Do people want to be lied to?
This had been part of another post I’d begun writing, but I decided that it would make for a good post all on its own.
There’s a scene in an episode of Breaking Bad where Jesse Pinkman is in a support group for recovering addicts, and it takes place shortly after he’s had to kill somebody.
Jesse feels very guilty over this because the person wasn’t actually provoking him or anything, but he still ended up in a rock-and-hard-place situation where he had the option to either kill somebody who didn’t deserve it or get killed by other people himself. At the insistent urging of Walter White, who was between the same rock and the same hard place, Jesse killed the guy.
Obviously, Jesse can’t confess to murder in this support group, so he claims that he killed a dog. One of the people in the group is like “Hey, you can end up doing some fucked up shit when you’re on the rock, brother.” Jesse clarifies that he wasn’t on anything at the time, he was stone sober.
Someone else then chimes in with words to the effect of “Well, the poor thing was suffering. You were just putting it out of its misery.” The delivery of this line, as I recall, was pretty good, because it was part statement, and part question, as in “It was something like that, right? RIGHT? Surely you had a good reason for killing this dog! Tell me you had a good reason!”
No, Jesse says, this dog wasn’t suffering. It was just….a “problem dog.”
The scene and episode go on after that, but I bring it up because I think it very effectively illustrates what a lot of people do when they hear that someone did something bad.
Just like the people in that support group didn’t want to believe that they were sitting in the same room with somebody who would just casually kill a dog, people who idolize politicians don’t want to believe that their idols are nothing more than bullshit artists and war criminals and all sorts of other unpleasant things.
So “Barack Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo yet? Oh, he must have a good reason, he’s not a liar…what’s that? He can’t close it because Republicans aren’t letting him? I believe that! Those bastards in the GOP! I hate them so much! I don’t hate Obama, of course, because obviously he would close Gitmo in a heartbeat if only he had the option.”
People believe so many lies, some of which are extremely implausible if one takes the time to think about them. I don’t have a degree in anything related to the workings of the human mind so I don’t feel qualified to say this for sure, but it seems like the job of a propagandist is already half done before that propagandist says or writes a single word.
You see, the propagandist doesn’t need to convince everybody that there’s a good excuse for someone they admire doing something bad or neglecting to do something they should have done. The people are already convinced that there’s a good excuse. They’ve been telling themselves that there MUST be a good excuse, and all the propagandist has to do is provide one.