Rhode Island has the distinction of being home to the first street in the United States lit by gaslight.
Rhode Island now also has the distinction of being the home state of Sean Spicer, the new White House Press Secretary who attempted to gaslight the American people on his first day on the job. As evidenced by #SpicerFacts – the new satirical meme taking the internet by storm – the attempt failed hard.
In case you’re unfamiliar with what gaslighting means:
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. 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. (Source: Wikipedia)
Regardless of your political allegiances, it’s impossible to imagine how one could respond to the patently false words of the new White House Press Secretary with anything but shock and befuddlement. His assumption that American citizens would be credulous enough to believe a series of “alternative facts” that could all be easily disproven should be offensive to every one of us. Whether you voted for Trump, voted for Hillary or voted for neither, you should question and be concerned about the relationship between this administration and the press for the next four years.
In a relationship between two individuals, one can simply walk out when the other is using tactics of psychological manipulation. But, when the “gaslighter” is the President’s administration, and the “gaslightee” is the press and the public, the predicament is much more complicated. Given the Fourth Estate’s primary function and reason for existence being to report on the activities of the government, they cannot simply stop showing up. They have to stay and hold the other accountable, no matter how futile, absurd and exasperating the relationship gets.
If Spicer can be this openly antagonistic toward the press on his first day as White House Press Secretary over a question as trivial as crowd size, it’s disquieting to think about how he’ll handle questions of much greater importance in the years ahead. Will presenting false, easily disproven information be a sustainable strategy? If day one has been any indication, the internet will rage against #SpicerFacts, and members of the press will never accept gaslighting as truth.