And it’s only the first week of Trump’s presidency
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Ever since Kellyanne Conway went on NBC’s Meet the Press this past Sunday and claimed the White House wasn’t lying about inauguration crowd numbers, but simply providing “alternative facts,” social media has had a field day calling her out. This, combined with the fact that White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s has made several false claims throughout Trump’s campaign and during the first few days of his presidency, should set off alarm bells for all of us. Their denial to acknowledge indisputable, factual information revealed how far the Trump administration is willing to go to gaslight and confuse its citizens while ushering in a new era of extreme censorship.
Luckily, Psychology Today jumped on the domain AlternativeFacts.com to teach us a think or two about the mechanics of gaslighting. To gaslight, in psychological terms, means to manipulate someone into questioning reality in order to gain power. Sound familiar? A few of the big red flags involve telling blatant lies while accusing truth-tellers of being the real liars, denying ever saying something, and using confusion to wear people down.
So, what can we do to fight this? Start by reaffirming the truth and not succumbing to accepting anything less. The New York Times has stepped up with its unparalleled reporting chops to keep Trump accountable (and help the rest of us stay sane) by laying out several of Trump’s false claims and providing the facts. Here are a few we thought were worth repeating ad infinitum.
CLAIM: According to Trump, the crowd at his inauguration was yuge. He said, “It looked honestly like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”
FACT: Photos from the dozens of people standing around the Washington Monument on Inauguration Day clearly show the crowd did not extend that far. And if live aerial footage of the event is to be believed, there is absolutely no freaking way.
CLAIM: Sean Spicer added fuel to the fabricated fire, saying in a White House briefing room after the swearing-in, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period—both in person and around the globe.”
FACT: Nope. Nope. Nope. NBC Washington estimates Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration drew roughly 2 million people, while Trump’s attracted about 300,000, which is historically average. For those watching on TV, Trump drew 30.6 million viewers, much smaller than Obama’s 38 million viewers in 2009 and Ronald Reagan’s all-time high of 42 million in 1981. The photos comparing aerial views of Obama’s inaugural crowd to Trump’s are doubly satisfying.
CLAIM: According to Spicer, it was the fencing’s fault that not too many people were able to access the National Mall (which directly contradicts his previous claim, by the way). As he explained, Trump’s inauguration was “the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.”
FACT: According to The Times, the secret service made almost no changes to its standard security measures this year. Add to that the fact that very, very few people complained about long lines. Just ask John Legend.
CLAIM: When addressing the unpleasant weather at his swearing-in, Trump said although he felt a couple drops of rain, “it stopped immediately, and then became sunny.”
FACT: It started to rain as Trump began his speech and continued after he finished his closing remarks. You don’t need The New York Times to solve this mystery, just ask anyone there. Trump literally lied about the weather. This is Kim Jong-un level b.s.
It’s up to all of us, not just Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, to keep Trump accountable. For every lie his administration spews, we have to be diligent in upholding the truth. Brushing up on the dangerous consequences of gaslighting—not to mention history—is a helpful way to remind ourselves of the importance of this.