Donald Trump is 'gaslighting' all of us

johnrussell
By:  @johnrussell, 5 months ago
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(CNN)


By Frida Ghitis|Jan. 10th, 2017


Is Donald Trump really a "big fan" of the intelligence community, as he claimed on Twitter, or did he disparage intelligence professionals when herepeatedly referred to them and their work in sneer quotes about "Intelligence" briefings and the "so-called 'Russian hacking'"?

Did Trump mock a disabled reporter, or did your eyes, and the Hollywood elite make you think he did?

Did he convince Ford not to move a car plant to Mexico, saving American jobs, or was it all a fabrication for publicity?

Did he win the election with a historically narrow victory, or did he score a"landslide"?

The questions are endless, and the answers, unless you're paying very close attention -- all the time -- can require significant effort to ascertain. Reality is becoming hazy in the era of Trump. And that's no accident.


The fact is Trump has become America's gaslighter in chief.

 

If you've never heard the term, prepare to learn it and live with it every day. Unless Trump starts behaving in a radically different way after he becomes President, gaslighting will become one of the words of 2017.

The term comes from the 1930s play "Gas Light" and the 1940s Hollywood movie version (Gaslight) in which a manipulative husband tries to unmoor his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, by tampering with her perception of reality. He dims the gaslights and then pretends it's only she who thinks they are flickering as the rooms grow darker.

That's only the beginning. He uses a variety of truth-blurring techniques. His goal is to exert power and control by creating doubts about what is real and what isn't, distracting her as he attempts to steal precious jewels.

Mental health professionals have made much of the practice, said to be a favorite of narcissists and abusive spouses. But more recently the tactical tampering with the truth has become a preferred method of strongmen around the world. Gaslighting by other means was always a common feature of dictatorships, but it has found new vogue as a more subtle form of domestic political control even in countries with varying degrees of democracy.

 

Now Trump has brought it to the United States. The techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.

Recall the presidential campaign. By early summer, Trump had alreadyaccumulated a long list of statements he made and then denied making; enough that fact-checkers could hardly keep up. He told his supporters to"knock the crap out" of protesters at his rallies, adding "I will pay your legal fees." When confronted with the statement, he responded: "I didn't say that."

After mimicking a disabled reporter and seeing the video used as evidence against him, he repeatedly denied it, claiming his opponents should be embarrassed to say he did. "I would NEVER mock disabled. Shame!" The denials continued after Meryl Streep brought up the subject this week at the Golden Globes. With the video easily available, Trump's argument boiled down to "Who do you trust, me or your lying eyes?"

 

When Trump says something that outrages a portion of the population and pleases one segment, he can have it both ways. Voters eager for a tough guy president may be happy with the bully, while those who don't like it might be appeased by the denial. In the end, few people can keep up with all the facts all the time. And as he tries to undercut the credibility of serious journalists, he makes it even harder for everyone else to find an easy path to the truth.

Just before Friday's intelligence briefing on Russian hacks, Trump approvingly tweeted about Julian Assange's statements denying Russian involvement. When he was criticized for trusting the head of WikiLeaks more than US intelligence professionals, he accused the "dishonest media" of claiming he agreed with Assange.

The fact is, many people hear only Trump's version of events, and polls showmany people believe even the most obvious distortions of the truth.

He's just getting started, but compared with the man he admires so much, he's a rank amateur at gaslighting.

In Russia, the truth became a matter of opinion under a strategy implemented by a clever aide to President Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov. Surkov, who has a background in the arts, orchestrated a kind of political theater in Russia, creating a gauzy façade where no one knew which group was a creation of the government and which wasn't.

 

He reportedly financed liberal groups and neo-Nazi skinheads. Russian politics became theater, and Putin gradually gained almost total control, with the independent media gradually disappearing as an alternative to journalists loyal to the government.

Russia's false reality then moved from the domestic arena to global theater. When "little green men" made their appearance in Ukraine's Crimea, Russia denied that there were Russian operatives in unmarked uniforms. And when pro-Russian militias emerged in Ukraine and elsewhere, Moscow claimed they emerged spontaneously in a quest for independence, even as Russian military forces moved into position in a sovereign country.

Russia even tried to gaslight US voters, as intelligence agencies concluded, trying to undermine their faith in the democratic process. And when Moscow thought Trump would lose, it planned to promote the view that the election was stolen, under the #DemocracyRIP banner, a plan whose seeds Trump had already planted.

The challenge will be a steep one for journalists and for all Americans, when so much of what comes from the next president has to be checked and double-checked. The first step is to establish when there is a gaslighting operation in progress.

Then comes the battle to hold on to the facts.

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 11:52:34AM @johnrussell:

Donald Trump has a history that he and his supporters continually deny. 

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DF
link 01/11/17 12:09:09PM @df:

Another BS article from the king of BS.  Fake non-news, A broken record click.... click.... click....

No Honor and no Character no integrity.  Pure BULLSHIT.

 

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 12:10:50PM @johnrussell:

Is anyone following Trump's press conference?

What a disgrace this man is. 

 

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Spikegary
link 01/11/17 12:19:16PM @spikegary:
After last's night's 'Pat Myself on the Back' Farewell Speech, in the words of her that you worship, 'What does it matter?'
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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 12:34:53PM @johnrussell:

huh? 

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Jonathan P
link 01/11/17 12:42:51PM @jonathan-p:

Done with the campaign. No need for the Dem talking points anymore.

He'll be President in 9 days.

Time to talk about the issues.

Move on.

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 12:50:02PM @johnrussell:

As long as Donald Trump is a chronic dissembler no one but his 37% supporters is going to "move on".

Trump has one of the lowest approval ratings at this point of his transition of any president elect in history. 

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Jonathan P
link 01/11/17 01:03:54PM @jonathan-p:

Meaningless statistic, but I can fix that for ya.

He's going to ignore California, as they ignored him in the election.

That's 12% of the population.

There. That's better.

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 01:09:08PM @johnrussell:

He has one of the lowest ratings for an incoming president in history. And you want everyone to leave him alone. Keep dreaming. 

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Jonathan P
link 01/11/17 01:11:24PM @jonathan-p:

Lowest rating, highest rating, who gives a shit, John? He's not President yet.

That's like saying that Hillary should be President because more newspapers endorsed her.

WTF??!!

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pat wilson
link 01/11/17 02:18:01PM @pat-wilson:

Not sure what you're talking about. Nearly one third of the voters in Cali voted for trump, not exactly ignoring him.

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Jonathan P
link 01/11/17 02:27:28PM @jonathan-p:

John was caricaturing the perceived lack of support that President Trump will be receiving heretofore.

I was merely answering him in a similar manner.

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96WS6
link 01/11/17 03:22:13PM @96ws6:

For God's sake man!   Haven't you learned your lesson about polls or anything else this election has taught?

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Dean Moriarty
link 01/11/17 12:51:11PM @dean-moriarty:

In JR's defense I certainly see a resemblance in Jr's behavior to that of Ingrid Bergman's in the Gaslight movie. 

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JohnRussell
link 01/11/17 01:05:52PM @johnrussell:

I see your resemblance to the gaslight. 

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96WS6
link 01/11/17 02:06:59PM @96ws6:

"The techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others"

Great.   Looks like were in for at least another 4 years of BO.

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Jonathan P
link 01/11/17 02:10:04PM @jonathan-p:

It's not BO.

It's The Reverend John Sharpton Russell.

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96WS6
link 01/11/17 02:19:33PM @96ws6:

I know, I just like pointing out the irony/hypocrisy.

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