America surely seems to think so. In 1938, Patrick Hamilton, a British Dramatist wrote a play about an abusive husband who led his wife to believe she was losing her mind, by dimming the gaslights while insisting that the lights weren’t flickering. This story of a man that maliciously played with an innocent’s perception was adapted into a Hollywood movie in 1944. Now what does this have to do with the new President-elect?
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The people of the United States have been anything but kind in their assertions that Donald Trump, since the start of his campaign, has been ‘gaslighting’ America. He has been accused of over-dramatising the truth, of sometimes weaving a ‘truth’ out of thin air, and of taking the masses along for a ride on his dramatic rides of contorted facts.
Trump held his first press conference as President-elect on January 11, in which a statement he made stands as an exemplar of the alleged gaslighting: “Right now, there are 96 million wanting a job and they can’t get [one]…You know that story. The real number. That’s the real number.”
CNBC reported, however, that the ‘real number’ was 5.4 million – quite a stretch from Trump’s figures. The fact that Donald Trump overlooked was that most of the people that don’t fall under the labour force are either too young to work, studying, running a household, retired, or disabled. The Government doesn’t consider this as unemployment as Trump obviously did. As The Atlantic points out, unemployment is the “difference between the capacity to work and the work they actually do.” Among the 96 million Americans that don’t make up the labour force, only 5.4 million fall under that definition of the unemployed.
This wasn’t of course the first time that Trump dressed his facts to look either ugly or pretty. In a policy speech on immigration, he claimed that there were 30 or 34 million immigrants in the country, while out rightly refuting the figures provided by the US Department of Homeland security, Centre for Immigration Studies, and a few other independent organisations, which centered around the figure of 11 million – a number that has been confirmed time and again. Trump has also claimed several times that the United States is the highest taxed country in the world while reports show that, based on all metrics, it is far from the truth. It ranked 31 in tax revenues and 17 in corporate tax revenues.
While Trump’s claims have doubtlessly been feeding the entertainment industry, Americans have good reason to worry. As he takes the Office, the future of free press is expected to be on the line as his claims so far have been indifferent to the attribution of information and for the seeking of its evidence. Such a political environment set up by a now powerful individual will, as many believe, hoodwink the majority of a nation. Whether or not America will wake up to find a Hitchcock-like nightmare to be a reality, is yet to be seen.