The “Truth of the Matter”
As described in post #2 of this series, any logical argument that will lead valid results depends upon the truth and validity of the information upon which the hypothesis is based.
In other words, for a conclusion to be true and valid, the information that forms the hypothesis must be true and valid.
It is true, however, that from a false hypothesis, a true conclusion can be derived. Remember that while P → Q (P implies Q) will lead to a true conclusion, ~ P → Q (not P implies Q) where P is based on information that is not true leads to a conclusion that will be either true or false. You can’t tell, but you can take advantage of it.
This is not new at all and is exactly what politicians do. They manipulate information that forms a false hypothesis to lure the reader into drawing a wrong conclusion—BUT a conclusion that is desired by the politician.
We can learn from history about how manipulation of the data upon which the hypothesis is based simply by understanding how Adolph Hitler and Josef Goebbels, his propaganda minister, applied this process.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, wrote a psychological profile of Adolph Hitler. In this profile they wrote the following:
“His [Hitler’s] primary rules were:
- never allow the public to cool off;
- never admit a fault or wrong;
- never concede that there may be some good in your enemy;
- never leave room for alternatives;
- never accept blame;
- concentrate on one enemy at a time and
- blame him for everything that goes wrong.
People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”
Repeating something—true or untrue—over and over again is crucial. The more you repeat it, the greater the chances are that those who listen will eventually believe it. For example, how many times have you heard the president say, “There is no collusion.” There may or may not have been any collusion, but by saying this over and over, people who want to support the president will eventually believe it as gospel and will ignore anything that presents a view to the contrary.
Adoph Hitler was not modest about the subject. He invented what he called a “big lie” to lay the blame of Germany’s loss of World War I on the Jews. In Mein Kamph he wrote:
“But it remained for the Jews, with their unqualified capacity for falsehood, and their fighting comrades, the Marxists, to impute responsibility for the downfall precisely to the man who alone had shown a superhuman will and energy in his effort to prevent the catastrophe which he had foreseen and to save the nation from that hour of complete overthrow and shame. By placing responsibility for the loss of the world war on the shoulders of Ludendorff they took away the weapon of moral right from the only adversary dangerous enough to be likely to succeed in bringing the betrayers of the Fatherland to Justice.
All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, was largely responsible for implementing the “big lie” and executing means of delivering the “big lies” to the German public. He was succinct in how he felt about its use—particularly on the English—when in 1941 he wrote in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. 1941, pp. 364-369:
“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
The ”big lie” has reared its ugly head with disastrous results in the United States.
- The North Vietnamese did not attack our Naval ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Yet we went to war.
- Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. Yet we invaded Iraq to get rid of him. (Note that this “lie” may have been unintentional—it might have been, as some have reported, based on faulty intelligence. Still, it led to a wrong conclusion.)
Currently you see the process of manipulating the hypotheses in action with the Mueller investigation. (I am making no accusations about this—just pointing out what is happening.)
- Reporters (TV and Newspapers) report information that points fingers at members of the current administration;
- The current administration utilizes the phrase “fake news” over and over again;
- The president says over and over and over, “There is no collusion.”
- The current administration shouts out in unison that the Mueller investigative team is corrupt—therefore any findings coming from them should be ignored.
All efforts—from reporters who feed the newspapers, from talk show hosts, from cable news networks, from politicians speaking publicly and the like, are all providing information—true or untrue—that will be used in the formulation of a hypothesis.
This hypothesis, true or untrue, will be used to draw a conclusion.
Ultimately, the key to success in communicating information from which people can form hypotheses and draw conclusions depends on how effective they use technology to communicate their message to the public.
And that topic—technology in communicating the big lie or even the truth—will be the subject of post #4.