Relay: Fake News, True Lies

Gaslighting tactics

Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics, a form of manipulation aimed at sowing doubt in an individual or in members of a group to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. 

I know this to be true, because I read it on the internet.

Sociopaths, Wikipedia continues, transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically also are convincing liars who consistently deny wrongdoing.

I’ll return to this notion, but first will acknowledge a small measure of satisfaction that Alex Jones, a contemptible huckster and apparent confidant of the president of the United States who trumpets conspiracy theories to an audience of profoundly confused Americans, is the subject of three lawsuits. The Times reported last week that Mr. Jones, who has asserted that the 2012 mass shooting in which 20 first graders and six adults were murdered was a hoax, staged by the government as a pretext to confiscate firearms, has been targeted by families of those slaughtered on that December day in Newtown, Conn. 

Naturally, the self-styled courageous crusader, now that he is in the crosshairs, so to speak, equivocates. After lawsuits were filed last month, according to The Times, he claimed that he “very quickly . . . began to believe that the massacre happened,” this despite “the fact [sic] that the public doubted it.” 

The article, “Truth in a Post-Truth Era: Sandy Hook Families Sue Alex Jones, Conspiracy Theorist,” details the regular harassment and threats, including of murder, to the families of the slain children, thanks in no small part to the bloviating Mr. Jones. What a vast understatement to say that for the devastated families, he has added grievous insult to injury. 

I would remind this wearisome loudmouth that karma is the cosmic cash register, seeing to it that no debt goes unpaid. May that debit be extracted sooner rather than later, a la “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon, who was most definitely shot dead in 1980 by a profoundly confused American of an earlier era. 

Mr. Trump has certainly done his part to inject ambiguity and disorientation, appearing on Mr. Jones’s radio show during his campaign for the presidency, The Times notes. The president has called the news media the “enemy of the American people,” a phrase for which Mr. Jones claimed credit, and parroted the charlatan’s bogus assertion that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who, in the world of objective reality, won the popular vote by almost three million. 

Last week, the television journalist Lesley Stahl detailed a 2016 postelection conversation in which the president-elect told her that he continually bashes the press “to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” 

On Saturday, the president complained, via Twitter, that “The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist. . . .” Of course, his claim that The Times was lying was easily proven to be itself a lie, just one of thousands he has told over these last 16 months. Earlier this month, apparently citing that fortress of fairness and balance — “Fox & Friends” — Mr. Trump, a man who for years peddled the lie that President Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, tweeted that “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake).” It was, I think, his most illuminating utterance of all. 

“Now that he is president,” Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman wrote in The Times this week, “Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect.” The president of the United States “is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth, and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.” 

It bears repeating: Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics, a form of manipulation aimed at sowing doubt in an individual or in members of a group to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. 

I know this to be true. 


Christopher Walsh is a senior writer for The Failing @EHStar.