I started a post the other day about the apparently endless flap over the White House response to the death of Sgt. La David Johnson in Niger. Of course the way it has been handled by the White House is appalling to anyone with a shred of decency, but decency is not what it's about.
It's about power and its exercise.
It's not an argument, in other words. It's not something you can rationally consider and come to a conclusion about from an intellectual or even moral standpoint. It's a visceral, immediate, emotional thing, and if you "stand with" the White House and Trump, literally nothing at all will change your mind about it. If you "stand with" the widow, Myeshia Johnson, and with the congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, you won't change your mind, either.
In the end, it doesn't matter. In the end, the one with the most power and the ability to exercise it wins. Period.
The issue I was trying to deal with the other day, however, was not so much that as it was the mechanisms by which power was being exercised in this example.
The White House was exercising textbook gaslighting. It wasn't merely that what they have been saying about it was false, it was that they had the power to say anything they wanted about it and to force you (all) to doubt your own perceptions and sanity in the process.
Trump lied repeatedly about it. It wasn't differing perceptions, it was deliberate lies, meant to put into question the sanity of Rep. Wilson and The Widow, Myeshia Johnson. The White House fabricated and Trump disseminated false stories about what had happened, and the only ones who could correct the record had far less power than the White House and Trump, so their corrections were generally treated as "he said, she said," and as everyone knows, when the President says something, even if it is wrong or a lie, one must give it due respect.
Not so with a couple of Negro women who can't say anything that a white person is obliged to respect or believe. Everyone knows they... tell tales. Amirite? And that sparkle hat! Who's to believe anybody who wears a sparkle hat on TeeBee? You see? And so it went.
When Gen. Four Star (Ret) Kelly was trotted out to stand at the podium and blatantly smear and lie about the Congresswoman with a purely Gaslighted story about what she said in her dedication speech for the FBI building in Miramar, FL in 2015, it was over. The argument, such as it had been, was lost. It was over.
Here's why: Kelly fabricated out of whole cloth a story of the self-aggrandizing Negress at the dedication who got up, bragged about her prowess in getting the money for the building and for her constituents, and how great she was, and then sat down. It "stunned" the audience, so said Kelly. They couldn't imagine anyone doing such a thing at such a solemn occasion.
Except for the fact that it didn't happen, one might understand his dismay and the dismay of those who were there. How dare she! Right?
Not only was Kelly's description of the event fabricated, a straight out lie as shown in a video of her remarks at the dedication, which did not self-aggrandize at all but celebrated the work of law enforcement and the FBI, and particularly the sacrifice of the agents for whom the building was being named, she never mentioned "getting the money," but only briefly spoke of the request from the FBI Director that she spearhead legislation to name the building after the fallen agents, a task she took on and which was successfully completed by bipartisan efforts in the House, the Senate and the White House just a few days before the dedication. It wasn't her doing alone, it was the doing of many.
But. Kelly's gaslighting went right round the world several times before the media and the Congresswoman got their pants on. Once the tape showed the General Four Star (Ret) lied, it was too late.
Subsequently, when the White House spox was asked specifically about the General's lies, she doubled down, suggesting that no one should question the word of a Four Star. Of course what she was doing was more gaslighting. She did not and would not address the actual questions about the actual lies Kelly told from the podium. Instead, she was referring to his comments about his son killed in action to deflect from his lies about the Congresswoman, and it seemed as if no one in the media at all, and darned few commenters on the situation, caught it.
From that point, there was mostly just flailing ineffectively.
There really is no defense against gaslighting. I didn't even know what it was until one day I saw the movie from which the term is derived. In it a husband forces his wife to question her own perceptions and sanity through a series of carefully crafted lies and fabrications about his actions and those of others. She witnesses things that contradict what he says, but he says in so many words she's crazy, and what she thinks she sees is not what's going on, oh no not at all. The only defense against the perpetrator is to get away--or take decisive unpleasant action to stop him.
You cannot argue with him.
He will just lie the more, fabricate more falsehoods, and continue to go on about his nefarious business until the bitter end.
And so that's the situation we are in with regard to much more than the fracas over the White House response to the death of Sgt. Johnson.
They get away with it because they have the power to do so.
It's a deeply, deeply dangerous situation for the rest of us.