THE BIG LIE
Once a Big Lie considered demanding equal time. Just how many small lies should the world be expected to swallow, the Big Lie wondered? They seemed to be all over the place, these laughable attempts to mislead. Not that such piddling falsehoods amounted to much more than a nuisance when taken singly, but since one lie typically prompted another, over time the thickening odor of mendacity could pose a genuine public danger, from isolated gagging in private to bouts of mass contagion affecting entire swaths of the unsuspecting population. You could hardly draw breath anymore without choking on some truly trifling pretense or other. To say nothing of the puffed-up umbrage directed at fact checkers who’d caught out patently inept liars: total amateurs whose only refuge when trapped in some clumsy deceit was to claim they were the victim of a devious plot to take their every word “out of context.” In short, there was a surplus of dime-a-dozen lies but few real whoppers anymore. Soon people might not even be able to tell the difference, the Big Lie feared, and if things reached such a pass, wouldn’t full-blown deception be cheapened and lose its claim to serious consideration? What a state of affairs that would present. No, the time had clearly come for a return to lies with the power to make one shudder rather than simply feel embarrassed by their carnival-barker presumption of public gullibility. And here the Big Lie was ready, willing, and able to step forward and restore faith in any number of falsehoods that had lost their edge and thus no longer had the potential to fool even some of the people all of the time. But where to begin? Therein lay precisely the uncertainty that called for the true strength only a Big Lie could muster. Any miscalculation—the slightest mismatch between the need for fabrication and the fabrication itself—could spell failure, possibly on the oft-cited “unprecedented scale.” Because the distinction between true fake and false fake could be difficult to identify with certainty, due care must be taken. The lines separating 1) Internet hucksterism and lies so trivial they make even petty thieves blush from 2) voice-over TV adverts implying in soporific tones that a 30-second list of wonder-drug side effects that ends with “rarely resulting in death” is no cause for alarm from 3) the latest solemn pledges before yet another congressional committee that the stock market always has the nation’s interests at heart from 4) the truly dreary spectacle of “down-home” political guys and gals claiming to be “just here to carry out the people’s business” as they run through a stale litany of equivocations and self-justifications in voices ranging from snarky prom-queen whines to what resembles barely controlled acid reflux from 5) the type of head-of-state bombast that leads people to demonize everybody else on the planet and nations to take swings at one another like thugs in the dark—these and countless additional lines of separation, once blurred, might never again be redrawn! Were the consequences of such a dire possibility not obvious? They were to the Big Lie as it weighed whether it should press for equal time now or wait patiently until all those who’d come to rely on penny-ante shams and mere slight-of-mind dishonesty no longer found in them the answer to their needs and began to clamor once again for the real thing: the truly monstrous lie. It had happened often enough in the past, hadn’t it, even within living memory? So why couldn’t it happen again?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans