Can anybody help me to explain this 'nonsense seems common sense', it comes from the end of this paragraph (about world war I history):

'In the early 1930s, the Great Depression starting in America had thrown people out of work across the world, while the looming menace of Stalin's communist state haunted millions. There are times when the politics of fear become irresistible and nonsense seems common sense. Eventually, the Nazi Party did very well in elections, Hitler came to power.'

  • Attributed to Joseph Goebbels, among others: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 17:44
  • Or "Four legs good -- two legs bad!" ==> "Four legs good -- two legs better!"
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


Politics were stirred up by what was happening in Germany pre-WW2 and things that seemed unusual started to seem normal because of the tactics the Nazi party used.


Beliefs that were not well-founded in fact, or not likely to be accepted in another time or another place, became commonly accepted at a large scale. So much so that these beliefs seemed more common than not.


First, "Politics of fear" refers to the way unscrupulous politicians will create or artificially enlarge a potential threat, play up the potential negative consequences of that threat, and then introduce a "solution" to that threat, which really is just a way for them to gain power. The politics of fear can be used to make "nonsense seem common sense", that is, to make people believe that a course of action which is clearly ridiculous is actually a reasonable thing to do.

As a made-up but very plausible pre-WWII Germany example, if you can convince people that Jews currently own large portions of the banking industry, that their ownership is growing, and that they secretly work together to improve their own positions at the expense of the poor, hard-working people who are clients of the banks, then it's "obvious" that something must be done to prevent the Jews from essentially taking over the country; for example, passing laws limiting how much property they are allowed to own, confiscating any "excess", and distributing the confiscated property to "the poor". In the guise of "controlling the Jewish threat", the government is now allowed to arbitrarily seize property from wealthy families, which under normal circumstances people would recognize as a very dangerous and tyrannical power that the government should not be allowed to have.

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