Abnormal Psychology

The Existing Social Patterns of Domination that Trump used to Gaslight the Nation

In Part 1 of this two part series of posts, we explored sociological research findings that helped us understand the key necessary ingredients for gaslighting to occur. we’ll apply those mechanisms to Trump’s gaslighting of anyone and everyone within the sound of his whiny pathetic voice and the reach of his tiny vulgar hands. And, lest you think there are classes of people who are beyond gaslighting, remember, he’s gaslit members of the media, and FBI and Secret Service agents. We are all vulnerable to his toxic spell.

The four key ingredients are power imbalance, isolation, shame, and denial of reality. We’ll see how Paige Sweet’s research illuminates Trump’s gaslighting hold on the nation.

Trump’s Path to a Power Imbalance

All the kiss-and-tell books written by various and sundry folks telling us how they saved us all from Trump’s much worse excesses — HE DIDN’T CLOSE THE STARS AND STRIPES, y’all! — and then saved them all up to cash in after any danger or risk had passed. You see? It’s win-win! They got the cushy job and paycheck and THEN they got the book royalties! Now, that’s a grift even Trump admires.

So, how does Trump gain his power over his gaslighting victims?


VALUES. It’s long been noted that Trump put the GRIEVE in grievance politics. Personality disorders don’t have empathy, but they have an uncanny ability to know what makes people tick. Since Trump is a racist and second generation immigrant whose family worked its way up the socioeconomic ladder, he had a pretty good idea of what made America’s white middle class tick: racism and misogyny in the guise of family values and Christianity.

He got MAGA by playing to their fears:

  • FEARS of being “replaced” the vast line we’ve all queued up in for the American dream by undeserving Blacks and Browns that white liberals are overly sympathetic for. Even though, there is no line. That ain’t how achieving the American dream works.
  • FEARS of Black and Brown crime, which doesn’t really threaten them.
  • FEARS of decaying Judeo-Christian values (without those annoying Jews, of course) and the dissolution of the nuclear family because of loose sexual morals and indulging LGBTQ+ folks.

ISOLATION. Once he had them in the fold, he isolated them using fake and Fox News and social media.

People are such willing idiots. They want to believe, so they help whoever is selling them a bill of goods that want along. There is a host of cognitive biases and heuristics that contribute here that Ye Olde Blogge has documented ad nauseum.

Chief among them is cognitive dissonance. People will jump through all kinds of cognitive hoops to maintain a false belief. They just don’t want to change. Given the reinforcement that social media, real life social networks, and partisan coverage filtering provides to MAGA, the isolation becomes almost impenetrable.

Truth may not be an effective counter to the lies that Trump peddles.

DENIAL, DISTORTION, AND LIES. The last piece of the gaslighting puzzle for MAGA Nation is the firehose of lies that Trump spews from his ass every day. There is no lie that is too brazen for him not to tell. He has constructed an alternative reality that MAGA Nation is only too happy to live in. They will now believe any lie they are told.

SHAME. A little appreciated aspect of the gaslighting of rural conservative Christian white voters is shame. They are ashamed of not having achieved the American dream. They are ashamed of being passed in line by Blacks and Browns. They are ashamed of not being self-made millionaires yet. Part of them believes to their souls that they deserve to be lied to and oppressed by Trump. At least, the lie feels good unlike much of the rest of their miserable existence living in Cancer Alley, doing opioids, smoking, drinking, and playing Russian roulette.

Republican Politicians

Much as scratching and finger sniffing has been wasted wondering aloud about the likes of Sister Lindsey and Chuck Grassley. Why would two upstanding Republican politicians like them go along with all of this Trump nonsense? It makes no senses, does it?

POWER IMBALANCE. Whether Trump won the 2016 election fairly and squarely, I doubt will ever be revealed in my lifetime. Who knows, though. If Russia implodes and the FSB files are made public, maybe. Trump has never won anything fairly in his life, why would he start with the 2016 election?

But, the one thing he did do in 2016 is that he brought new voters and seldom voters to the polls. He registered Ma and Pa Kettle as Republicans, got them out of the hollar, and to the polls to vote for the first time in their lives. He brings the base. And, with the base comes the primaries.

To keep their JOBS — why the fuck they’d want them in Trump’s GQP is beyond me — they got to toe his line.

VALUES. As in they ain’t got none. The ones who are remaining or who are joining have very loose morals and are into the grift. They have egos that need massaging. They value personal gain over all else. They are the dark tetrad of personality characteristics that the old Soviets used to exploit so well when recruiting spies in the West.

DENIALS, DISTORTIONS, AND LIES. We all know that a lie repeated often enough is believed. Many of the politicians and staffers have started to believe the lies that Trump has been telling. The few who don’t believe them are afraid to say so because of groupthink.

There are many in the Republican Party that are willing to play the role of mindguards and stop dissent in its tracks or at least drum it out of House leadership and then out of Congress.

It’s part of the power imbalance. It’s part of the lies. It is part and parcel of the entire gaslighting package of living in crazyville.

Key Take Aways from Sweet’s Research

One of the things that Sweet’s research does is it starts to build a framework for analysis through which we can consider gaslighting in any context. It gives us key points at which we might could intervene to stop gaslighting once it starts. It helps us recognize it as it is starting and, hopefully, resist it when we are the target.

The one thing that gaslighting requires whatever the context is an existing social pattern of domination. Eliminating or diminishing those social patterns can help us limit gaslighting.

This is what understanding gaslighting with sociological tools allows us to see: mental manipulation typically relies on existing social patterns of domination.

How Gaslighting Manipulates Reality

For our purposes here, the question is what existing social pattern of domination did Trump use to get his strangle hold on MAGA Nation and the Republican Party?

For MAGA Nation it is white identity grievance politics. It is that simple. White people resent losing white privilege and they are vulnerable to appeals to their inner racist. For politicians and staffers it is an appeal to their desire for positions of power. These are folks who will do anything, literally, to maintain their positions of power.

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Image Attribution

A meme I made back in the day that didn’t go viral but did use a photo from the public domain.

16 replies »

  1. All that talk we’ve heard down through the years about why The Founders wrote, why we have it and why we need to keep the Second Amendment and HERE IT IS! “Throw down a tyranny of the minority imposed upon the majority!” Quote, double-quote, end-of-quote.

    All drumpf uck has done is convince a notable minority they are an imposed upon majority

    I posted a clip from Milton Mayer’s They Thought They Were Free this morning, about oft barely perceptible incremental steps and waiting until everyone else rises up in anger to rise up in anger … and yet, maybe I have too much faith in the American people. I keep thinking that any minute now the rubes are gonna’ realize they’re rubes. Maybe in three weeks we’ll wipe the slate clean, I doubt it but we shall see what we shall see. See The Majority put their foot down and say “enough!” It doesn’t have to go to violence.

    Unfortunately …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      That’s the exact point of Milgram’s obedience experiments. His findings have been supported by numerous repetitions of the study. Two-thirds of the population will kill someone if ordered to do so by an authority figure. Participants in Asch’s conformity study had a similar response, “Why should I make trouble [by disagreeing with the majority]?”

      Polls show many of the races tightening and the generic Congressional poll now has Republicans ahead. That tells me that white people would rather a single-party, minority-rule, pseudo-democracy than risk losing white privilege.

      We’ve already seen an increase in violent crime, especially in red states. That is going to continue. Our population will only be more distressed as Republicans enact their dystopia and climate change continues to destroy. We’ll be like those overcrowded mice in the ’70’s and begin eating each other… figuratively.



    • Howdy Bob!

      One thing I’m studying on is the way Trump dominates his base. He had some kind of power imbalance over them from the beginning. Was it just his perceived wealth? Was it his anger over the make-believe grievance that they shared? Was it just white privilege? The desire of authoritarian personalities to follow an authoritarian personality?

      Whatever it was, it was something that none of the other Republican candidates in 2016 had.


      Liked by 1 person

      • The Media in the bag?

        I don’t know what word I’m looking for: the media are the problem. Yes yes yes, a by design failing educational system lays the background, but the media are the gatekeepers, the agitators, the link. Something has to keep people pissed off, and the media are … forward in that. Someone has to keep the people pissed off and agitated. It just doesn’t boil down any further than that, ones and zeros: the media are the problem.

        If we had an honest media he would never have been on the ballot …

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Ten Bears!

          I think it is more that most media is corporate, and they are under pressure by investors to support “conservative” interpretations of the world. If we take all conservative complaints as projection — and we should — their complaint of liberal media bias actually means that there is a conservative media bias.



          • That’s what I keep hearing, the justification for why things are the way they are: the media is corporate. Oh well, nothing we can do about that, let’s just give up, lay down, and die.

            Maybe the justification is the problem …

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Ten Bears!

              I don’t think I’m saying give up. I think I’m saying that the for-profit motive for news media isn’t the best way to organize our news.

              The problem of corporations buying media properties is similar to the problem of corporations buying housing stock. Only the state or federal government can actually stop it from happening. But, because of John Roberts, we all now know that money does not have a corrupting influence on people and is just free speech, so corporations exercise their non-corrupting free speech by giving tons of money to politicians which is not “linked” to any legislation that benefits them.

              That’s the problem: separating the corporate PAC money from our politics, policies, and law.



      • I think it was a combination of his perceived wealth and the dominant persona developed in “The Apprentice”. Also, there is his use of language usually considered too crude for political speech. In a way, he represented the fantasy of the “every-man” who becomes fantastically rich.

        Liked by 1 person

        • As I’ve thought more about it this week, I’ve come to a similar conclusion. They willing submitted to his dominance due to the authoritarian personality’s tendency to follow authoritarians. They are looking for that dominate leader. And, when he gave voice to their grievance and fulfilled their fantasies of wealth, as you say, he became their man.


          Liked by 1 person

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