AirToob Lightning
PLEASE wake up, America. You are being “gaslighted”.                     (updated 6 Feb 2017)

It will take just a little while to explain. Please bear with me.


Same time, same place, different inaugurations. The far lower turnout for Trump's inauguration compared to Obama's in 2009 (click the image for multiple sources of evidence) should not be a surprise, given that only about 25% of the electorate voted for Trump (nearly half of the nation's eligible voters didn't vote, for reasons best known to themselves, and less than half of those who did voted for Trump).

Combined with his post-election behaviour among other things, it should not then be a surprise that Trump entered office with the lowest initial approval rating of any US president.


Prior to his inauguration ceremony, Trump is reported to have become angrier and angrier at tweets pointing out how poorly attended his inauguration was shaping up to be, and at the very well attended protests that were obviously building.

His typical reaction after the event was to make evidence-free claims that reality was what he said it was.

Sean Spicer, an excellent choice for Trump's press secretary, put Trump's totally ridiculous assertion that there had been record crowds to the press: "This was the largest audience every to witness an inauguration. Period." and refused to answer questions. He railed at the media for "misleading the public" and trying to "delegitimize the president" and warned that "they would be held accountable" - a very sinister but meaningless remark.

It is no accident that Trump has fallen out with Science, his Intelligence Services, and the media. What they have in common is that they deal in various ways with reality, something to which Trump is seriously allergic. We can already see that one of his first priorities is to gag any sources of real news that he can control, and try to substitute his own sources of "alt-reality news".

The "alt" in "alt-reality" stands, of course, for "alternative"...


Luckily for the rest of us, intelligence is not a defining feature of the new administration (with the unfortunate exception of evil genius Steve Bannon).

Kellyanne Conway, Trump's Counselor to the President, had a memorable encounter with NBC in which she used the words "alternative facts" in an explanation of the ridiculous assertions mentioned above - and then got extremely shirty, even threatening, when NBC's Chuck Todd told her that "alternative facts" were falsehoods - in other words, flat-out lies.

With this glorious gift to the opposition, the Boggart was out of the wardrobe (you could almost hear shouts of "Riddikulus" echoing around the Internet)...


Alternative Facts: The Musical

HEALTH AND SAFETY WARNING: make sure that the space around you is clear before playing the above video, since people report that they have fallen off their chair laughing while watching it.

Thanks to Kellyanne, the hashtag #alternativefacts has exploded all over the Internet. You can see one collection of examples if you click the image below, and you will find lots more here.

Other countries are joining in. This contribution is from the Netherlands, a video made in a style that they believe Trump will be comfortable with:

Laughter is good therapy and a strong weapon against tyranny - but it's time to get serious again. Very serious.


(Click the image for how to inoculate yourself against it - and also see here)

Fake news (by which I don't mean the kind of news that angers Trump) is no new thing.

Starting in 2016, however, [writes BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan on 16 January 2017 in this must-read article] “it has been energised by the viral power of social media, spreading deceit and polluting the well of civility on which strong societies must draw.”

Until you look at what's actually happened, it is hard to believe just how much of the information that people based their votes on was simply false.

It is easy to reject news (fake or otherwise) that you don't like. But (since you are still reading this) here is a popular example that may have appealed to you (it certainly did to me, before my fake-news detector cut in):

This image displays typical hallmarks of fake news: a message that you may agree with (and which might even be true in some cases), followed by a lie (explicit or otherwise) that you believe either because you wish it were true, or because it appears to follow on from the rest of the message, or both.

And thanks to social media, one click is all it takes to multiply it on the Internet.

Another example, sad and relatively harmless in itself, was the "Dump Star Wars Rogue One Movie" Twitter campaign that was built on a self-feeding cycle of fake news. It successfully put off an unknown number of Republican voters from seeing the (superb) movie because, the fake news said, “it had been rewritten to include anti-Trump scenes”.

Of course, any movie that features a struggle against oppression could be construed as anti-Trump, but I doubt that that was the motivation of the troll who started it. Possibly (and here I am simply guessing) the motivation was the multi-racial cast of the movie. I sure hope that I'm wrong.

Although harmless in terms of damage caused, it is highly disturbing that it took only one tweet to start it, and that so many people swallowed it without evidence and shared it to multiple other people.

What wasn't (and isn't) harmless was the extent to which the Trump campaign used these mechanisms to flood the Internet with lies and hatred, assisted by supporters who in many cases were ordinary, decent people but whose critical brain functions had been switched off.

What isn't harmless is that the person now leading the country has been tweeting lies since he joined Twitter on March 18th, 2009, including this extraordinary collection of falsehoods, and obviously intends to go on doing it.

What isn't harmless is that Steve Bannon, the evil genius behind the Presidential throne, is a master of manipulating people's perceptions. Forget Marvel movies - this is the real thing, a fact that is recognized by the recently trending hashtag #stoppresidentbannon.

(As a chilling example of Bannon that should be studied carefully, see the section How Does Breitbart Depict & Deny Climate Change? in this article. If you are curious about how people are brainwashed into denying climate change, follow the link to see how the master does it. He is applying the same technique in other directions right now.)

What most definitely isn't harmless is that we are now seeing the term gaslighting being used more and more frequently in connection with the Trump administration.

“Gaslighting” is defined in Wikipedia as “a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, hoping to make the target question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief.

“Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to Gas Light, a 1938 play and 1944 film, and has been used in clinical and research literature.”

Please read that definition again carefully. It tells you everything you need to know about the danger we are all in. Then, if you want to know more about Trump, Bannon, Breitbart and Gaslighting, or feel that you should, look here.

However - there are some faint silver gleams around the dark clouds that threaten us all.

The world has finally woken up to the dangers of fake news and gaslighting. For example, a Parliamentary Inquiry in the UK has just been launched to investigate "the growing phenomenon of fake news", recognizing that the rise of propaganda and fabrications is "a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general".

Google and Facebook are finally taking action against fake news (the very latest links on that subject, relative to when you read this, will be found here).

Steve Bannon has claimed that "The Media is the real Opposition Party". Unusually, there is some truth in this (although I am incompetent to comment on the current effectiveness of the Democratic Party). Bannon's strategy (and Trump's, of course) is to destroy the public's confidence in the normal media, so that his own messages can become dominant with the public.

The danger is so real that something unprecedented is happening: in the face of their common enemy, journalists of different newspapers and websites and television programs are now collaborating and cooperating with each other.

And in response to the implied charge that "The Media is partisan" I can do no better than to quote again from Amol Rajan's article:

“As a BBC journalist I am required to be politically impartial; but as my distinguished colleague Nick Robinson has argued, I am under no obligation to be impartial about democracy (as against tyranny, for example).

“Nor am I under any obligation to be impartial about truth, as against lies. The possibility of truth is a necessary condition for democracy.

“Fake news is an assault on truth [and journalists must fight it].”

The brightest gleam, perhaps, is that after just one week in office Trump's own party is seriously dismayed by him.

So who or what do we turn to now?

For many people, one answer seems to be...

Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling's books have been translated into more than 60 languages, and more than 500 million copies have been sold worldwide. (Those are real facts.)

Many people have noticed that although the books concern themselves with a fight between good and evil, between liberty and tyranny, and between fake news (controlled by an evil power) and truth (broadcast by resistance radio), they don't actually mention God.

(Did you know that Conservative Christians in San Diego denounced the books for insidiously undermining their faith, and asked their members to retrieve any that their children possessed and bring them to their Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for a ceremonial burning?

No, of course you didn't, because that is fake news that I just made up. Just testing.)

It is quite true, however, that faced with the Trump administration, more and more people are turning to Harry Potter for comfort and opposition (and unbelievably, some Trump supporters really are burning their Harry Potter books).

Here is a good example from George Takei, the well-known actor from Star Trek and (among other things) a committed social activist. He uses his high profile Facebook page and Twitter account to highlight and oppose many things that need opposing - but he does so with considerable humour.

Just after the Inauguration he wrote a landmark post that was deadly serious (and which I strongly recommend to you). It concluded with this message, drawing from the world of Harry Potter:

(Click the panel above if you would like to read the whole thing)

I am left with one burning question, to which I don't have an answer (I pray that someone does):

How manifestly unfit for office does a US President have to be, and how many characteristics of historical dictators does he have to exhibit, before he can be removed from office?

May this be answered before too much damage is done - and may the truth be with you.

(If you are kind enough to share this post while looking at my full blog, please click the date/time at the top of this post first, in order to get a permalink. Thanks.)

Further developments (may be added to - check back):

[Conservative billionaire Charles Koch will vigorously oppose Trump]
[Feb 2nd: Jenna Bush shames Trump with her father's non-hateful words about Islam after 9/11]
[Jan 30th: Bipartisan coalition opposes Trump's executive order on immigration]
[Calls to impeach or otherwise remove Trump]
[Adverse reactions to Steve Bannon's control of the President]
[Trump supporters say that they are sorry for voting for him (too late, but thanks)]
[Reforming the Presidential election and candidate selection systems]

How did this happen? (from my web site):

[The Shadow in the West]

If you would like to see all of my posts about Donald Trump:

[Go here (to save you having to click the Donald Trump tag at the top of this post)]