You have probably heard someone say that “if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” It is attributed to Joseph Goebbels but we have all seen it in action. Say something long enough, and people start to believe it is true.
I thought of that when I read the latest issue of Imprimis, which is published by Hillsdale College. It was a summary of a speech by former Sports Illustrated editor, Charles Leerhsen about the false stories about Ty Cobb.
Ty Cobb holds all sorts of baseball records, including a .366 lifetime batting average and the fact that he stole home 54 times. He was an amazing baseball player, but he was also slandered by a book published after his death. Stories about him beating up black men and sharpening his spikes to injure fielders are all false but they were repeated so often that most people assumed they were true.
Robert Knight is a recent column in the Washington Times uses these lies about Ty Cobb to point to similar examples today. The Black Lives Matter slogan “hands up, don’t shoot,” comes from the false narrative of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The claims that voter ID laws are merely being used to suppress minority vote is another example. Never mind that many of the legislators sponsoring these bills are African-American.
Consider how the media covers the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood. Usually they ignore them. When they do talk about the videos, they nearly always use the phrase “heavily edited videos.” Anyone who looks at the entire unedited videos (available online) can see that this description is inaccurate and unwarranted.
Whether in baseball or politics, we can see the sad reality that repetition can often turn a lie into the truth.