Gaslighting, Sophistry, and Transference

On the road…again!
Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek



Gaslighting, Sophistry, and Transference


The season of political shenanigans is getting into full swing.  As if we haven’t already become numb with the rhetoric going back and forth, the major political parties are still jockeying for advantage and groping for winning political themes.


Plain facts and cold logic have never been good enough to cement a firm grip on voters and it seems that the uncounted and uncommitted swing voters are always getting more than their share of attention.  Political talking points are very telling and effective in the way that campaigns are conducted. Not only are talking points a way to focus attention in a society caught up with many other worldly and daily issues, but they get a big bang for the buck.  Sadly, talking points have proven to be less than accurate because of their overly broad generalities.  Also, we must be aware that oftentimes the content of talking points are patently false.  Fake news, as it were.  These days the political pundits and their allies are beyond clever in their crafting of eye-popping memes that divide and deceive.  A modest analysis of the process, as presented here, is the personal viewpoint of the Footloose Forester, but, hey; speak now or forever hold your peace.


Sure, the snobbishly showy words like gaslighting, sophistry, and transference are not plainly understood, but that is one reason why the processes used in the art of suasion is so effective.  In the very uncertain opinion of the Footloose Forester, the way the process works is this:




By one definition, gaslighting is the act of feeding one or more alternative viewpoints to an unsuspecting audience in the hopes that they remember the proffered ideas rather than the unvarnished truths that may dwell within the messaging of the opposing candidates.  If drummed into our ears enough times, many people begin to believe that there must be some truth to what has been repeated so often, and they should be ashamed to believe otherwise. 


When then candidate tRump got in front of a microphone, he repeatedly said that Barack Obama gave Iran billions of dollars from our treasury, for which Iran was going to use to sponsor terrorism.  Pretty shocking! It was also fake news.  The billions that was returned to Iran was, in fact, their own money that had been frozen and held in escrow outside of the United States.  It was an earlier exercise in gaslighting by tRump, but lots of people believed the sophistic version.  Why sophistry?  Because the sum was in billions of dollars and it did go back to Iran as a result of an earlier financial transaction with the United States.  




Regaling the audience with seemingly plausible explanations about how something works, or merely relating a story that is passed off as fact, when it is actually fiction-- is the essence of sophistry.  Successful con men are skilled at sophistry.  Good politicians are also likely well acquainted with the benefits of sophistry.  The label charlatan might also come with the suspicion of something being not quite what it seems.  But in politics, sophistry is one tool that political practitioners keep sharp, just in case.


When one notorious candidate hedged his bet about possibly losing an election in 2016, he was sure to gaslight his way through the process by declaring that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged.  A ploy, a gaslighting gambit, and a sophistic trick all wrapped up in one.  But to gain the biggest advantage, it would take another strategy—transference, the process of accusing the opposition of doing what you are doing.  




Joe SixPack might not catch on to the veracity or lack thereof, in the messaging coming out of the mouths of political candidates.  Most try to be honest brokers, but we should remember that they have speechwriters who may be the ones who create a little fake news here and there, create a sophistic tale or two and are on the gaslighting team.  One simple rule: you must pledge allegiance to the party line and go by their playbook.  As copied from a 30 October 2017 comment in, we see that others are concerned with getting factual information.   In that case it concerned the Mueller Investigation of putative collaboration with Russia.


                          Of course, it’s a crime to intentionally mislead federal prosecutors.

It’s not a crime, however, to give inaccurate information to the media and the public — intentionally or unintentionally. And there have been instances in which Trump administration and campaign officials have made public statements about issues concerning Russia that turned out not to be true.

Of course, gaslighting is a finished product and sophistry is merely a generic tool of political rhetoric.  But the transference is the active medium of getting the falsehoods out to an eager audience.  Who better to spread the lies than a man who has logged over 30,000 lies that are on the record?  Sometimes known as the Father of Fake News, this unabashed purveyor of deceit is currently his party’s leading contender for the upcoming election to President of the United States.


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