By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (3/20/17)
Every victim of a crazy, abusive relationship or childhood suffered at the hands of an abusive parent knows what it means to be the target of “gas lighting”, even if they have never heard the term.
It is taken from “Gaslight”, a 1944 Oscar-winning mystery-thriller movie starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Joseph Cotten about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into questioning her reality and making her believe she is going insane. Gaslighting is when someone in some position of relationship or power lies with a boldness then denies lying, instead causing the victim to believe they may have just misunderstood, or been too sensitive or dull to figure out what was originally said. Over time, they become confused trying to keep the contradictory information, lies, half-truths and manipulation sorted in their mind. In gaslighting one’s reality is denied, mocked, discounted and eventually doubted in the victim’s own mind to the point where reality itself falls apart.
Remind you of anybody? Anybody orange, bloviating and prone to Tweeting out the most insane crap in the middle of the night? Like Tweets accusing the former president of wiretapping?
What Trump is doing is gaslighting America.
Turning up the gas light
Just consider the recent craziness regarding the accusations that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump before the inauguration. The FBI said it didn’t happen. Senators and representatives from both parties have said it didn’t happen. So then Trump switches tactics and accuses the British of doing the deed for Obama. The British go ballistic and say it didn’t happen and, again, bipartisan denunciations of Trump’s new claims. Trump offers no evidence, even though he has the sole power to declassify and display any classified document he wishes to. White House spinmeisters Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway say, yes, no … and watch out for your microwave.
Trump is undeterred and Americans are left wondering, “What the hell?”
In a topsy-turvy Trumpian universe facts don’t matter. History is a rumor. Science is irrelevant. Up is down and black is white and you are a crazy person. Surprise, you’ve been gaslighted!
Now actually, the Republicans have been doing this kind of stuff for a long time and they do it with manipulation of the language; with a deft linguistic sleight of hand an inheritance tax becomes a “death tax” as common sense work safety standards become dreaded regulations. They have perfected the art of selling strychnine as linguistic butterscotch. There are all kinds of examples that I will explore in future columns but let’s look at one that especially sets me to grinding my teeth: the abuse of the work “reform”.
After all, who would oppose a “reform”? Reforms must make things better, right?
Um, not always…
The Republicans say they will reform Social Security … by cutting benefits.
They promise to reform Medicare … by reducing funding.
They will reform public schools … by diverting precious resources to corporate owned, for-profit private pseudo skools.
Republicans declare it is time to reform work safety … by getting rid of common sense safety standards.
Worried about the financial system? Why the GOP will gladly reform banking safety standards … by eliminating them!
Why just last week we were told that by kicking upwards of 24 million off of health care coverage Paul Ryan and his merry band of Grinches are reforming Obamacare.
The only “re-forming” going on is the forming of a whole new meaning for the word and a perversion of the language: black is white, up is down and you are a crazy person.
As we have seen with his manic daily Tweet storms, Trump will keep shoveling the lies out at a frantic pace to intentionally overwhelm, confuse and exhaust us all to the point where we not only can’t tell what is true or not, but many will stop even caring. This is exactly what Vladimir Putin – Trump’s soul pal – has done to the Russians. Both depend upon a confused, disoriented and numbed out population to build their kleptocratic regimes.
As linguistic researcher George Lakoff has demonstrated in his research on neurolinguistics, language can be made to frame political argument in a way that will get people to support legislation that will devastate their families, destroy their communities and vote in politicians who have the morality of a sociopaths. In his book, “Don’t Think of An Elephant! Know Your Values And Frame The Debate” (2014), Lakoff puts it all in an understandable model.
In the months – and years – to come, understanding gas lighting will be key to preserving your sanity and mounting the resistance that will be needed to save ourselves and our nation for our children.
(Commoner Call cartoon and article by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )