Archive for December, 2008

Die große Lüge

December 18, 2008

There’s one advert which provokes a particular twinge of anger inside me each time I ride past it – it’s the poster advertising a 5-euro footlong sandwich at Subway.

Here’s my problem with it:

– 5 euros is a lot to pay for a sandwich. It’s an expensive sandwich.

– You can get a whole meal served to you on a plate for that much money.

– Despite this, Subway has the audacity to make the price the main selling point of its sandwich.

So Subway takes this ludicrous message “you can buy a sandwich for the low price of 5 euros” and makes you believe it, simply by plastering it in big letters on posters around the city.

In fact, I have since learned that this campaign is not restricted to the Euro zone. It originated in the states as the ‘5-dollar footlong’. Again, the message is all about the price. It’s the biggest thing on the poster.

And as if that’s not enough, they even have a TV commercial which literally (yes, literally) makes a song and dance about this incredible price.

So anyway, I had forgotten about all this until today, when I came across the Wikipedia article on the Big Lie (die große Lüge), a propaganda technique defined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf .

Hitler immediately brought this Subway advert to my mind when he says that more outrageous lies are more likely to be accepted by the common people, and that even if these lies are shown to be untrue by irrefutable evidence, they still leave their trace on the consciousness of the people.

Here is the partial translation from the wikipedia page, followed by the quote from Mein Kampf in full. Note that Hitler is not admitting his own use of the propaganda technique, but accusing Jews of using it to attribute blame for German losses in WWI on General Erich Ludendorf.

“… 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.”

“Es gehörte aber die ganze bodenlose Verlogenheit des Judentums und seiner marxistischen Kampforganisation dazu, die Schuld am Zusammenbruche gerade dem Manne aufzubürden, der als einziger mit übermenschlicher Willens-und Tatkraft versuchte, die von ihm vorausgesehene Katastrophe zu verhüten und der Nation die Zeit der tiefsten Erniedrigung und Schmach zu ersparen. Indem man Ludendorff zum Schuldigen am Verluste des Weltkrieges stempelte, nahm man dem einzigen gefährlichen Ankläger, der gegen die Verräter des Vaterlandes aufzustehen vermochte, die Waffen des moralischen Rechtes aus der Hand. Man ging dabei von dem sehr richtigen Grundsatze aus, daß in der Größe der Lüge immer ein gewisser Faktor des Geglaubtwerdens liegt, da die breite Masse eines Volkes im tiefsten Grunde ihres Herzens leichter verdorben als bewußt und absichtlich schlecht sein wird, mithin bei der primitiven Einfalt ihres Gemütes einer großen Lüge leichter zum Opfer fällt als einer kleinen, da sie selber ja wohl manchmal im kleinen lügt, jedoch vor zu großen Lügen sich doch zu sehr schämen würde. Eine solche Unwahrheit wird ihr gar nicht in den Kopf kommen, und sie wird an die Möglichkeit einer so ungeheuren Frechheit der infamsten Verdrehung auch bei anderen nicht glauben können, ja selbst bei Aufklärung darüber noch lange zweifeln und schwanken und wenigstens irgendeine Ursache doch noch als wahr annehmen. Selbst von der unverschämtesten Lüge wird immer etwas haften bleiben. Dies ist eine Tatsache, die die frechsten Lügenvereine dieser Welt nur zu genau kennen, und die sie deshalb auch niederträchtig zur Anwendung bringen.”

What do they know?

December 18, 2008

I recently heard about the website

It facilitates the process of requesting information under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act. In fact, it makes it as easy as sending an email.

You can also browse the requests which have been submitted and the responses which have been given. It’s interesting in the first instance just to see which kind of requests are answered and which are rejected, and on what grounds.

For example, someone asks about the UK’s arsenal of nuclear warheads here

If you make any requests or come across any notable ones I would be interested to hear about them.