Guest column: What a tangled web

The Daily Ardmoreite
Tony Choate

Election officials in a number of states are facing death threats because many supporters of the former president continue to believe the 2020 election was stolen.

Many expected an overwhelming majority of Americans to reject the Big Lie about election fraud once state officials, federal agencies, and the American judicial system had spoken with one voice to say Biden won a free and fair election.

However, it helps to understand that the Big Lie is a propaganda technique Hitler described in Mein Kampf. He explained the reason many believe the Big Lie is precisely because it deviates from reality, yet still supports a deeply held subconscious system of beliefs.  

Hitler explained “the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily.”

Unsurprisingly, Hitler was not admitting his own lies, but accusing the Jews of telling the Big Lie and describing how the Jews were part of an evil scheme against Germany.

Hitler’s Big Lie blamed Jews for all the problems facing Germany. He took advantage of a blend of discontent, nationalism and subconscious bias to demonize, blame, incite hatred, and ultimately execute millions of Jews.

Our former president and his supporters are taking advantage of a similar mix of discontent, nationalism and subconscious bias against Blacks, Mexicans, Jews and other minorities as the foundation of the Big Lie.

While many deny White Americans suffer from subconscious bias against minorities, a quick look at our history demonstrates that bias clearly.

Our Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” Nevertheless, our Constitution endorsed slavery and counted Black slaves as three-fifths of a White man.   

Consider the worldview and mindset necessary to officially approve of slavery and count Black people as something less than human in the document that serves as the foundation of the government of the United States.

While publicly advocating a return to chattel slavery seems unthinkable today, the twisted worldview of White superiority continues to have undue, and often unacknowledged, influence on public opinion and public policy in America.

Those who would deny the impact of subconscious bias need to find another way to explain Jim Crow voting laws, generations of government housing discrimination, generations of segregated schools, non-Whites being shot by police at twice the rate of Whites, employment discrimination, health disparities and other facts of life in America.

While few Americans would admit it publicly, many still believe those racial disparities are a result of White superiority. Trump took advantage of that worldview in his 2016 campaign kickoff speech.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Obviously, Mexico never had a plan to find all their people with problems and send them to America. People come here to pursue the America dream. A vast majority of people crossing the border from Mexico make a positive contribution to our economy and our nation.

While the claim of immigrants causing massive problems has no basis in fact, Trump nevertheless used a wall symbolizing racial division, blame and hatred a central focus of his campaign, his time in office and his claim that the election was stolen.

Domestic terrorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 wielding Confederate battle flags and spewing racial epithets made no secret of the fact they were motivated by the racial hatred that forms the foundation of the Big Lie.  

A few more notable Republicans such as U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and former House Speaker Paul Ryan have admitted there was no widespread fraud that changed the course of the election.

However, many continue to push the Big Lie that minorities and immigrants are the cause of all the problems facing America in their effort to suppress the votes of minorities.

North Carolina Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn recently repeated the Big Lie about the election and threatened violence if voter suppression efforts are not successful.

“If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place and it’s bloodshed,” Cawthorn said in a video posted on social media. “As much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American."

We must untangle the web of lies that has led a member of the United States Congress to threaten to take up arms against other Americans.

Our future depends on it.

— Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.