Do a Google search of “gaslighting” and you’ll find more than four-million results. Chalk it up to the new abnormal in which agitator-in-chief Donald Trump is redefining the English language. His contributions are both expansive and reductive. To be specific, it is mostly President Trump’s deeds that inform and expand our language. And, his tweets and other unscripted messaging, by contrast, that mock and produce the opposite effect.
Though not necessarily new terminology, the frequency and context is altering our zeitgeist to a degree not witnessed for nearly a century. Trump boasts, doublespeaks and outright lies; he deflects and projects; and he peddles hackneyed conspiracy theories. He is redefining the English language and we all suffer linguistically, literally and culturally. They may just be words, but the indirect consequences can be toxic, harmful, even lethal.
WORDS DO MATTER
Here’s to those among us willing to scream, “the emperor has no clothes,” and to criticize nonsense, however widely accepted. The silent majority must speak up. It is both dangerous and stupid not to do so. Remember what George Carlin warned of: “Think how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
For those too greedy or blindly loyal to Trump to see what’s happening in real time, you might consider at least becoming familiar with the following terms for future reference.
Gaslighting — Trump and his propaganda team routinely attempt to manipulate vulnerable people using psychological means causing them to question their own eyes, ears, sanity. To use lies, fear-mongering and other mendacity to gain power over the brainwashed subjects is the obvious endgame of the persistent manipulation.
Demagoguery — A very good word for a very evil sort of leadership. Trump and demagogues deploy political activities or practices to seek support by appealing to people’s prejudices rather than making rational arguments.
Kompromat — How comically appropriate for Americans to be introduced to the Russian word “kompromat,” short for “compromising material” in the context of determining whether damaging material has been collected (by the puppet-mastering Russians) to blackmail or manipulate someone (i.e. Trump), typically for political purposes.
Hypocrisy — With complete disregard, Trump has struck a fatal blow to hypocrisy. Because this once-formidable character flaw has been applied to Trump so frequently and resulted in little or no consequence, it has been rendered meaningless. Hypocrisy is dead.
Ad hominin attacks — Trump must spend all his time between tweets working up childish nicknames for his many critics. Crooked, sleepy, crazy, little are among his more elementary school playground type of nicknames. One of the more profane being his banal tweet twisting the name of his nemesis Congressman Adam Schiff to “Schitt.”
“Everyone” — Trump’s other juvenile mode of attack and vocabulary is the indiscriminate use of “everyone” knows or thinks or believes something when making his case that is otherwise unsubstantiated by research or facts or reality.
“What about-isms” — Whenever Trump or his cronies are caught red-handed, the classic fallback position is false equivalency. “What about Hilary …” has become the child-like euphemism for “So … they did it too.”
Credit and blame — And finally, in the same vein as the name-calling and hyperbole, Trump alternately takes credit or places blame for nearly all circumstances, often simultaneously. He’s applied this childish tactic to everything from the stock market and foreign affairs to news coverage and crowd sizes.
BACK TO REALITY
Another mass shooting — By far the adjective whose commonplace usage has become most disquieting is “another,” as in there’s been another mass shooting. Which is followed each time by useless rhetoric about “thoughts and prayers” and it’s a real problem, and we’re looking into it …
Dunning-Kruger effect — A word of caution here. Not understanding the significance of this psychological phenomenon more or less makes you an unwitting accomplice to its adverse impact. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an individual (again, i.e. Trump) lacks the ability to recognize their own incompetence. It is this mix of ignorance and arrogance that produces the obnoxious discourse and noxious behavior tearing this country apart.