Tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it

So the government has refuted Temasek Review Emeritus’ claim that government ministers are entitled to free A-class healthcare. It was incredibly callous of TRE to repost a comment without checking the facts, a comment that makes up lies about an ill man and says “no need to give him well wishes”.

It’s been a series of lies from these alternative sites- this, the unsubstantiated claim that foodcourt screamer Alice Fong is a grassroots leader, Chan Chun Sing being related to Lee Kuan Yew just because he was working at LKY’s funeral, and many more.

Some people say- if the government and ruling party have nothing to hide, they can just refute the lies, why worry? Well, it doesn’t really work that way. Psychology studies show that we remember negative news much better. Propagandists have long known that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” (Tellingly, the quote is from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s head of propaganda.) That’s been proven by scientific studies too. If a lie is repeated by enough people, it somehow becomes the truth to some. Even very accomplished people might not have time to check “facts” that are outside their area of expertise.

Online comments on these very lies will also reveal that the truth is no defence to some people. In fact, they’ll treat it as further aggravation and say “the government is lying again”.

Next time you see a lie online, don’t think “they’re just raising alternative viewpoints”. Think “that’s a smear campaign that doesn’t contribute to real political debate”.