Our Manipulator in Chief

‘Resisters’ comments on the President’s mental capacity, especially in social media, state that he is a fool, uneducated, incurious, and limited, to which proponents argue that can’t be true since he must be smart enough to have built a real estate empire and became a billionaire.  In public, #45 is inarticulate, with incongruous statements, disjunctive grammar, full of egotistical comments, with many presentations bordering on word-salad. Many have questioned his affinity for autocrats, dismissal of moderates, and constant hateful speech or tweets about those who disagree with him.

Propaganda word cloud with abstract background

There is a simple basis for all of these positions to be accurate, all that is required is to simply accept that “smarts” or “intelligence” is not a unitary entity, but rather a ensemble of many dissimilar elements. While he clearly is not intellectually gifted he is well versed in the use of tools from the sociopath’s arsenal and thus appear “smarter” than appearances would suggest. As McAffee and Altermeyer pointed out in their work with narcissistic sociopaths these people employ many of the tactics of classic propaganda, who can be charming, ruthless, obsessive, and manipulative almost simultaneously.

While they can be knowledgeable and engaging about anything that serves their purposes they can be totally uninterested in other areas. Traditional human interactions involving truth, honesty, integrity, fair play, civility and respect for social norms are not generally accepted or practiced by this President; but he is a highly skilled, mostly self-trained sociopath.

The following are some concepts that illuminate the machinations he uses to manipulate others.


Framings: a construction designed to create a reference dependent perception


Gaslighting: a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity.


Duplicity: the belying of one’s true intentions by deceptive words or action


Obfuscation:  the willful obscuring of the intended meaning of communication by making the message difficult to understand, usually with confusing and ambiguous language


Blame shifting: an emotionally abusive behavior or tactic by placing the entire responsibility for one’s unpleasant actions, consequences, and feelings on another person or external event, and insisting that others agree.”


Preemptive Disclosure: dispensing dis-information, especially to counteract bad news before other narratives can be presented


Big Lie: the principle that if a falsehood is simply repeated many, many times people will eventually accept it as the truth


Demonizing the Opposition: promotes an idea about the opponents being threatening evil aggressors with only destructive objectives.


Flag Waving: a technique used to justify an action based on the undue connection to nationalism or patriotism or benefit for an idea, group or country


Dysphemism:  a derogatory or unpleasant term used to generate offensive or negative feelings or attributes


Red Herrings: a presentation intended to mislead or distract attention from an important or relevant issue


Scapegoating: the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame


Pathological Lying: habitual falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view

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