Tell Lie Vision

Part 2 of 6 in the series Big Lie

The Big Lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” — Wikipedia

“The people will believe what the media tells them they believe.”
– George Orwell, 1984.

After the horrors of the Great War, “while chemicals were being regulated in warfare, there were no limits at all in civilian life,” notes “The Poisoner’s Handbook” at PBS. Author Deborah Blum describes what it was like:

A lot of things today that we think of as dangerous poisons were just on your grocery store shelves or in the pharmacy. They were in medications, they were in pesticides, they were in cosmetics. Pharmaceutical companies were not required to test their products. Companies didn’t have to properly label things. So you’re living in a world that’s sort of aslosh with really dangerous compounds that people didn’t entirely understand.1

Meanwhile, people assume products are safe, even when barely regulated. The Federal Trade Commission Act seeks to foster this trust by regulating advertising. As related by the Bureau of Consumer Protection:

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
  • Advertisements cannot be unfair.2

According to Time Magazine’s article “Truth in Advertising?” published in 2008, “Commercial companies are bound by restrictions that prevent them from making false claims about their products or those of their competitors. Certainly, corporations test those laws all the time, but they do so at a significant risk.” 3

In February 2008, for example, PRWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, noted:

In early January, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce began investigating celebrity endorsements in television ads for brand-name drugs. The investigation was sparked by Pfizer’s commercials for its best-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor. These direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads feature Dr. Robert Jarvik, a pioneer in the development of the artificial heart. Viewers are not told that Jarvik is not a cardiologist, nor is he licensed to practice medicine. His presentation as a trusted expert, Pfizer presumably hopes, is enough to persuade viewers to ask their doctors for Lipitor by name. And that would help erode the increasing competition from generic alternatives.…

While DTC ads seek to change patients’ behavior, pharmaceutical companies are more interested in changing doctors’ behavior. Drug marketers work hard to persuade doctors to prescribe their branded drug over generics and other competitors, and to change other medical practices that limit company profits.4, i, ii

Prickly City Scott Stantis

Political “candidates are not held to the same commercial standard,” the Time Magazine’s article points out, “and the reason is simple: their statements and advertisements are considered ‘political speech,’ which falls under the protection of the First Amendment.”

But it’s not just that candidates are allowed to launch unfounded attacks against their opponents or make false claims about their own records. Broadcasters are actually obligated to run their ads, even those known to be false. Under the Federal Communications Act, a station can have a blanket policy of refusing all ads from all candidates. But they cannot single out and decline to air a particular commercial whose content they know to be a lie.…

As candidates know, a far greater percentage of voters hear the original lie in a campaign ad than ever read about the fact-checked version in a local paper or website like Factcheck.org or Politifact.com. And even if voters do hear the refutation of an ad’s claims, studies show that may not alter their perceptions created by the original ad. It may well be that the standards for commercial advertising have worked too well, instilling in many viewers the belief that what they hear on television is mostly true. “You hear people say, ‘The ads must have some truth to them, or they wouldn’t let them on television,’ ” says Brooks Jackson of Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “Truth in advertising lulls us into a false sense of security.” 5

“Television cameras and satellites bring to our homes “live” the moments’s great events of history, sports, and entertainment from around the world, or from the moon,” notes Gordon Webb.6 But it can also bring us propaganda.

Former United States (U.S.) President George W. Bush’s administration was criticized for producing illegal, fake news announcements in order to sell its federal programs. “The US government admitted it paid actors to pose as journalists in video news releases sent to TV stations intending to convey support for new laws about health benefits,” reported Guardian News and Media Limited in March 2004. “The government also prepared scripts to be used by news anchors.” 7

The Washington Post reported in March 2005 that “Press Secretary Scott McClellan officially confirmed that the White House is blowing off the Government Accountability Office’s finding that prepackaged administration video news releases constitute illegal covert propaganda.” 8

Explains The New York Times, “United States law contains provisions intended to prevent the domestic dissemination of government propaganda. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, for example, allows Voice of America to broadcast pro-government news to foreign audiences, but not at home.” 9

The Guardian News report futher explains:

“Video news releases” of this sort have been used in the US since the 1980s, but the way they blur the lines between news and advertising troubles many media experts and campaigners. The government defended the videos, which Democrats described as “disturbing”. “The use of video news releases is a common, routine practice in government and the private sector,” a health department spokesman told the New York Times.… Guidelines were subsequently drawn up to label video news releases as such – a category which the regular Osama bin Laden videos now fall.10

Bush campaign digitally altered TV ad (2004)
Bush campaign digitally altered TV ad (2004)

The Bush regime was also caught duplicating digital images of soldiers in a 2004 television campaign advertisement titled “Whatever It Takes” reports the Museum of Hoaxes:

The ad included a photo of a crowd of soldiers listening to a speech with a child in the foreground waving an American flag. A poster on the liberal Daily Kos weblog soon noticed that the image had evidently been faked since the same faces appeared in different places throughout the crowd. Initially it was suspected that faces had been cloned in order to make the crowd appear larger than it actually was. But the Bush campaign quickly responded to the growing controversy, revealing that the original version of the photo had shown Bush standing at a podium. A video editor had been asked to edit the image in order to focus on the boy in the foreground waving the flag. Instead of cropping the image, the editor had removed the podium by copying portions of the crowd over it.11

“Mitt Romney’s campaign said on Tuesday [28 August 2012] that its ads attacking President Obama’s waiver policy on welfare have been its most effective to date,” reports The Huffington Post. “And while the spots have been roundly criticized as lacking any factual basis, the campaign said it didn’t really care.”

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.12

Backyard Brains - Neuroscience for Everyone!
Neuroscience for Everyone!


i To maintain a 10% annual growth rate, the [drug] industry’s top 50 companies must more than triple their output of novel drugs.
– David Stipp, “The business of genetics,” Fortune, 31 March 1997, 135(6), p. 67.

ii A large number of medications are being prescribed to treat childhood disorders. They include tranquilizers, stimulants, and antipsychotic medication.
– David Sue, Derald Sue, and Stanley Sue, Understanding Abnormal Behavior, 4th ed. (Mass: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994), p. 512.


1 American Experience, “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” PBS, 7 January 2014, at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365142654/ (retrieved: 11 January 2014).

2 Advertising FAQ’s: A Guide for Small Business, Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) Business Center, at http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus35-advertising-faqs-guide-small-business (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

3 Amy Sullivan, “Truth in Advertising? Not for Political Ads,” Time.com, 23 September 2008, at http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1843796,00.html (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

4 Mary Ebeling, “Beyond Advertising: The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Hidden Marketing Tactics,” PRWatch.org, 21 February 2008, at http://www.prwatch.org/node/7026 (retrieved: 4 January 2011).

5 Sullivan, “Truth in Advertising?”

6 Gordon Webb, “Communication, Bridge to a Better World,” in The Yearbook of Agriculture 1971: A Good Life for More People (U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1971), p. 216.

7 Chris Tryhorn, “US government faked Bush news reports,” guardian.co.uk, 16 March 2004, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/mar/16/uselections2004.broadcasting (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

8 Dan Froomkin, “Fake News Gets White House OK,” WashingtonPost.com, 15 March 2005, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36694-2005Mar15.html (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

9 David Barstow and Robin Stein, “Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News,” New York Times, 13 March 2005, in Anup Shah, “Media Manipulation,” GlobalIssues.org, 17 April 2006, at http://www.globalissues.org/article/532/media-manipulation#IllegalUSDomesticPropagandabutLegalInternationalPropaganda (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

10 Tryhorn, “Faked Bush news reports.”

11 “Whatever It Takes,” MuseumOfHoaxes.com, October 2004, at http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/photo_database/image/whatever_it_takes/ (retrieved: 3 January 2011).

12 “Mitt Romney Campaign: We Will Not ‘Be Dictated By Fact-Checkers’,” The Huffington Post, 28 August 2012, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/23/mitt-romney-_n_1836139.html (retrieved: 28 August 2012).

See also

Prickly City, at http://www.gocomics.com/pricklycity (retrieved: 6 May 2012).

Related videos

“CIA Admits Using News To Manipulate the USA (1975),” Destroying Media Manipulation video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ED63A_hcd0 (retrieved: 21 May 2013). (Watch it here)

“Historical Campaign Ad: Whatever It Takes (Bush-Cheney ’04),” Maviglio video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iPnvACXXV0 (retrieved: 3 January 2011). (Watch it here)

“Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood [Full Film],” futureproducernet video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uUU7cjfcdM (retrieved: 14 January 2012). (Watch it here)

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