One of the worst things Donald Trump did to our country was to undermine the trust of the American people in the free press and in the free and fair election system, both pillars of our democracy. At no time in our history has democracy been under such a tremendous strain because of the actions of one man.
I cannot make assumptions as to why Donald Trump lies so often, and if his lies were only about inconsequential matters, I wouldn’t really care (it’s assumed nowadays that politicians are about as trustworthy as used car salesmen anyways.) But his seemingly compulsive need to lie has done real damage to our country. Now many people don’t know who or what to trust in order to find the truth. To see the extent to which Trump carried out his strategies is scary. Sadly, it was also somewhat predictable. Looking at the tactics used to create such chaos, it would be hard for average citizens to not question reality at this point.
One of the best tools for manipulating people’s sense of reality is gaslighting. As stated in Psychology Today, “Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed.” This is an important piece of the story of how one man is able to distort the truth to the point that a person literally wonders if they are crazy, or despairs of ever finding out truths again.
Let’s see how many of the gaslighting tactics Trump used on
a regular basis:
First tactic: Tell blatant lies. There are many, many instances where Trump was caught in blatant lies. The only people who deny those lies are those who support him no matter what he says or does. It’s hard to deny when there’s legitimate proof though. Take one of the first official lies the administration tried to pass off: Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest in history. When confronted about this blatant lie, the administration held to the narrative Trump wanted published, rather than admitting the truth. Pictures clearly show that Trump’s inauguration was much less well attended than Obama’s.
Another example: when Trump said that the head of the Boy
Scouts called him to tell him his speech (to the Scouts) was the “greatest
speech ever made to them.” A senior Scouts source confirmed that no such call
was ever made.
Some may write these off as just “bragging,” or exaggerating, but when a person consistently uses lies to make themselves look better and to create a false sense of reality in his followers, it’s dangerous.
The second tactic: Denial that they ever said something, even when there’s proof. This is one that probably does not apply to Trump, because he never bothers to deny anything he’s said. He is upfront about his lies, and defends them to the end. I could do an entire post about why this is, but for now I'll just say, research narcissistic personality disorder.
A third tactic: Using what is dear to you as ammunition. What is dear to many Republicans and Trump supporters? Securing borders, pro-life agendas, democracy, patriotism, small government, election security, freedom, etc. (All of which are noble values.) Trump has used lies about his opponents to create fear in his followers for everything they hold dear. By hanging the specter of Democrat boogey-men trying to destroy democracy, usher in socialism, open the borders in an immigration free-for-all, and allow late-term abortions for every woman, Trump has created a false sense that what his supporters love is in danger of being taken away. This tactic was taken to new lows when he attacked our free and fair election system. Although he and his team had unmitigated access to the courts, no widespread voter fraud was ever discovered or able to be proven in court, even with many Republicans represented on election boards and in the judiciary. If there had been anything at all to his claims, they would have been all over it.
Fourth tactic: Wearing down over time. Trump is a master at this. He sprinkles the lies in amidst nuggets of truth, but keeps a constant stream of rhetoric flowing, often at a pace that leaves little room for anyone else to get a word in edgewise. His use of Twitter took this to a level we've never seen before.
Fifth tactic: Actions do not match words. Although Trump has fulfilled some of his campaign promises, there are many instances where what he says he is going to do, or has done, aren’t matched by his actions. Does anyone remember his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare? How about the border wall paid for by Mexico? He’s a politician, so I’ll cut him some slack for not being able to fulfill all of his campaign promises, but other things like his vow to not golf as much as Obama, or to not use executive orders were quickly tossed aside. His actions seem to be whatever is expedient in the moment, while his words express greater motives.
Sixth tactic: Confusion and chaos. The majority of people prefer order and stability in their lives. By making people constantly question everything in the world they used to think they understood or trusted, the gaslighter is creating a sense that the world has turned upside down. Gaslighters know that when confronted with chaos and confusion, people turn to “trusted” sources to reassure them or to restore stability- and Trump naturally set himself up as that source.
Seventh tactic: They project. What they do, they deny but then accuse others of doing the same thing. This is often done to distract from their own behavior. You’re not as likely to notice what Trump is doing (or not doing) if your attention is constantly drawn to what his opponents (the enemy) are doing or planning.
Eighth tactic: Telling you everyone else is a liar. This could be Trump’s trademark move. Cast doubt and suspicion on mainstream media, Democrats, liberals, and anyone who opposes him. Call them liars and fake. Start rumors of election rigging far in advance of the election, cast doubt on the security of the voting system. Repeat over and over, until it almost subconsciously becomes truth to the hearer.
I’m deeply saddened when I hear people state that they don’t know what is true or real any more. This was not the case four years ago when Trump took office. Much of the confusion and doubt has been carefully sown by a man with tremendous influence. Trump was able to manipulate the very fabric of our society in order to fulfill his own desire for power and popularity. I’m afraid he got what he wanted, and our country is going to be paying the price for it for years to come.
As for me, I’m putting my trust in what I believe to be true: God is real, Jesus Christ is my Savior, the Bible and Book of Mormon are the words of God, love is stronger than hate, and good will prevail in the end. To keep myself rooted in the kind of truth I want and need in my life, I am immersing myself in the scriptures, recent talks and statements from the Prophet, and all things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” I don't listen to most news sources, but choose instead to read news articles from ones that are least biased (avoiding the over-dramatization and emotionality that most news videos contain.) I go to original sources as much as possible, and have access to research articles when I want to go more in-depth on issues. I, too, am sometimes confused about what appear to be conflicting reports, but I know that truth is usually somewhere in the middle of two sides, and that no one has all of the answers on any topic.