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 today, these laughable attempts to mislead. You could hardly draw breath without sucking in some trifling pretense or other. To say nothing of mock umbrage aimed at those who’d caught one out, invariably followed by huffed-up claims of being the victim of some devious plot or other to take one’s every word “out of context.” Not that these amateurish fabrications amounted to much more than a nuisance when taken in singly, but since one lie tended to stick to another, over time the gathering stench of rotting piles of the stuff could pose a genuine public threat, from sudden gagging in the streets to bouts of mass lightheadedness affecting entire swaths of the population and/or whole regions of the country at once. In short, there was a surplus of small lies about but few real whoppers anymore. Soon people might not be able to tell the difference, the Big Lie feared, and if things reached such a pass, wouldn’t full-blown mendacity be cheapened and lose its claim to being taken seriously? 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 in awe rather than merely feel embarrassed by their carnival-barker presumption of gullibility in the listener. 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 ability to deceive all 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 well-known and oft-cited “unprecedented scale.” Because the distinction between true fake and false fake was often difficult to identify with certainty, due care must be taken. The lines separating 1) Internet hucksterism and lies so trivial they made even petty thieves blush from 2) padded résumés erasing the distinction between high school dropouts and some university presidents from 3) the slick sponsors of the evening “news” who offered guaranteed protections against every pesky reminder of the inevitable truths about human decay from 4) a throng of actors hired to impersonate “experts” and imply in bland tones that a 30-second list of pharmaceutical side effects that ended with “rarely resulting in death” was no cause for alarm from 5) the assurances offered by photo-shopped CEOs designed to calm the latest jitters about the good intentions of energy companies or the latest solemn pledge before yet another congressional committee that Wall Street always has the nation’s interests at heart from 6) editorials by think-tank hacks blaming absolutely everything on government hacks, a.k.a. former colleagues on the other side of the revolving door, from 7) the truly dreary spectacle of “down home” political guys and gals claiming to be “just here to carry out the people’s wishes” as they run through a stale litany of prevarications and self-justifications in voices that range from snarky prom-queen whines to what resembles barely controlled acid reflux from 8) the kind of fustian bombast that led people to demonize everybody else on the planet and nations to attack one another like thugs in the dark—these 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 these penny-ante shams and shucks 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 not again?
Copyright © 2011 by Geoffrey Grosshans