What Precisely Was the Big Lie?

 

C. S. Lewis’s character Professor Kirk was right to ask why they don’t teach logic in schools these days. Our absurd political circumstances have rarely, if ever in human history, needed logic more. Let’s do what we can to shed some logic on the talk about Trump’s talk of the 2020 election, shall we?

An enthymeme is an argument with an unstated step, usually an unstated premise.

Aristotle explains that enthymemes can be useful rhetorically.  You don’t always have to spell out every step, talk like a robot, and lose your audience.  Sometimes it’s ok to just say, “The defendant was seen at the pier on the night of the crime, and therefore did not commit the murder,” without explicitly telling people who already know the local geography that the pier is a long way from the crime scene.

Logic Use Logic GIF - Logic Use Logic Think - Discover & Share GIFsBut enthymemes have a darker side, like when you say “Alex is Polish, so he’s stupid” (Richard Purtill‘s example of a bad enthymeme).

Obama gave us a fine example of a bad enthymeme in 2008.  He used to diss John McCain by saying that McCain agreed with George W. Bush 90% of the time.  (Or maybe it was 95%. Or maybe he varied his estimates.  Hard to remember exactly.  Let’s just stick with 90%, shall we?)

Obama’s argument against McCain depended on a premise that Obama did not say out loud–the premise that says just how often Bush was actually wrong.  If the premise was that Bush is wrong 100% of the time, then the premises of the argument do a good job beating up McCain, but one of the premises is plainly false: No one is wrong 100% of the time.

Barack Obama Confused GIF - BarackObama Obama Confused - Discover & Share GIFsBut if the premise is only that Bush is wrong 65% of the time, then Obama’s argument only establishes that McCain is wrong 58.5% of the time.  If the premise were that Bush is wrong 55% of the time, then the argument would establish that McCain was only wrong 49.5% of the time–in other words, that he is usually right!

So Obama had to keep it quiet just how often Bush was wrong.  Whatever the premise was, if we said it out loud, we’d start thinking for ourselves instead of doing what Obama wanted, which was to scurry along from a hastily drawn conclusion that McCain is wrong a lot into an enthusiastic vote for Obama.  If Obama had let his other premise out into the open, then it would have been easy to see two things:

1. There’s no general agreement on how often Bush was wrong, and therefore little clarity on how powerful Obama’s argument against McCain actually is.

2. The most powerful versions of the argument would rely on an obviously false premise.

Now, back to Trump.  A lot of people are using enthymemes against Trump these days.  Trump tells the Big Lie, we are told, and therefore he is a big liar, a big problem, a threat to the Constitution, and so on.

What I don’t understand is: What exactly is it that Trump said that was a lie?  There is an unstated premise here.

Is the premise that Trump lied when he said the 2020 election was rigged?  If so, then the Hemingway book shows that the premise is false–it actually was rigged.

Is the premise that Trump lied when he said that there was a lot of fraud?  But in that case, the currently available evidence indicates that the premise is false–there was some fraud, and there was probably a lot of it.

Donald Trump GIF by CBS News - Find & Share on GIPHY

Is the premise that Trump lied when he said that illegal actions flipped swing states?  That’s probably a false premise too–illegal actions probably did flip swing states.  Maybe the ones considered in Teigen vs. Wisconsin Elections Commission, for example, and almost certainly the million-plus Biden advantage in mail-in votes cast in violation of the state Constitution of Pennsylvania.

Or is the premise that Trump lied when he said the election was stolen electronically?  If so, then we need to talk. We need to talk about how, without even talking about 2020 specifically, electronic fraud actually looks pretty plausible because we have vote-counting machines with internal modems and no processes in place to ensure that the modems are switched off during the vote-count.  And after talking about that, we’d have to figure out what sort of evidence there is either for or against some of the machines having been hacked in 2020.

Is the premise that Trump lied when he said that the Senate should not have certified the Electoral College vote?  If so, then the premise is wrong because Trump honestly believed it.  But at least I can agree that he was mistaken about that.

Or is the premise that Trump lied when he said that the election was stolen when Dominion applied an algorithm and the voters “broke the algorithm” before some jerks brought in some fake ballots or whatever?  Lots of details in there–likely at least partially mistaken, although still not a lie as such because he honestly believed it.

Is the premise that Trump lied when he said that we knew all that stuff at the time?  Yeah, maybe that was a lie.  I sure didn’t know it at the time; I was barely figuring out some of the early bits and pieces.  I still don’t know exactly what happened in 2020.

Or is the premise that Trump lied when he said the election was stolen?  I’ve heard it said that this is exactly the premise, but this is why we have to have big vocabulary words instead of nice things.  Vocabulary words like “enthymeme.”  An election could be “stolen” in any of the ways mentioned above.  If that was the lie, then we still don’t know what the premise is.

What is the premise of the argument against Trump?  What exactly was the Big Lie?

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Part of the backstory to this post is as follows:

    Since the week of the 2020 election I’ve been trying to keep track of different allegations of election illegality and, as much as possible, make sense of them.  That means categorizing them, noting objections to them, and evaluating both claims and objections when I can.

    Some of the unfinished results of this ongoing work here:

    • #1
  2. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    First comment space reserved! I’ll try to add some links here soon. We need more citations up in here!

    You couldn’t just add them at the end of the post later?

    • #2
  3. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    First comment space reserved! I’ll try to add some links here soon. We need more citations up in here!

    You couldn’t just add them at the end of the post later?

    Doing that doesn’t send a notification to thread followers.

    • #3
  4. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Oh, and you’re going to make Gary’s head explode again.

    • #4
  5. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Oh, and you’re going to make Gary’s head explode again.

    You just fed the legend some more. Clearly, you are a Gary sock puppet. [Ducks.]

    @saintaugustine, thank you again for your painstaking work on the election of 2020. The Big Lie is, in the minds of the usual suspects and their useful idiots, is that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.  The delicious irony, of course, being that the Big Lie accusation is the actual big lie.

    • #5
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Well said. 

     But you miss the deeper point of the use of the term the big lie. It is an attempt to link Donald J Trump to Hitler. Like the use of the word denier.

     

    • #6
  7. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Oh, and you’re going to make Gary’s head explode again.

    You just fed the legend some more. Clearly, you are a Gary sock puppet. [Ducks.]

    @ saintaugustine, thank you again for your painstaking work on the election of 2020. The Big Lie is, in the minds of the usual suspects and their useful idiots, is that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The delicious irony, of course, being that the Big Lie accusation is the actual big lie.

    That’s typical for the left, of course:  accuse the other side of what YOU are actually doing.

    • #7
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Well said.

    But you miss the deeper point of the use of the term the big lie. It is an attempt to link Donald J Trump to Hitler. Like the use of the word denier.

    Like I said,

    Logic Use Logic GIF - Logic Use Logic Think - Discover & Share GIFs.

    We need less thinking by vibe and lingo, and more attention to actual statements.

    • #8
  9. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Teaching critical thinking skills is dependent upon a teacher that has critical thinking skills. There is a laziness in the academy. Teaching platitudes is far easier than teaching critical thinking skills. No one is more vicious than a teacher that cannot present a defense for their ideas when a student presents a serious challenge to the mediocrity of memorized platitudes.  

    • #9
  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Oh, and you’re going to make Gary’s head explode again.

    Returning the favor.

    • #10
  11. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I don’t think there was a big lie as charged. There were several separate elements that constituted the rigging. Then there was a lot of lawfare similar to what we saw during Trump’s Presidency. Most of the accusations of rigging are well-founded.

    The Covid Pandemic then hit during Trump’s last year in office. This is a big event that had a lot of negative impact on Trump’s election picture and there has been no really solid evidence that the pandemic itself was manufactured but the possibility is there. It was certainly taken great advantage of and that is still being used to solidify the politically-based mass formation syndrome we are witnessing. And, just in case, the J6 riot was put into the formula. I think it is probably difficult to see what is happening if one is not paying some detailed level of attention to these matters.

    • #11
  12. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I think it took about 11 seconds for the media to roll out the phrase “big lie,” after Trump raised the first questions about the election.  They have used it consistently ever since.  I never heard anyone identify the actual statement that was supposed to be the “big lie,” but it was apparent from context that the various new stories that used the phrase were talking about different things and different allegations about the election.  Some of them were clearly opinions rather than allegations of fact, and opinions (by definition) cannot be a “lie.”

    To date, I don’t recall ever hearing a news story on any of the legacy media outlets that did not use the phrase “big lie,” or at least “lie,” in any story on this subject.

    To date I don’t recall ever hearing any of those selfsame legacy media outlets use the word “lie” to describe the Russia hoax.  Or, for that matter, anything else in the news.  It’s almost as if these guys get together and agreed on the language they will use to describe an event.

    • #12
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Teaching critical thinking skills is dependent upon a teacher that has critical thinking skills. There is a laziness in the academy. Teaching platitudes is far easier than teaching critical thinking skills. No one is more vicious than a teacher that cannot present a defense for their ideas when a student presents a serious challenge to the mediocrity of memorized platitudes.

    Good time to mention that I have a huge series of logic lectures coming soon on YouTube and Rumble?  60 videos!

    Probably 61 after I correct a mistake I realized over the weekend that I had made when talking about truth tables.

    • #13
  14. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    CNN:

    Why did people start using that term to describe the 2020 election?

    Use of the phrase started as a way for Trump critics to warn about the toxic nature of his election lies.Here’s Joe Lockhart, a Democratic communications specialist and CNN commentator, writing about it in January.And historian Timothy Snyder, author of “On Tyranny,” used it in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. “The idea that Mr. Biden didn’t win the election is a big lie,” he told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “It’s a big lie because you have to disbelieve all kinds of evidence to believe in it. It’s a big lie because you have to believe in a huge conspiracy in order to believe it. And it’s a big lie because, if you believe it, it demands you take radical action. So this is one way we have really moved forwards towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. It’s coming to a peak right now.”

    • #14
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    CNN:

    Why did people start using that term to describe the 2020 election?

    Use of the phrase started as a way for Trump critics to warn about the toxic nature of his election lies.Here’s Joe Lockhart, a Democratic communications specialist and CNN commentator, writing about it in January.And historian Timothy Snyder, author of “On Tyranny,” used it in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. “The idea that Mr. Biden didn’t win the election is a big lie,” he told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “It’s a big lie because you have to disbelieve all kinds of evidence to believe in it. It’s a big lie because you have to believe in a huge conspiracy in order to believe it. And it’s a big lie because, if you believe it, it demands you take radical action. So this is one way we have really moved forwards towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. It’s coming to a peak right now.”

    “Radical action,” eh?  Like voter ID?  Like fewer of those insecure mail-in ballots?  Like taking the federal government’s advice to get rid of the voting machines with internal modems?

    I am soooooo radical.

    • #15
  16. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    CNN:

    Why did people start using that term to describe the 2020 election?

    Use of the phrase started as a way for Trump critics to warn about the toxic nature of his election lies.Here’s Joe Lockhart, a Democratic communications specialist and CNN commentator, writing about it in January.And historian Timothy Snyder, author of “On Tyranny,” used it in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. “The idea that Mr. Biden didn’t win the election is a big lie,” he told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “It’s a big lie because you have to disbelieve all kinds of evidence to believe in it. It’s a big lie because you have to believe in a huge conspiracy in order to believe it. And it’s a big lie because, if you believe it, it demands you take radical action. So this is one way we have really moved forwards towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. It’s coming to a peak right now.”

    And there’s the Big Lie coming from the authoritarians themselves. 

    • #16
  17. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Well said.

    But you miss the deeper point of the use of the term the big lie. It is an attempt to link Donald J Trump to Hitler. Like the use of the word denier.

     

    Very True.   It is also an attempt to make anyone (not just Donald Trump ) who questions the integrity of any of the 2020 elections look like a fascist  or an idiot — it is a slander.

    • #17
  18. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    CNN:

    Why did people start using that term to describe the 2020 election?

    Use of the phrase started as a way for Trump critics to warn about the toxic nature of his election lies.Here’s Joe Lockhart, a Democratic communications specialist and CNN commentator, writing about it in January.And historian Timothy Snyder, author of “On Tyranny,” used it in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. “The idea that Mr. Biden didn’t win the election is a big lie,” he told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “It’s a big lie because you have to disbelieve all kinds of evidence to believe in it. It’s a big lie because you have to believe in a huge conspiracy in order to believe it. And it’s a big lie because, if you believe it, it demands you take radical action. So this is one way we have really moved forwards towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. It’s coming to a peak right now.”

    “Radical action,” eh? Like voter ID? Like fewer of those insecure mail-in ballots? Like taking the federal government’s advice to get rid of the voting machines with internal modems?

    I am soooooo radical.

    More than you might have previously realized, perhaps.

    • #18
  19. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    And at the end of the CNN piece, there is this nugget:

    Trump’s big lie worked

    The sham audit in Arizona continues, although behind closed doors, unlike the open counts and recounts of ballots the first time. A similar “forensic review” of ballots in Georgia is being pushed by allies of the former President.Polls suggest a majority of Republicans — 55% in an April Reuters poll — think Biden’s victory was the result of illegal voting or rigging.”What is perfectly clear,” wrote CNN’s Harry Enten after examining the data, “is that Republicans’ lack of faith in our current election infrastructure is a direct result of Trump’s historic efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 results.” 

    What greater compliment has CNN ever paid to the MAGA legions?

    • #19
  20. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Do you remember that time back in 2020, when the Wisconsin Election Commission voted to keep Kanye West and some Green Party person off the ballot?   Clearly Kanye would have gotten enough votes from Biden supporters to tip the election.   The reason they blocked Kanye is that his attorney delivered the signatures at 5:00:14 pm and the deadline was “5 o’clock”.   The party of big government doing what it does best.

    • #20
  21. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    truth tables.

    Exciting!!    Modus Ponens is your friend!!

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    DonG (CAGW is a Scam) (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    truth tables.

    Exciting!! Modus Ponens is your friend!!

    Yes, it really is.

    • #22
  23. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Oh, and you’re going to make Gary’s head explode again.

    You just fed the legend some more. Clearly, you are a Gary sock puppet. [Ducks.]

    @ saintaugustine, thank you again for your painstaking work on the election of 2020. The Big Lie is, in the minds of the usual suspects and their useful idiots, is that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The delicious irony, of course, being that the Big Lie accusation is the actual big lie.

    That’s typical for the left, of course: accuse the other side of what YOU are actually doing.

    Left projects what it does or plans to do on right!

    Dog bites man!

    Thanks, @saintaugustine, for your long labor of love, seeking the true truth of the 2020 election. 

    • #23
  24. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Well said.

    But you miss the deeper point of the use of the term the big lie. It is an attempt to link Donald J Trump to Hitler. Like the use of the word denier.

     

    Very True. It is also an attempt to make anyone (not just Donald Trump ) who questions the integrity of any of the 2020 elections look like a fascist or an idiot — it is a slander.

    It is also a tool of Mitch McConnell and his congressional cabal, desperately clinging to power, prestige, and the thick green gravy that flows over the top of their relatively modest public salaries.

    • #24
  25. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Augie, you are like a dog with a bone…. Never lets go. I like that perseverance, I certainly wouldn’t be that meticulous in follow all of the threads. This kind of fraud is like dying from a thousand minor cuts, no one cut is that fatal slash, but cumulatively you are just as dead.

    • #25
  26. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    @saintaugustine

    I’m not a big biblical scholar but there are two things to which I am committed, one is that man’s rational capability is coupled with his soul and the second is that man’s soul is connected or at least capable of connection back to the Creator. This makes me favor a connection between man’s rational capacity and the existence of his soul.

    I’ll be interested in your series on logic since it has been sixty years since my university course in Logic.

    But I want to go off topic here to ask you a question because of your specialty.

    I have great difficulty giving any credence at all to anyone not believing in the souls of men as being beyond the biological and physical man and that I cannot effectively argue and justify the existence of the rational capability without affirming that spiritual existence. Can you direct me to the best arguments taking the positions that such souls and spirituality does not exists and how can arguments for the meaning of life for humans being different from any other animal succeed in the absence of souls and our eternal creator?  I cannot arrive at a rational for rationality without such belief.

    I know that there are many very intelligent humans who claim they are atheist or agnostic but I can’t get there.

    • #26
  27. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Well said.

    But you miss the deeper point of the use of the term the big lie. It is an attempt to link Donald J Trump to Hitler. Like the use of the word denier.

    Nah, that’s just because electionphobe doesn’t work.

    • #27
  28. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Augie, you are like a dog with a bone…. Never lets go. I like that perseverance, I certainly wouldn’t be that meticulous in follow all of the threads. This kind of fraud is like dying from a thousand minor cuts, no one cut is that fatal slash, but cumulatively you are just as dead.

    I wish I had more time and brain cells to do this more and better!

    And to figure out mRNA vaxxes. And chloroquine. And ivermectin. And on and on.

    • #28
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    But I want to go off topic here to ask you a question because of your specialty.

    I have great difficulty giving any credence at all to anyone not believing in the souls of men as being beyond the biological and physical man and that I cannot effectively argue and justify the existence of the rational capability without affirming that spiritual existence. Can you direct me to the best arguments taking the positions that such souls and spirituality does not exists and how can arguments for the meaning of life for humans being different from any other animal succeed in the absence of souls and our eternal creator?  I cannot arrive at a rational for rationality without such belief.

    I know that there are many very intelligent humans who claim they are atheist or agnostic but I can’t get there.

    If I were on a desktop I think I’d find a Kronk meme saying “You got me. By all accounts it doesn’t make sense.”

    Ask me later if I have some commentary on the moral part. Best I know on the existence of soul is:

    Ockham’s Razor would weigh against it if matter could explain everything we know about, including consciousness. The problem, of course, with that line of reasoning is that the premises are false. Matter does not explain consciousness, or indeed much else. Not even plants or rocks. (As I consider in earlier posts from 2015 or so.)

    • #29
  30. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    @ saintaugustine

    I’m not a big biblical scholar but there are two things to which I am committed, one is that man’s rational capability is coupled with his soul and the second is that man’s soul is connected or at least capable of connection back to the Creator. This makes me favor a connection between man’s rational capacity and the existence of his soul.

    I’ll be interested in your series on logic since it has been sixty years since my university course in Logic.

    But I want to go off topic here to ask you a question because of your specialty.

    I have great difficulty giving any credence at all to anyone not believing in the souls of men as being beyond the biological and physical man and that I cannot effectively argue and justify the existence of the rational capability without affirming that spiritual existence. Can you direct me to the best arguments taking the positions that such souls and spirituality does not exists and how can arguments for the meaning of life for humans being different from any other animal succeed in the absence of souls and our eternal creator? I cannot arrive at a rational for rationality without such belief.

    I know that there are many very intelligent humans who claim they are atheist or agnostic but I can’t get there.

    I think first you have to describe what rationality is (and in what organ or thing it is rooted) and then describe who and what God is.

    • #30
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