The Devil’s Biggest Political Trick: Convincing the World Evil Doesn’t Exist

There’s a quote, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Like many well loved sayings, it’s attributed to a number of different people.

I’m interpreting the quote in a general sense. People who do evil try to convince people that evil doesn’t exist. If evil doesn’t exist, that means everyone is speaking in good faith. That would mean people should take con artists at their word.

“Trust me” they say, without giving you any reason to — and giving you plenty of reasons not to. This has been happening a lot with Trump and with people allied with him. Liars and con artists try to get people to trust them. They try to make people believe the evil done by con artists doesn’t exist.

This “Evil doesn’t exist” attitude is illustrated by the TV drama series The West Wing. Although its last episode was 16 years ago, there’s still a lot of discussion about it. That’s because it’s a great representation of what people thought about politics when many people were in denial that political evil exists — as some people still are.

Many people, especially liberals, used to think The West Wing was the way politics worked. Many people thought this way — until Donald Trump took office. In fact, Obama seemed to believe something like this too, at least in the first years of his presidency. He seemed to think he could bring the country together and make bipartisan compromises with Congressional Republicans who would act in good faith. It didn’t work out that way.

“The West Wing has been ranked among the best television shows of all time in publications such as Time,[3] TV Guide,[4][5] Empire,[6] Rolling Stone,[7] and the New York Daily News.[8] The Writers Guild of America ranked it no. 10 in its “101 Best-Written TV Series” list.[9]The West Wing received a multitude of accolades…”

Here is some information from The West Wing’s wikipedia page linked above, from the section on Realism.

“While critics often praised The West Wing for its writing, others faulted the show as unrealistically optimistic[32] and sentimental.[33] A large part of this criticism came from the perceived naiveté of the characters. Television critic Heather Havrilesky asked, “What rock did these morally pure creatures crawl out from under and, more important, how do you go from innocent millipede to White House staffer without becoming soiled or disillusioned by the dirty realities of politics along the way?”[34]

So many Democrats have believed that politics was far nicer than it actually is, that they were surprised when Mitch McConnell kept Merrick Garland from getting a Senate hearing on his nomination for the Supreme Court.

Then Democrats were surprised when Republicans voted against the impeachment of Trump. Then they were shocked when McConnell kept hundreds of bills passed by Democrats in the House from being voted on in the Senate.

Democrats and many other people were also surprised when Trump violated laws and ethical principles constantly — and then were surprised that almost all Republicans in government supported him. It’s time to awaken from the spell.

It’s not just Democrats who sometimes believe evil doesn’t exist. One-third or more of of our nation’s voters live in the Right Wing propaganda media bubble — immersed in Right Wing TV like Fox and Sinclair, Right Wing radio, Internet sites, social media and local newspapers parroting Breitbart.

The giant well funded Right Wing media machine operates by lying to people and manipulating them. Right Wing media bubble dwellers, and many other people who consume Right Wing media, believe the lies. They vote as if the lies were true.

Here’s a good recent example of Right Wing propaganda lies affecting voting choices. Republicans believe that Trump will protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Many Right Wing media consumers believe this Trump lie.

As the next article below notes, “But rather than enshrine the ability of Americans with health problems to buy insurance, the Trump administration has, at every turn, pursued policies that have tended to do the opposite.”

How do Republican politicians and propagandists get away with doing Big Evil — actions with disastrous consequences for the public, like taking away their access to affordable medical care? They just cover up Big Evil with a Big Lie. Here is the history of the Big Lie as a propaganda technique.

As wikipedia says, people believe Big Lies because they just can’t believe anyone would dare to tell a lie that big — since most ordinary people never tell lies that big. Because of this, ordinary people think the lies must be true.

Blindness to evil isn’t confined to the realm of politics either. Social media platforms also do Big Evil — not always intentionally — and tell Big Lies about it in their Public Relations statements.

Molly McKew, a writer and lecturer on information warfare, notes in the tweet below how Facebook has spread divisive and extremist content on their platform — and how Facebook’s response has been that they intend to make it easier for toxic content to spread.

An update to this just occurred. Facebook has banned QAnon from its platforms. Thanks to everyone at Facebook who made this policy.

I include McKew’s succinct tweet, from before the update came in, below. However, she feels comfortable linking to a Right Wing Murdoch-owned propaganda outlet, Wall Street Journal. So she herself is believing a Big Lie and encouraging trust in a propaganda outlet.

I don’t recommend reading or believing what is published in WSJ or in any propaganda outlet. It’s not surprising though that even McKew, who is otherwise knowledgeable and sophisticated, believes the Big Lie that Murdoch-owned propaganda outlets are normal news outlets — and that they tell the truth as often as normal news outlets do. Many otherwise sophisticated people believe this Big Lie, including journalists. This belief and trust in Right Wing disinformation media is one reason why Trump and the Congressional Republicans who support him, got elected.

Here is one of Facebook’s Big Lies about the Big Evil they were doing, by spreading hate. It’s hard to know whether they were aware it was a lie. Their banning QAnon is a good move toward decreasing the spread of hate.

Here is what Mark Zuckerberg said after the 2016 election, claiming that Facebook didn’t influence the election.

“I do think that there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way that they did was because they saw some fake news” Zuckerberg said. Maybe Zuckerberg believed himself when he said this. We all knew less about Trump and Trump supporters in 2016 than we do now.

If you want to know all about how many lies and how much hate Facebook allowed to be spread before the 2016 election, read whistle blower Christopher Wylie’s book, Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America.

Facebook still allows falsehoods to spread on its platforms now. The company uses The Daily Caller as one of its fact checkers. It is a Right Wing propaganda outlet that “has frequently published false stories”, as Daily Caller’s wikipedia page states.

Here is some information about Facebook’s fact checking deal with Daily Caller’s web site.

In addition to using a Right Wing propaganda outlet as one of its fact checkers, Facebook includes Breitbart, another Right Wing propaganda web site, in Facebook News — which is “a curated section on the social network that will partner with news publishers.” See the article below.

As is often the case, the article below is excellent but has a misleading headline. As the author makes clear, Facebook’s primary goal is to grow the company — not to be partisan. However, Facebook IS partisan and is glad to be so — because company executives have found that partisanship is a tool that can be used to grow Facebook’s profits.

The author notes about Breitbart “The site, formerly run by Steve Bannon, is known for its unabashed pro-Trump activism and early embrace of toxic online politicking and trolling. Breitbart has published articles with tags like “Black Crime” and was once described by Mr. Bannon as a platform for the alt-right. A 2017 BuzzFeed News exposé detailed, via obtained emails, how Breitbart actively courted the right-wing online fringes and helped to launder white nationalist talking points into the mainstream. Since 2016, more than 4,000 advertisers have severed ties with Breitbart over its ideological bent, according to the Sleeping Giants founder Matt Rivitz.”

“…the costs of…growth — election interference, privacy violations — are passed on to users, not absorbed by Facebook, which takes a reputational hit but generally maintains, if not increases, market share and value. The real threat to Facebook isn’t bad P.R., it’s alienating its user base.

“…It’s telling that Facebook would look to Mr. (Tucker) Carlson or Breitbart and interpret a large audience and influence as a stand-in for authority and credibility. What else should we really expect from a company that refuses to meaningfully distinguish those who share hyperpartisan vitriol from those joyfully sharing baby pictures? When scale is the prism through which you view the world, that world becomes flat. When everyone becomes a number, everyone starts to look the same.”

Apparently, many Facebook users believe the Big Lie that Facebook doesn’t profit from spreading lies and hate. Belief in this Big Lie allows Facebook’s business to continue to grow. Other social media companies are doing similar things.

There’s a great documentary film about the problems social media causes for the U.S. and the world. I highly recommend it. Be forewarned though, that it describes the problem through the eyes of industry insiders — and only through their eyes. This perspective has some advantages, as well as having profound limitations. It is difficult for a person to clearly see a picture, when they are standing inside of that picture.

All kinds of people believe Big Lies. Below is a description of a situation in which Democratic politicians are making their lives harder by believing evil doesn’t exist. Democrats’ denial of evil in politics has contributed to the rise of Trump and his supporters in government, and to their continued unethcial behaviors. Of course, primary responsibility for the actions of Republicans belongs to Republicans. Still, we should heed this famous quote.

Here is the situation.

On Bill Maher’s show on August 7, Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, was interviewed about the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan task force focused on election integrity. They “recently held ‘war games’ to figure out what would happen and what could be done, if Trump refuses to leave office if he loses the election.”

“Wilkerson explained that the Transition Integrity Project, which conducted the war games, included some really high-powered political analysts, scholars and others playing the Republicans, many of which are Republicans, and Democrats playing the Dems.

“One disturbing thing Wilkerson relayed to Maher was that when the Republican team got the scenario ‘decisive Biden win’ and threw its moves out there, the Democratic team was stunned by the arrogance, the sheer power and the sheer indecency, if you will, of the Trump team moves. Everything from, Okay, we got 70 days to destroy the United States government. We’ve got 70 days in which to not provide the incoming team with any transition whatsoever; You want to know what our policy is on Iran, on China, on taxes, you won’t know it because we’ve destroyed all the paperwork and we won’t let anyone brief you. You are coming into an empty White House.

“Wilkerson said those tactics prompted the Democratic side of the games to come back with moves that were mostly realistic, mostly not powerful, mostly not dramatic, and he said the lesson learned was hey, you Democrats, you can’t be so timid.

“There’ll be no national security council staff, nothing to brief you,” Wilkerson continued. “You might have a note in your desk drawer in the West Wing that says, ‘Welcome, you stupid idiot.’”

We can only hope that after participating in these war games — and witnessing the actions of the Trump administration in real life — that naive Democrats HAVE learned the lesson that The West Wing’s whitewashed view of politics is not how it really works. The public needs Democrats to come up to speed with reality fast and to become aggressive — although strategically so — not just pointlessly loud or arrogant. Democrats need to act in ways that work for them and for the public.

Regarding being aggressive when it’s strategically sound, I have no problem with anti-Trump ads if they work. However, research is currently showing that pro-Biden ads are working better for Biden than anti-Trump ads. So pro-Biden ads were apparently the right thing for Biden’s campaign to do, in the 2020 election.

I wrote the above in October 2020. Since then, the views and desires of voters may have changed. Also, note that anti-GOP ads were not tested. The fact that abortion rights have been taken away by SCOTUS, may have turned this kind of finding upside down. Polls now show an increase in voters preferring Dems, compared to before this occurred.

Aggressiveness can help a campaign. It’s a matter of how to use it.

Maybe Joe Biden, Obama’s former vice president, is starting to get with the program of recognizing that politics is not all sweetness and light. He asked Trump during the first presidential election debate on September 29, 2020 “Will you shut up, man?” Biden was willing to at be direct and aggressive at times during the debate — calling Trump a liar and a clown. He didn’t pretend Trump was speaking in good faith — as so many people in media do. Journalists are not at all immune to the denial of evil.

On the same day the debate was held, Senate minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, decided on an uncharacteristically aggressive move.

That’s encouraging. I hope many Democrats in Congress began to act directly and aggressively in strategic ways . Then I won’t need to keep writing articles about Democrats being dysfunctionally passive — a topic about which I’ve written a lot.

Big Lies — and the Big Evils that are lied about — have a lot of control over us. They make it possible for realities that we didn’t see before, to suddenly appear and make surprise attacks. Big Lies conceal Big Evils that are like the tripod war machines in Steven Spielberg’s film War of the Worlds — machines that were buried beneath the earth for years — and then emerged later to attack earthlings.

Big Evils, hidden by Big Lies, are why so many of us were surprised by the election of Trump and by his widespread support from Republican officials and from the voters in the Right Wing disinformation bubble. Far too many of us believed that many or most Republicans were acting in good faith. Far too many people still believe the Big Lie that Fox News, Sinclair and Right Wing radio are just Right Wing versions of MSNBC and NPR — the lie that they have their point of view but don’t lie constantly — and the lie that they have toxic practices like fear mongering or hate mongering.

Those of us in the Resistance need to help each other to pull ourselves out of our denial of reality — out of beliefs in Big Lies about Big Evil. Once we do that, we’ll see more of our world as it truly is. Then we can all join together and move toward a new dawn of truth, justice and democracy in the United States.

I’ve made some suggestions about specific ways to do that in my previous essay here.




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