Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The gaslighting of America

gaslight (v.): To manipulate someone into doubting their memories and their perceptions of what is true.

Amid all of the jaw-dropping news that’s been happening lately, here’s a doozy. During the presidential election campaign, teenagers in Macedonia made money by churning out fake news stories designed to be read by millions of people as they circulated on social media.

What’s going on? Well, the truth — as so often is the case — is complicated.

Outright lies and twisted reality

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In case you’re wondering where the term “gaslight” comes from….

Did the fake news stories (including, for example, a report that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for president) tip the election to Trump? I seriously doubt it. Even the most gullible American voters probably had already made up their minds to vote for one candidate or the other.

On the other hand, is Mark Zuckerberg kidding when he says that Facebook — which pushed the stories into users’ newsfeeds — has virtually “no influence” on the people who use it to get news? Maybe he’s kidding himself. But everyone else knows better.

You should care about this, no matter who you voted for. The fake stories slanted toward both the left and right wings (although the right-wing ones reportedly gained a lot more traction).

Presenting phony news side by side with legitimate news. The beginning of the gaslighting of America.

Now we’re seeing reports from the mainstream media — not from kids in Macedonia — that treat the preparations for Trump’s presidency as if they were a normal transition of power.

As if it were normal to install Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, an outspoken white supremacist who’s called for “tearing down” the political establishment, as the chief White House strategist.

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The look of someone who’s compromised every last one of his principles (source: Washington Post)

As if it were normal for the Speaker of the House, who over the summer denounced Trump’s words and actions as the “textbook definition of a racist comment” and a “joke gone bad,” to say that he’s enthusiastic about carrying out the “mandate” that Trump has received from the American people.

(Joshua Foust of the Foreign Policy Research Institute has compiled a much longer list of abnormal goings-on.)

These stories are being reported as business as usual, with barely a raised eyebrow.

Reporting the abnormal as if it were normal. The next stage in the gaslighting of America.

What are we to do?

Just in case you’re wavering: the crap you saw on Facebook was false. And the facade of respectability being applied to the Trump transition is false too.

So what can we do to stop the gaslighting, to overcome the lies and the distortion?

Continue reading

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Where do we go from here?

 

Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live

Kate McKinnon’s opening this week was one of the best SNL moments ever. (Watch it to the end.)

In this week’s historic election upset, I was on the losing side. Where do I go from here? Where do we go from here?

This is the course I’ve mapped out. If your views are similar to mine, I encourage you to join me. If they’re different, I hope — in the interest of constructive dialog — that you’ll discover what’s important to me and what’s not important, like finding fault or throwing bricks.

Listen and learn

I want to understand the vast majority of Trump voters who aren’t racists, neo-Nazis, or anything like that. They’re people with legitimate grievances: they believe that our government is broken and that no one is protecting their interests. I might disagree with them, but I’ll never have a dialog with them — let alone change their minds — if I don’t first listen to them.

Give the president-elect a chance to succeed

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, some of his opponents made his failure their mission. Mitch McConnell said it in so many words. They were wrong, and now that the shoe is on the other foot, we can’t repeat their error. Donald Trump will be our president: we ought to want our president to bring about good.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about silent acquiescence. When President Trump proposes things that I disagree with, when he does things that diminish us as a nation, I’ll call him on it. And especially, I will…

Stand up for my fellow Americans

Let’s all pledge to stand in solidarity with women, immigrants, Muslims, and people of color whenever they’re threatened, whenever their worth and their basic dignity are attacked. Hateful, frightening things were said during the campaign: we can’t dismiss them as merely political rhetoric.

Defend the freedom of the press

Traditional journalism has been in retreat for a generation, because the marketplace for news is changing. Now it’s also coming under attack from from people who have no compunction about publishing lies and from government officials who feel free to threaten and disparage reporters.

Thomas Jefferson knew the importance of a free press. With him, I stand “for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

Keep the faith

Just because my candidate lost, the things I believe in — progress, equality, inclusiveness — are no less valuable and no less worth fighting for. I won’t forget the words of Martin Luther King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Maybe the arc is longer than I thought, but the words are as true today as they’ve ever been.

What do you think? Whether you’re on the winning side or the losing side, where do you plan to go from here?

Trump’s Icarus moment? 

Originally posted 13 August 2016. Updated 9 October 2016

We learned in school about Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus, fascinated by the idea of flying, fashioned two pairs of wings for himself and his son, Icarus, out of feathers and wax.

Gowy-icaro-pradoThey began to fly, and it was wonderful at first. But then Icarus, ignoring his father’s warnings, flew too close to the sun. The wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.

Are we seeing Donald Trump’s Icarus moment?

Fascinated (perhaps obsessed) by fame and adulation, Trump put his name on everything he touched and became a TV celebrity. Then he thought of the ultimate ego trip: running for president.

It was wonderful at first. Probably even better than expected. Trump’s words resonated with a large and vocal segment of the population. He found his rallies filled with people who roared their approval at everything he said.

Trump flew higher. The news media flocked to him. In the candidates’ debates, the spotlight shone on him. He won a succession of primary elections.

He flew higher still. In an upset that nobody predicted, he won the Republican party’s nomination for president. He said whatever outrageous things came into his mind, just so he could hear the crowds roar with approval.

Now his wax is melting. Continue reading

The church’s champion

This morning, as the curtain rose on the Republican national convention, I — and people in many other Christian churches — read the 15th Psalm as part of the appointed lectionary.

The contrast between the person depicted here, and the person about to be nominated, couldn’t be more vivid.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
      Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
      who does what is righteous,
      who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
      who does no wrong to a neighbor,
      and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
      but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
      and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
      who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
      will never be shaken.

Why, then, are so many professing Christians supporting Donald Trump?

bibleI suppose you could say, as James Dobson did, that Trump is a “baby Christian” — still new to the faith and prone to making mistakes now and then. Dobson, who usually has the phrase leading evangelical next to his name in news stories, should know better. So should Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, who endorsed Trump before the first primary election.

So why are many self-appointed Christian leaders backing someone whose character is antithetical to what Jesus Christ (and the Psalm writer) taught? According to a well-reasoned piece by Robert P. Jones, it’s because they feel vulnerable. As traditional Christian values erode (they would say), they seek a champion who talks tough about turning the tide and restoring those values to preeminence. About “making America great again.”

Jones wrote:

Mr. Trump’s ascendancy has turned the 2016 election into a referendum on the death of white Christian America, with the candidate appealing strongly to those who are most grieving this loss.

Here’s the truth, though: the church doesn’t need Donald Trump to fight its battles. The church already has a champion — the one we call Lord and Savior — to fight for us. And to teach us how we should live.

I suppose the Trump nomination is inevitable. My prayer, then, is that every Christian will weigh the nominee’s words against the words of scripture. Words like Psalm 15.

Words like the ones Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:15-16:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

The way to deal with a bully

I know something about bullying. From about ages 12 to 14 I was bullied by 4 or 5 other boys in my class. Two things stopped the bullying:

  • I stood up to it. Not every time, but often enough that the bullies saw my self-assurance and realize that I wouldn’t knuckle under.
  • The bullies grew up and eventually stopped bullying. I never became friends with any of them, but we were on cordial terms through most of high school.

Years later I understood that the boys who bullied me were driven by a need for affirmation, by a need to know that they could influence people. For many a 12-year old boy the most obvious avenues to influence are violence (or threatened violence) and verbal abuse. Most 12-year olds grow up and discover better ways to deal with people.

enemies2A few don’t grow up.

In my professional life I’ve never worked for a bully. But I’ve known people who have. The manager who screams and yells, who behaves erratically, who gets his way through intimidation. When I started working, those managers were in the minority but it wasn’t unusual to encounter one.

Today, almost everyone understands that leadership involves mutual respect and instilling a set of shared values. Bullying managers are rare.

Rare, but not extinct. Continue reading