“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” President Trump
“Gaslighting” is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her perception, her memory, and ultimately her sanity. The term is derived from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by causing her to question her reality. Gaslighting creates a subtle, unequal power dynamic in a relationship, with the gaslightee subjected to the gaslighter’s unreasonable, non-fact-based, words and hostility. At its worst, pathological gaslighting constitutes a severe form of psychological abuse.
Gaslighting can occur in personal relationships, at work, or over an entire society. Donald Trump is an expert at gaslighting and that is exactly what he is doing to our whole country. In his comments during a press conference with Russian President Putin in Helsinki on Monday July 16th, he said that he saw no reason why Russia “would” have been behind the hacking of the 2016 election. The next day, July 17th, after tremendous backlash in Washington, he “walked back” that statement. Reading from a prepared statement, he claimed he had misspoke and meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would,” meaning he would not accept Putin’s assurance that Russia did not interfere in our 2016 election.
This, in spite of the fact that anyone who watched him toady up to Putin, saw and heard Trump deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump’s comments Tuesday contradicted not only his remarks on Monday but months of previous ones. They are not simple corrections of minor details or word slips.
The reaction to Trump’s Monday denial of Russian interference from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and former intelligence chiefs was outrage. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich called Trump’s performance in Finland “the most serious mistake of his presidency,” the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal called it “a national embarrassment” and former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan called Trump’s performance “nothing short of treasonous.”
Yet, the president’s defenders call this latest reaction “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” They argue that the fact that Trump drives his critics to such extreme reactions says more about them than it does about the President. This is exactly what happens with gaslighting. We, the citizens, become the gaslightee, subjected to Trump’s lies, contradictions, and reversals and are made to feel crazy.
When asked if he accepts the findings of his own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, that our national voting infrastructure is vulnerable, he said, “No,” meaning he still refuses to accept that there is on-going meddling of our election system. Then Sarah Huckabee Sanders rushed out to reporters to clarify his words, saying he didn’t mean “No.” He meant, “No, I’m not taking more questions.” Sarah Sanders is contaminated with gaslighting. Gaslighting is a powerful tool. It causes the inability to know one’s own truth.
While Trump’s acknowledgment of Russian interference is a 180-degree reversal from what he said on July 16th, he has repeatedly denied– for the past two years– that the Russians had anything to do with the 2016 election . He says different things to different audiences and sometimes different things to the same audience. But one thing is true: his lies, reversals, obfuscations and blaming of others (you’re just crazy) is effective in keeping people off kilter.
In recent tweets, Trump has shifted from blaming American institutions for a bad relationship with Russian to telling people not to believe the facts of what they have seen or heard. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” he said at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, MO. last week.
The crazy-making, mind-bending, massive confusion-inducing effects of Trump’s recklessness with the truth and disregard for facts is creating an emotional and psychological whiplash. We can’t wait two years to learn what’s behind his obfuscations. We have to confront him with his lies every time he opens his mouth. Recognize there will never be accountability; be vigilant and speak your mind.