As defined by Lexico, the Big Lie technique is

A gross distortion or misrepresentation of the facts, especially when used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body.

As explained on Wikipedia:

The German expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, to describe the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." Hitler claimed the technique was used by Jews to blame Germany's loss in World War I on German general Erich Ludendorff, who was a prominent nationalist political leader in the Weimar Republic.

The term has recently been used in reference to false claims of election fraud in the 2020 US presidential election. Again from Wikipedia:

To support his attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election, President Donald Trump and his allies repeatedly and falsely claimed there had been massive election fraud and that Trump had really won the election.[5][6] U.S. Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz subsequently contested the election results in the Senate. Their effort was characterized as "the big lie" by then President-elect Joe Biden: "I think the American public has a real good, clear look at who they are", Biden said two days after the Capitol was attacked. "They're part of the big lie, the big lie.

The linked Wikipedia page goes on to list other occasions of the term being used in reference to the 2020 election, for example in the impeachment proceedings.

Have these politicians elaborated on their usage of this historically loaded terminology?

  • 2
    Are you asking about the term as Hitler coined it? If so, I think it's more of a history question. I'm a bit hesitant to migrate it though, I think their site requires a bit more prior research. As for this site, I think it can be in scope if it's framed about some current usage. It has recently been used in reference to false US election claims but I'm not sure if that's what you had in mind with this question.
    – JJJ
    May 31, 2021 at 16:00
  • I was thinking about its more recent usage.
    – 4D4850
    May 31, 2021 at 16:12
  • Yea, in that case it might be better to phrase it more bluntly. Something like, 'According to Wikipedia "Big Lie" refers to <research>. It has recently been used in reference to US election claims. How have politicians elaborated on their choice of using that historically loaded term to describe recent events?'
    – JJJ
    May 31, 2021 at 16:16
  • 2
    I edited a bit more to make the question more objective. Rather than asking why, the question focuses on how politicians elaborated on using the term. I assume this is what you were after, but if it diverges too much from your intent then feel free to change it further.
    – JJJ
    May 31, 2021 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


Taking a look at the Google NGram Viewer, which tells you about how often a phrase has appeared in publication over time, we can see it shot to popularity after WWII. The phrase appears before then, but only to describe a "whopper" that someone has told. It was Hitler who used it to name a propaganda technique (my emphasis):

All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true within itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; [...] It would never come into [the ordinary peoples] heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

I obviously can't see into the heads of the people using this term, but I suspect that most people are only vaguely aware of the history of the term, and are more likely to assume that Hitler was the liar in question, rather than the accuser (and indeed Nazi ideology was founded on exactly the kind of Big Lie that Hitler described). Since the term is in widespread use it can't be used to impute Nazi sympathies.

As far as the recent election goes, the embarrassing fact is that if you believe that Donald Trump lost then "big lie" is a good description of what his claims amount to. Conversely if you believe that Trump won the election then "big lie" is a good description of the widespread assertions by election officials, the media and the courts that he lost.

So when politicians and political analysts reach for a word to describe what they are seeing, "big lie" is the most obvious one to hand.

Edit: in response to the edited question.

I'm not aware of any politicians who have expanded on it or explained their choice of words; politicians generally don't do that unless they need to explain away a faux-pas. Calling opposition claims a "big lie" isn't creating a need for that.

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