Saturday, January 21, 2017

All Hail The Gaslighter-in-Chief


Thursday night-- in a bizarre Adderall-fueled rant-- Señor Trumpanzee falsely claimed his inaugural concert was the biggest success in history. Unprecedented. People wondered if he was drunk. There were about 10,000 people. Obama's inaugural concert had drawn 400,000. Trump's a compulsive liar. PolitiFact has fact checked 358 controversial statements of his. Only 15 (4%) were rated true, although another 40 (11%) were rated "mostly true." Everything else-- basically 85% of what he's said to the public is a lie.

On Inauguration Day, Politico ran a piece dedicated to his uncontrollable penchant for lying, more than one a day, for example, since he became President-elect. "Many of Trump’s forays into fiction," wrote Brent Griffiths, "are familiar to those who watched his campaign: He’s still inflating statistics on undocumented immigration, crime and unemployment to paint a distorted picture of domestic safety. He’s still missing the mark on issues such as the documented effects of trade policy or the scientific consensus surrounding climate change. He’s still oversimplifying and overstating the Obama administration’s role in the rise of the Islamic States. And he’s still exaggerating the size of his crowds. Since winning, however, Trump has added two new areas where he frequently strays from the facts: the size of his victory over Hillary Clinton and the role of Russia in the 2016 presidential election." The article goes on to delineate and debunk 82 lies he's told in the last 71 days.

This morning, however, we're going to look not at Trump's lying per se, but at something much worse-- his gas lighting. Yes, that's the reason for the movie trailer up top for the George Cuckor-directed 1944 film Gas Light, about a woman (played by Ingrid Bergman) whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane.

Robin Stern is a psychoanalyst who been writing about gaslighting as a psychological condition. She wasn't talking about Trump and America when she wrote, fro Psychology Today, that "The Gaslight Effect happens over time, gradually, and often, by the time you are deep into the Gaslight Tango (the dance you do with your gaslighting partner, where you allow him to define your reality) you are not the same strong self you used to be. In fact, your ego functioning has been compromised and, no longer being certain of your reality, you are not often able to accurately identify when something is 'off' with your partner."
How do you know if you are being gaslighted? If any of the following warning signs ring true, you may be dancing the Gaslight Tango. Take care of yourself by taking another look at your relationship, talking to a trusted friend; and, begin to think about changing the dynamic of your relationship . Here are the signs:

1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, boss.
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person-- more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.

Remember, there is good news about identifying the Gaslight Effect. The good news is that knowledge is power. Once you can name this all too insidious dynamic, you can work towards changing the dynamic, or getting out-- take back your reality, and, get more enjoyment from your life and your relationship!
Last month, Lauren Duca, writing for Teen Vogue explored explicitly how Trump is gaslighting America. "Trump," she wrote, "won the Presidency by gas light. His rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception. Civil rights are now on trial, though before we can fight to reassert the march toward equality, we must regain control of the truth. If that seems melodramatic, I would encourage you to dump a bucket of ice over your head while listening to Duel of the Fates. Donald Trump is our President now; it’s time to wake up."

Trump has been successfully warping a sector of the public's sense of reality-- the most vulnerable and susceptible sector, primarily people with below-average IQs. You watched Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski, a reporter who suffers from a congenital joint condition, right?

Trump-- and the Fake News machine that helped him gaslight the public-- said he didn't mock the reporter. (He also referred to his autistic son, Barron, as "a retard." If you doubt your own eyes and ears in this matter... you've been gaslighted. Gaslighted by Trump. It's curable.

In his post-election summary of the triumph of the Trumpists, New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote that "All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering... Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President-- a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit-- and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety."
In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

Trump ran his campaign sensing the feeling of dispossession and anxiety among millions of voters-- white voters, in the main. And many of those voters-- not all, but many-- followed Trump because they saw that this slick performer, once a relative cipher when it came to politics, a marginal self-promoting buffoon in the jokescape of eighties and nineties New York, was more than willing to assume their resentments, their fury, their sense of a new world that conspired against their interests. That he was a billionaire of low repute did not dissuade them any more than pro-Brexit voters in Britain were dissuaded by the cynicism of Boris Johnson and so many others.

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At 10:52 AM, Blogger VG said...

Thanks for this Howie.

The term "gaslighting" may not be so familiar to the general public, but it is to those who have been raised by toxic narcissists or had such a partner.

I mean, it's familiar to those of us who have been situations above, and tried hard to understand what was going on at the time, especially in retrospect, as more and more information about narcissists and NPD have become available on the internet.

There's a range of awfulness along the NPD spectrum, but none of it is acceptable.

There's no doubt in my mind (and probably yours) that Trump is at the most awful extreme of NPD.

You've covered it well in your article, but in case anyone wants more details, based on quick search:

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

via Remnick's New Yorker article Preserve, Protect and Defend

“There is no week nor day when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their supreme confidence in themselves, and lose their roughness and spirit of defiance, Tyranny may always enter, there is no charm, no bar against it—the only bar against it is a large resolute breed of men [and women].” Walt Whitman


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