“Barnum and bully”: America’s gaslighting expert


Gaslighting is a form of interpersonal manipulation and abuse intended to screw with our heads. It’s meant to disorient us and to have us question our perceptions of reality. As I’ve written in one of this blog’s most popular posts, it’s a favorite tactic of workplace bullies.

Enter Donald Trump. Again. (He’s becoming a regular topic of discussion on this blog.) U.S. News contributing editor Nicole Hemmer writes an insightful piece about how The Donald is gaslighting America with his campaign tactics, behaviors, and rhetoric:

Trump is a toxic blend of Barnum and bully. If you’re a good mark, he’s your best friend. But if you catch on to the con, then he starts to gaslight. Ask him a question and he’ll lie without batting an eye. Call him a liar and he’ll declare himself “truthful to a fault.” Confront him with contradictory evidence and he’ll shrug and repeat the fib. Maybe he’ll change the subject. But he’ll never change the lie.

She cites as an example the experience of Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields:

While covering a Trump rally last Tuesday, Fields was grabbed and pulled toward the ground. Ben Terris of the Washington Post reports seeing Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski do it. Fields has bruises on her forearm and there was audio of the event. Lewandowski himself reportedly told a Breitbart editor he grabbed Fields.

So what happened next?

Lewandowski said Fields was crazy. “Totally delusional,” he tweeted. Trump suggested she made the whole thing up.

Hemmer quotes a colleague who likened this response to the common practice of discrediting sexual assault victims by calling them crazy and delusional. The local police, thank goodness, have taken this more seriously. As reported by the Associated Press and many other news outlets, campaign manager Lewandowski has now been charged with simple battery.

In fact, the Fields incident apparently is among the reasons why National Public Radio is sending its campaign correspondents to what the Washington Post has dubbed “Trump Training,” a tutorial in how to deal with hostile environments:

Donald Trump’s campaign events have apparently become such a minefield for reporters that one major news organization has taken the extraordinary step of offering its correspondents a version of training for dealing with real minefields.

NPR has sent its political reporters to 90-minute hostile-environment awareness training, which in its typical form lasts a few days and prepares journalists for covering war zones or regions where terrorists are active.

…In this case, NPR’s scaled-down sessions might be called Trump Training.

As this coarse, disturbing, and sometimes vulgar Presidential campaign plods along, we are witnessing behaviors that could make for a how-to textbook on workplace bullying, many of them thanks to Trump. Gaslighting, I’m afraid, now has its own chapter.


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3 responses

  1. This situation with Trump reminds me of a dis functional, alcoholic family. When, as a child, you see something and then are told it’s not true…and amazing that the same group of people he’s put out of jobs are his biggest, roughest supporters.

  2. I am astonished and disheartened by the number of people who support this abusive megalomaniac. I, for one, do NOT want to roll back the gains this country has made toward inclusiveness, women’s rights, respect for immigrants, etc. Gaslighting? Yes. I’m glad that was noted. This country better wake up.

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