“What do you think about that?” a TV moderator asked about Holocaust deniers. He was questioning his guest about the people who believe Hitler’s genocide of the Jews never happened.

Pensively, the man replied. “Denial,” he paused, “It’s a powerful emotion. It lets us deal with things we’d rather not think about.”

I suspect that, like me, a lot of us have been experiencing denial in the sense that there are horrible or stupid or negative things that happen, things we’d rather not think about. Better, our brains just leap at alternate explanations – fabricated or not. It never happened.  

Thus, the Holocaust deniers. Easier to believe that millions of people, all so much like us, weren’t stripped of their possessions, their dignity and their loved ones. They weren’t marched into extermination camps and killed. By the same token, the South never mistreated its slaves or freed slaves or ... for that matter ... we’re not prejudiced.  

Denial. By another word: lying.  

Denial is everywhere, and there’s something so satisfying about it. In the world of denial, what we want to be true ... if we hear it often enough ... becomes our truth and our reality. Then, too, a denial, well told and presented, gives the denier a sense of power. The bigger the lie, the more powerful the sensation. 

The interview subject had it right. Denial is a powerful emotion, and one we learn early on.

Who among us didn’t master, as a kid, the fine art of saying, “I didn’t do it.” And, when pressed, “I didn’t do it!” And, if the accusation comes again, “I said I didn’t do it. Don’t you believe me?”

Or, the common claim when caught cheating: “I wrote that paper by myself.” With about 10,000 variations on that and similar schoolroom themes.

Remember, too, how good it feels to “get away with it?”

Even when caught ... particularly, when caught ... we learn the efficacy of doubling down on the lie, the denial. It’s another technique we master as kids. Never confess. Why should we when there’s every chance of people believing us. Just repeat the lie often enough, loud enough, long enough and, even if some people don’t believe you, there’s not much they can do about it.  

This lesson proves useful throughout life. What is the most common refrain of prison inmates? “I’m innocent.” Who are among the most useful politicians or talk show hosts? Spin doctors – people who can take a negative event and present it in an entirely new light.  

Prison inmates, spin doctors, kids, us ... our brains jump to believe the lie told over and over, particularly if we want to believe the prisoner “didn’t do it” or “it never happened” or “the election was rigged.”

The election was rigged?

Geez. I could be sitting on the county commission now if 1,800 votes in the 2018 election hadn’t been fabricated. Really. I won.

You believe it. Don’t you?

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