Big lies are easier to believe than small lies

Imagine a government has just lost a battle. Like most governments, it wants to report to its people that they have actually won (an act otherwise known as “lying”). Now of the two options below which report would better convince the public the government did not loose the battle:

“the enemy failed to push us back and the battle ended”


“our soldiers easily out-manned the enemy and destroyed the entire enemy front”

The second version of the ‘report’ (lie) is more convincing as far as “who won the battle” is concerned. Unlike the first, the second lie does not leave much room for doubt about who won. The victory is exaggerated, maybe, but people wouldn’t doubt that their government won. This is what Dr Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, meant when he said, “If you tell a lie big enough people will believe it.”

Counter intuitive, you might think, that small lies are actually harder to sell. Well, take it from the experts. Categorical denial of facts characterizes the government in Eritrea. In an interview with Al Jazeera on February of 2010 for instance, the State president managed to categorically deny more than a dozen hard facts in just under 24 minutes of interview. That’s a denial every two minutes. He denied Eritrea has refugee crises; even found the mere claim laughable. Categorically denied his citizens are forbidden to leave the country: looking puzzled why anyone would even ask such question, he denied there is an issue for citizens to get a passport.

Why did the entire national football team abscond and sought asylum while playing in Kenya just a few months ago? “This is news to me, I have never heard such a thing.” Said the President with even more puzzled look on his face. He denied there was any conflict with neighbouring Djibouti; despite the fact that Djibouti says there was, and despite the fact that the African Union and the United Nations imposed sanctions on his government for that reason.

Isaias Afwerki denies anyone ever being imprisoned because of his or her faith. “Everybody is fee to believe whatever he or she chooses”, the president asserts, in-case anyone has any doubts. He denied any one was ever arrested for their political opinion. The president is baffled why Reporters Without Borders Journalist Freedom Index has his country ranked last preceding  North Korea.

Watching the entire ‘interview’, it is hard to decide what is more amazing, the fact that he is lying so big, or the way he presents his big lies–looking surprised and even getting angry over the fact that Jane Dutton even hinted that Eritreans are ever mistreated!

It appears as though the President has taken the concept of ‘big lies’ to its absolute limits. You might have expected the government to try and explain (lie) away the severity of the refugee crisis, or the economic collapse, or the human rights abuses. But you would hardly expect the President’s answer to such questions to be complete and dramatized denials followed by a statement that his country is, in-fact, “number one in Africa.”

Such denials mock the citizens. They show what level of respect the government has on its people.  Needless to say, such lies render the liar non trust worthy in everything.

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