By Jorge D. H. Prósperi, 2020
The 1980s was a wonderful time for new language. Remember bodacious, fantabulous, airhead, bogus, ditz, lame, so ’87. . . yea! “We were bad to the bone . . . super fine!” . . . “Give me five and keep the change brother!” . . . “Like totally radical and kickin!” Keep in mind that LOL, OMG had not been born yet.
Among the 80s slang was “Psych!” It was a back-handed set-up depicting the opposite or distortion of what had been said. It was often meant ironically and at times intended to insult, demean or humble. The intent was to build you up only to unceremoniously drop you down. Example, “Jorge, your writing makes me think of Lorca and Borges! . . . Psych!”
Donald Trump must have learned his language in the 1980s because he uses the Psych technique repeatedly. Psych is also at the end of his lies upon gaslighting his audience. Yes, farmers, coal miners, veterans, those wanting and waiting to have a voice – feeling invisible . . . all of us listening to a president make bodacious promise after promise and then . . . “Psych!”
Gaslighting is not an original word of the 80s but of the 1930s. It has some of the same characteristics meant to fool and distort.
Gaslighting in 2020 is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own comprehension, memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes such as low self-esteem or doubt about one’s ability to consider alternatives.
The following are characteristics of gaslighting and gaslighters . . .
Gaslighting is done by choice and design. It is not an innocent gaffe. Gaslighting is a dysfunctional behavior. Gaslighting is covert – clandestine. Gaslighting is meant to manipulate people. Gaslighting creates needless doubt about the veracity of others. Gaslighting distorts judgement. Gaslighting engages with existing predispositions, biases, prejudices, social -isms and phobias. Gaslighting debilitates. Gaslighting promotes divisiveness. Gaslighting tells people what to think rather to think for themselves. Gaslighting is a ploy used by narcissistic personalities. Gaslighting is one of the components initiating mental abuse in domestic relationships and workplace. Gaslighting historically has been used by despots, totalitarians, dictators: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, Putin, Kim Jong-un – to name a few. Gaslighters tend to praise and admire other gaslighters promoting each other. Gaslighters surround themselves with panderers indulging, coddling and enabling. Gaslighting, at its core, seeks and maintains power and control.
What gaslighters have in common is that they manipulate and use language to gaslight. Hitler was a master of marketing and gaslighting Nazism. He held uncontested large rallies to promote his agenda without interruptions. The crowds fed his ego and in return he unleashed his followers with fear and anger. They left the rallies with targeted victims in mind. These large propaganda events were called Reichsparteitag where Hitler could gaslight stoking paranoia, doubt and chaos. He loved the roar of those being gaslighted.
So let’s begin fact checking what I believe to be The Gaslighter in Chief gaslighting America.
Let’s pretend we are in a court of law trying to find some evidence of language used by choice . . . by design . . . unconnected to the truth.
FACT – DOCUMENTED VIDEO: President Trump called the coronavirus pandemic a hoax during a “Keep America Great Rally” in North Charleston, South Carolina, on February 28, 2020.
Enablers enable Gaslighters for a multitude of reasons. Some fear retribution. Special Interest groups seek favors often made available for a quid pro quo. The gaslighter’s best friends are blind loyalists who super glue their lips to the gaslighter’s ass. Others just love riding on the band wagon – rubbing elbows or being in the circle of power – taking selfies with the emperor. It’s the “good old boys club” – every institution has a branch.
The 2016 presidential campaigns and voter motivations are being researched quantitatively and qualitatively. The National Populist movement is not unique to America and should be critically studied historically and from current socio-cultural-political-financial-psychological-generational perspectives.
To generalize that all Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 are racist, sexist, xenophobic, jingoists, misogynists, bigots, White Nationalists, Domestic Terrorists, Confirmation Biased, and/or low information voters is unfair and a form of gaslighting. So what about 2020? All of us have had plenty of time to listen, fact check and watch.
Donald Trump is who he is. To quote Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.”
If he would have continued to be a NY real estate agent, the country could have been spared anxiety, stress, fear and hate that hovers over us like a cloud hiding the sun. At a minimum, the gaslighting that has become his brand and legacy would have remained isolated in NY among hotel magnates, Mar-a-Logo and family members. The damage could have been contained and limited.
But now we have a full blown Trumpism virus trying to deal with a real non-hoax virus that is costing lives. Pathologically lying to Americans has a price that not even his followers should defend, deflect, ignore or deny. Even Fox News has abandoned its alternate reality – at least for a few spin cycles. They had no choice. Reality and the truth surrounded them. No one was left to blame!
We need to recognize and keep in mind the fact that Trumpism sells. It fits with the metanarrative scams of Supply and Demand, Wall Street Speculation, Trickle Down Economics and the American Dream . . . the addiction to the Wall Street Fugazi. It keeps “fail-safe” affluent families living “fail-safe” lives. But that is a minuscule slice of America’s population – maybe 5%.
Trumpism not only sells hats, but tax cuts for corporations, industrialists and keeps the inheritance flowing for “fail safe” families. The most recent tax cuts allowed CEOs to buy-back their own stocks raising the value of their stocks which was great for share holders and CEOs with incentive bonuses tied to stocks reaching specific plateaus of profit.
Lest we forget who the tax cuts were meant to support – trickle down to that farmer, coal miner, veteran . . . our middle class families. It was supposed to raise wages for all workers and enhance their quality of life . . . “Phsych!”
Gaslighting is real and powerful. It can threaten legislators of being gaslighted if they don’t toe the line, pay homage and pledge blind loyalty.
The “good old boys power and control club” has been part and parcel of Americanism. It trumps transparency, decency, distorts rule of law, suppresses equity and justice. It knows how to lawyer up, attack the victim and deflect . . . be it a Penn State, MSU, The Catholic Church, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, Deutsche Bark, the tobacco industry, gun manufacturers, oil and gas industry, current Republican Party – to name a few. Power and its control is the name of the game . . . arrogantly in your face . . . “Phsych!”
I now see a President Trump facing the immense weight of the Coronavirus looking like a deer in headlights – paralyzed making narcissistic self-absorbed gaslighting comments to the American people – with every word lacking credibility and trust. Crucial times demand veracity by every American – every citizen on earth. This is not a political campaign – it is not a reality TV show.
Each day Trump must now face the American people – not only the Fox News base. He can no longer hide, nor his cronies. Not only is leadership blatantly missing, but its essence – its authenticity – its credibility – its trust. Instead of leading with courage, he is always running the campaign of “Make Me Great Again.” The Me, Myself and I is ever present.
Before the president has his daily press conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has his televised daily report. The comparison is revealing, striking and alarming.
Governor Cuomo provides consistent knowledge bases and specific data. It becomes obvious that he has studied the data and is in command of it.
The daily report is professionally thorough. He is fluent articulating complex multi faceted information so that it can be digested. There is logic, reason and coherence. It is well organized and prepared. The words are relevant with meaning and purpose.
Trump provides promises, speculations, generalizations and impromptu messaging that often require correcting. His thoughts are incoherent and he seems out of place and out of touch with the reality of the moment. The problem is that his audience is not a rally. Everyone now is listening and discerning. There are tough critical questions that are left unanswered.
Trump does not understand that critical questions require critical detailed answers for citizens who will be critically listening demanding specific information based on facts, data and knowledge.
Governor Cuomo takes full responsibility and says so for every decision he makes. Trump denies, deflects and defends. His answers drift often attacking the reporter, mayor or governor because his focus is personal.
Governor Cuomo does not mince words when reporting or projecting stark realities. His focus is clear and decisive.
Trump evades clarity, hesitates, is indecisive and tells the American people that he has a “good feeling about the situation.”
This is not a time for notion-mongering but rather a time for researched-based, evidence-based, knowledge-based, science-based truth to be shared with candidness and courage with the American people and the world at large.
Aside from knowledge, Cuomo provides empathy making a human personal connection, not only for the people of New York but America. He connects in human terms. Trump connects in Wall Street terms, bottom line terms, because this is who he is.
Each day Cuomo provides a PhD master class on crisis management. Trump ends up looking like an incompetent disorganized bungler.
When leadership loses credibility and trust, what is also lost is inspiration, faith, reason and purpose to follow.
Credibility and trust beget credibility and trust – it is not blind loyalty – the loyalty is earned during the toughest of times – not at rallies.
“We are getting wonderful reviews! So good, so great!”
What? Who talks like this? This is Trump gaslighting about the virus as if describing TV ratings of The Apprentice. What planets is he living on? There is a constant disconnect between the administration’s altered reality and undeniable facts.
The truth is stubborn – relentless – will not be denied and in 2020 always available to those who are willing to critically examine, seek it out and unearth it.
The problem with the virus is that Donald Trump can’t “lock it up!” He can’t stiff it. He can’t threaten to sue it. He can’t pay it off or silence it like pornstars . He can’t pardon it. He can’t blame it on a caravan. He can’t wall it off or cage it. The Senate can’t protect him from it . . . “Psych!”
For those who have been promoting a revolution in the name of Veritas . . . It is here!
. . . without a march, without a strike, without a boycott, without fire hoses, without german shepherds ripping skin and cop sticks splinters left on brave innocent skulls bleeding.
Beware and cautious because the forces of greed, power and control will hold on for dear life. It may take a few generations to figure it out.
Hoarding power and avarice will be major deconstructions requiring major changes from the current status of Capitalism to a different form of democratic humanistic financial system.
It can be done and it can begin with those working right now at 11 Wall Street, Lower Manhattan, New York City, New York.
Come on all of you millennial young turks . . . do the right thing!
Changes to our financial paradigms are needed – as much as the need to deal with racism, sexism and other social -isms and phobias.
As with the virus, we will get through it . . . but it will take time, diligence and perhaps a few more generations to authenticate our founding core principles.
A word of caution . . . Gaslighters will promise and buy your comfort for a few days in order to return to the old regime. Trump is already promising that “The Market will be back big time!”, as if this is the holy grail – for some it is!
By the way, any need to mention those who have died from the virus? Those who will suffer beyond Trump’s inherited “fail-safe” reality? Any need to mention those most impacted? The homeless? The imprisoned? The now jobless? The minimum wage workers working two jobs? The nanny? The domestic worker? The restaurant workers? The elderly on medicaid? The millions hired as temporary help? Does Wall Street ever see them or are they just commodities without capital – out of sight and mind?
The virus is but a challenge to wo/man kind. We hopefully will survive it, but it is also a calling for a catharsis – to not continue business as usual from here on in.
Some will cash out while others cash in. It is a time to be astute and not be compromised or pandered any longer.
Demand the truth regardless of where it leads because it now leads to each citizen’s door.
End of Part II of III – Go to Part III