It’s Not Us, It’s You.


Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer pictured in the 1944 film “Gaslight.”

It’s Not Us, It’s You.

Trump isn’t just gaslighting us, he’s making us go up in flames.

The term “gaslighting” is defined as forcing someone into questioning their own sanity using psychological manipulation. The term originates from the attempt to convince the main character that she is going insane in the 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is irrational by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The term “gaslighting” has since been used to describe efforts to corrupt someone’s sense of reality.

Ingrid Bergman stars in the 1944 film and the plot is intriguing, entertaining and engaging. However, when it comes to using it as a tool to discredit the media, we’re fucked.

After being awarded the Committee to Project Journalists’ Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, CNN’s chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, gave a speech regarding the “existential crisis” journalism and the media will face in the Trump era. It dealt less with the actual issues of the Trump administration, but more about the current landscape of media regarding the safety of the field as a whole.

“A great America requires a great and free and safe press. So this above all is an appeal to protect journalism itself. Recommit to robust fact-based reporting without fear nor favor — on the issues. Don’t stand for being labeled crooked or lying or failing. Do stand up together — for divided we will all fall.”

Amanpour worried that, under this administration, journalists would be neglected and would be the ones that would be framed for all the wrongdoings of the government in the eyes of the public.

Her concerns were viable, considering it’s been less than a month into “Making America Great Again” and the Trump administration coined terms such as “alternative facts,” openly lied in press conferences and interviews — fact checking on social media has become an activity that even Beyoncé and Britney stans can bond over — and the administration has tried to diminish the media, while making their base of followers believe the media are the ones lying.

In the film, the husband lets his wife believe that she’s going insane, to the point where she almost agrees to being institutionalized and the viewer witnesses the husband carefully perpetrate the destabilization of his wife’s beliefs. This is what our president is doing and don’t worry, we have receipts.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s White House press secretary, held a press conference — one in which he didn’t take any questions from the media — to slam the media for engaging in “deliberately false reporting” about the crowd at the Trump inauguration and to address a tweet from Time magazine journalist Zeke Mille about the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. being removed from the Oval Office. Zeke was mistaken and quickly corrected his mistake.

The Trump administration was scheduled to hold its first press conference the following Monday, but called this special press briefing on Saturday, January 21 to talk about two tweets that went viral during the inauguration, and to yell at the media.

Comparison photos showing the sizable crowd difference between that of Obama’s inauguration’s and the ones of Trump’s helped the readers distinguish the difference between attendance.

It was obvious that Trump was furious and sent Spicer out to lie to the press. Spicer said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

“Largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”

Silvia Merlos, who has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a minor in American studies and ethnicity from USC and is currently working on a master’s of education in postsecondary administration at USC, said that Trump speaking to his audience directly is dangerous. Merlos is a former editor in chief of the student media at Los Angeles Trade Tech, and a former multicultural editor of the Mountaineer student newspaper at Mt. San Antonio College.

“He has bypassed the media to speak to the people directly so that his misinformation is put out without being fact checked. It doesn’t matter how much the media debunks it. Once the information is out, it is out,” said Merlos.

Fact check #1

Spicer, agitated, also mentioned that for the first time in history, there were floor covers that were placed to protect the grass of the National Mall. The floor covers apparently “had the effect of highlighting any area where people were not standing.” Spicer also claimed that “fencing and magnetometers” were factors that prevented people from joining in on the crowd.

Fact check #2

Fact check #3

Basically, the press hearing was an unmitigated act of propaganda. There comes a point where journalists have to ask themselves if their reporting is biased by their own beliefs, and I can confidently say that 1) no they are not 2) Trump and his whole administration are liars.

Spicer, who appeared nervous as if he were delivering a message forced upon him by his boss, stood behind the podium and made it clear that it will be the press vs the White House Administration for the next four years. The campaigning is over, but the fear-mongering and authoritarian propaganda tactics have just begun.

Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary for George W. Bush, posted a comment that terrified me the most.

But just before Spicer spent 10 minutes at a podium yelling and lying, Donald Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters to talk about himself (obviously) and told members of the CIA that he backs them.

The president said, “I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted, and you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say, ‘Please don’t give us so much backing.’”

During his 15-minute speech, he also had time to talk about his distaste for media. Yuge surprise.

“I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth — they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”

Trump does not back the CIA, as he compared them to Nazi Germany just days before the dossier was released by Buzzfeed.

Fact check #4 & #5

When the CIA concluded that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Trump transition team disregarded the information and said, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history.”

Fact check #6

To make things even worse — oh, it’s possible — Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and told host Chuck Todd that if he continued to ask questions regarding Spicer, there would be no relationship between the White House and the press.

“If we’re gonna keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms, I think that we’re gonna have to rethink our relationship here,” is far more dangerous than “alternative facts,” Conway said.

Merlos said this is terrifying. “It is a poorly veiled threat at the fact that the position of the White House is that if you report in a way that is unfavorable, they will cut off access to the media. This is where the danger lies in what the Trump Administration is doing. His contentious relationship with the media and constant threatening, disparaging, and mistreatment of the media is what demonstrate that he is an authoritarian. He is a dictator.”

Merlos said she believes that Conway defending Spicer is deceitful and shows the lack of transparency in the current administration.

“While somebody’s truth can be subjective, facts are not. There is no such thing as alternative facts and to claim that there is, simply means that this administration is putting out lies and trying to disguise them as facts.”

Chuck Todd put it best. “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.” It’s an ethical guideline you learn on your first day of Journalism 101. There’s no running away from this one, because it’s baffling and perplexing that this even happened.

CNN declined to air a press conference with the press secretary on Saturday, January 21. After the ongoing war between Trump and CNN, and after Trump continuously referred to the network as “fake news,” this is still revolutionary.

Danna Young, an associate professor at the University of Delaware who studies politics and the media, said, “CNN’s decision to not air the press conference live illustrates a recognition that the role of the press must be different under Trump. When the White House holds press briefings to promote demonstrably false information and refuses to take questions, then press ‘access’ becomes meaningless at best and complicit at worst.”

While the administration has proven to disappoint us every. single. day — even some of his own supporters regret voting for him — the executive order, a.k.a the travel ban, struck a cord with everyone who has a heart and led to protests all around the world.

As outrageous as the order is, the use of the word “ban” was topical. In a press briefing, Spicer said ”It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban. It’s a vetting system to keep America safe.” Dialect is important. They should know this.

Fact Check #7 & #8

Going back to “Gaslight,” the husband does everything in his power to convince his wife that she needs to be isolated and that it’s for her own good. He succeeds throughout the duration of the film, manipulating his wife into believing he’s isolating her for good reason, until she finally wakes up with the help of an investigative journalist. In this case, Trump is the husband, his following base is the wife and we, the media, are the investigative journalist.

So where does that leave the young college journalists whose responsibility is to report the facts, when the highest power in our country believes in making excuses like “alternative facts?”

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said that the greatest hazard is “ability of students and educators to discuss issues of public concern on college campuses is image-obsessed administrators, who increasingly regard transparency and accountability as annoyances to be minimized.”

LoMonte believes that the regulations that colleges instill are toxic and damaging, since they would never be tolerated in any other media; Especially since it discourages students from hands-on learning that they need in order to succeed outside of their college newsroom.

“At the University of North Carolina-Asheville, student journalists can’t get interviews with their own college’s administrators unless the public-relations office filters their questions in advance, rewriting those regarded as too ‘negative.’”

The First Amendment was added to the Constitution in order to protect the basic freedoms of religion, speech, press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government. However, in the Trump era, we are completely stripped of any protection.

LoMonte also said that, “whenever a government agency, including a state college or university, imposes consequences for the content of speech, the First Amendment is implicated.”

Merlos said, “College journalists need to understand the field they are entering and it’s challenges. It is filled with dangers and ethical conflicts. Reporting information is a great responsibility that not everyone can or should take on.”

She added that the media needs to continue to stand firmly behind the principles of journalism and not cave to the ridiculous threats and demands from the White House.

“During this presidency, journalists must be very vigilant of anything happening in the White House because the public needs to remain informed.”

In a message to his staff, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler, instructed reporters to cover the Trump administration as an authoritarian regime.

Adler advised his staff to “Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.”

This is our mission, in the U.S. and everywhere. We make a difference in the world because we practice professional journalism that is both intrepid and unbiased. When we make mistakes, which we do, we correct them quickly and fully. When we don’t know something, we say so. When we hear rumors, we track them down and report them only when we are confident that they are factual. We value speed but not haste: When something needs more checking, we take the time to check it. We try to avoid “permanent exclusives” — first but wrong. We operate with calm integrity not just because it’s in our rulebook but because — over 165 years — it has enabled us to do the best work and the most good.

Adler’s main point to his staff was to not be intimidated by this administration. At this point, it’s us against them. The media is powerful. Let’s remember that this domino effect of a shit show called our government has more to do with Trump’s outrage at the comparison photos on Twitter.

Merlos said she thinks journalism is at a point of change and that social media has changed the landscape of journalism.

“I’m not exactly sure how journalism will adapt but I do think this forces journalists to be more thorough, do more investigating, question a little harder because people can access information more easily,” Merlos said.

Gaslighting is common amongst narcissists, but also dictators. It’s a harassment technique that prays on the gaslightee’s mental instability and then feeds off the gaslightee’s uncertain sense of reality and sense of self. It’s cruel and it’s psychological abuse. It’s not a characteristic that a president, or any leader, should ever have.

The end of the film, “Gaslighting” ends with the wife torturing her husband before his inevitable fate. Perhaps our form of torture for this administration will be in the marches and protests that send a clear message: In order to be heard, we must rise and resist.