direction. “Fake News,” or just flat-footed lies, fill cable television, our so-called smart phones, the internet, and that evil demon Facebook. Some of these lies are actually paid advertisements, cleverly disguised as legitimate newscasts. We are, indeed, awash in good old-fashioned Baloney and often don’t even recognize it!
Baseless conspiracy theories abound. Crackpot theories, from the moon landing, alien invasions (the outer space kind) and Jewish domination of the world economy, to the countless candidates saddled with the “anti-Christ” title, routinely invade our unsuspecting brains.
Through the magic of modern technology, crazy, misleading, mendacious lies, fake as three dollar bills, pound us at every turn. Facts no longer seem to matter. Phony Baloney is all around. One highly acclaimed columnist recently wrote that acceptance of “this nonsense is not harmless, not trivial, and not abstract. And it always exacts a cost.”
And the cost is very high.
Though Baloney’s permanent residence is the internet, it recently acquired a temporary rental at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Whatever happened to our once elevated, reverent view of the Presidency? Remember the story we all learned in childhood about George Washington and the cherry tree?
Truth is essential to the survival of the Republic
Lies are especially dangerous when told by an authority figure. And who among us has more authority than the President of these United States? Lies undermine our democratic institutions and threaten to sow the seeds of destruction of Democracy itself. Mr. Jefferson warned that an informed public, armed with truth, is essential to the survival of the Republic. Baloney is not cheap! In fact, it’s very expensive — it can cost lives, health, prosperity and safety for millions of people, both here and abroad.
Lies by the Leader of the Free World have severe consequences. Lies breed disdain, not respect. They damage our standing with the rest of the world. In early June, Brits had a field day illustrating their disdain, to the delighted entertainment of the world.
New York Times and Washington Post fact checkers report that the current occupant of the White House has told over 10,000 lies since assuming office. These are all independently verified, simple, fact-based lies. Yet, a terrifyingly wide swath of the American public prefers attacking the Times and the Post as purveyors of “fake news,” rather than accepting the obvious factual basis for their reporting. A lie is a lie, no matter who proves its deceit.
Let’s take for example the recent and much anticipated release of the “Mueller report.” The President says it completely and totally exonerates him. Of course, it does nothing of the sort. After reading the entire report, nearly 1,000 well respected former federal prosecutors from both political parties opined that, if he weren’t President, he would most assuredly be indicted for obstruction of justice. No exoneration in that fact.
The idea of America is that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That simple concept forms the basis of the intellectual and philosophical foundation upon which our Sovereign Nation is founded. Our revered founding document, The Declaration of Independence, advances that concept clearly and powerfully.
If there’s justification for charging the President, then he should be charged. He should suffer the same fate as anyone similarly charged. That’s no Baloney, that’s America!
If what those 1,000 federal prosecutors say is true, I must confess that it makes my blood boil with rage. It is personal with me. My life was turned upside down, my reputation sullied, and my life savings consumed, leaving me and my family in financial ruin for being charged as a minor participant in a conspiracy. That conspiracy was of far less severity than any of the multitude of crimes the President has allegedly committed. Despair and shame follow me every day. I fear the cloud will never lift. I sought no special dispensation; I paid my debt to society. I do not believe anyone, including presidents, should be above the law.
Lies have have ways of catching up with the one who speaks them. All lies are abhorrent and some can even be proven felonious! The President may soon learn just how expensive Baloney really is.
The true cost of Baloney
What is the cost of the Baloney found on the internet when the grieving parent, who lost a precious child in a mass school shooting, reads that the shooting never happened and the child never existed?
What is the cost to African Americans that the only African American ever elected President had to show his birth certificate to prove he was even a citizen of the United States? These baseless claims suggest that a black man could never have been elected president without a conspiracy at work to produce such a result. This is USDA Prime Select Cut Baloney, and it is costly to an entire race of American citizens.
What was the cost of the most ridiculous claim I know of, widely circulated in the bowels of the internet last election season? This absurd story line had Hillary Clinton operating a child sex slave business in the back of a pizza parlor. When some kook, in an effort to rescue the children, opened fire with a military style assault rifle in the Comet Ping Pong pizza joint in Washington, D.C., how costly was that Baloney?
The price we pay for choosing Baloney
Comedian George Carlin said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
All Americans may be about to face the wisdom of that comedic truism. Baloney is not cheap, and if enough of us swallow too much of it we will all get sick!
Healthcare officials declared measles eradicated in 2000, but there is now a measles outbreak in the United States. The Center for Disease Control recently announced that over 1000 cases of measles, spread over 28 states, have been diagnosed so far in 2019. Measles caused close to 110,000 deaths worldwide in 2017, the most recent year for which World Health Organization’s has figures.
Why the resurgence of this highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease? You guessed it — Baloney. That’s right, not the kind you eat, but rather the kind you read.
In the late 1990s some quack doctor in England developed a theory that the measles vaccine leads to autism. It, of course, does not. The doctor who began this insanity has lost his license to practice medicine, his theories have been debunked, and his so-called scientific study retracted. Nonetheless, a significantly large anti-vaccine movement, including people who should know better, like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and other celebrities, sprang up. As a result of his claims’ wide internet circulation, many people bought the Baloney and refused to vaccinate their children. Thus, this horrible childhood disease emerges once again.
That’s the price we pay for getting our information from Facebook, rather than from the Center for Disease Control, the AMA, the Health sections of the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or, God forbid, that liberal “fake news” distributor, New York Times!
The world is full of mendacity
I am reminded of the Tennessee Williams character “Big Daddy” in his classic play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Big Daddy was being lied to about his terminal illness, but was wise enough to recognize the lies. “Mendacity, Mendacity, the world is full of Mendacity!” he would exclaim in anger. That play took place in 1950’s Mississippi, an era when we believed Presidents didn’t dare lie to the people, and when news anchor Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. Today, Big Daddy would have just cause to declare, “The world is full of mendacity!”
We must start thinking more critically. We must know what we know, but, more importantly, we must know what we do not know. We must start asking more questions and demand facts for the basis for our decision making. To do anything less is seriously dangerous to our Democracy, our safety, our emotional well being and even our health.
Truth is absolute. Truth has no siblings. There is no such thing as “kinda” or “sorta” true. Truth is truth. Anything less is pure Baloney.
To liberally paraphrase President Reagan — trust nothing and verify everything!
After all, lies have consequences. And the price of Baloney is going up every day!
Other political musings from Steve Patterson: on Fritz Hollings, The Day the Music Died