Last night I was innocently channel surfing when I inadvertently fell on CNN where an attractive bleach-blonde 50ish woman with a sing-songy voice was in the middle of a split screen interview. Through the din of crosstalk between interviewer and interviewee, I heard a rapid-fire feminine voice assembling English words into choppy semi-phrases ping-ponging from the tiny speakers inside my TV.
I could catch only glimpses of what she was saying given the speed of her delivery, syllables leaping forth before any thinking can take place, but this woman was constructing a worldview where Donald Trump is the truth-teller and everybody else is a liar.
In the world she constructed, journalists are liars. People looking into potential misdeeds of Trump and his cronies are liars. Trump’s cronies who already plead guilty are liars. Robert Mueller and his prosecutors, as well as those from the Southern District of New York are all liars. F.B.I. agents, and former agents like Andrew McCabe and James Comey, are liars. Department of Justice officials who contradict Trump are liars.
She alone knows the truth: Trump is sincere and trustworthy and anyone doubting him, no matter the evidence or proof that he isn’t, is a self-serving liar. Also, we must bow down and thank Trump for every single bit of economic good news as being the sole product of his expert handiwork.
As I looked around my living room, listening as best I could to Kellyanne’s voice, standing there alone holding the remote in my hand, up became down and down became up; lies became truth and truth became lies; and the light around me began to shift and swirl into kaleidoscopic colors, the walls around me began to melt, the room felt clammy and I had an acidic taste in my mouth. This psychedelic performance by Kellyanne Conway (who I hadn’t seen yapping on TV in over a year) left me feeling unmoored to reality, floating in space somewhere between “alternative facts” and “truth isn’t truth.”
Then I realized I had been gaslighted.
And I wondered how many CNN viewers were out there upon which this kind of quasi-psychotropic mindfucking was having Kellyanne’s desired effect?
The brief display I witnessed from Kellyanne went far beyond Orwell’s “Newspeak” or any other dystopian deconstruction modifying the English language and erasing history through propaganda. In 1984 Big Brother still had to at least airbrush troublesome facts and people from the public record. Kellyanne simply dispenses with even this Orwellian subterfuge.
Show her a fact or a legal document, a photo or a video, and she has no need to airbrush it away or throw it down a memory hole. She just deadpans a speedy rejoinder that what you’re talking about doesn’t exist and never existed, and everyone knows it doesn’t exist and never existed, and if you believe it exists or ever existed then you’re a liar or a fool (or worse) a Democrat.
At last week’s Munich Security Conference the chair of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee, Norbert Rottgen, remarked: “In the post-Trump era, there is no return to the pre-Trump era.” He was referring to the European-U.S. alliance, but this same sentiment could also apply to the psychedelic post-structural discourse of political unreality in which we now find ourselves floating that Kellyanne Conway, more than any other Trumpian figure, has done the most to bring about.
I remember during the 2016 campaign the first time I saw Kellyanne dissembling and lying on TV. The first thing that popped into my mind was this: The last words from a government official I would hear before a global calamity; the image of her face switching to a test pattern while the nuclear missiles come raining down. The last words I hear would come from an attractive bleach-blonde 50ish woman with the sing-songy voice telling me everything was perfectly fine.