The Wisest Thing to Do is Play Dumb
The wisest piece of advice I’ve heard went something like this: Always let people think you know less than they do.
At the time I thought this was, in the truest sense of the word, stupid. Why would anyone choose to look dumb in front of somebody else? After watching Donald Trump throughout his campaign and presidency, I now understand the logic.
In domestic abuse relationships, there is a common tactic that is played out time and time again. The abuser, feeling unworthy of love, will initially make his/her partner feel more powerful. The idea is, the abuser cannot help him/herself because they actually have less power than the person being abused. This makes the abused person feel in control. Meanwhile, the underdog ends up on top.
Using stunted phrases with the idea that we know what he means, Trump can get away with using his character as both a method of seduction and a weapon. His identity, wrapped up in straight-talk and generalizations, can fool citizens into thinking they know more than he does. He may have money, but his intellect can seem disarming in a folksy, salesman-type of way. Trump, many think, is a buffoonish soldier who will fight for what we want because the only thing he cares about is winning.
Unfortunately, that’s not exactly true. Trump, like many authoritarian figures, is ultimately interested in power.
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu described Trump’s style of communication as “brave”. When discussing immigration border walls, Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that his southern border wall was a “great success”. These two leaders in addition to President Rodrigo Duterte from the Philippines have all prized similar power strategies. They value courage while simultaneously hiding behind insinuations. According to this form of governing, understanding someone without taking them literally, is a one way street.
By under appreciating the solidity of language, leaders like Trump can bend words to shape any intention and intellect they need for the situation. Although the president once described Jeffrey Epstein as “a lot of fun to be with” and that “he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side,” the understanding is lost to the literal interpretation. How does a population prove intention if it resides only in the mind of the individual?
One method of manipulation commonly used in domestic abuse is called “gas lighting”. It erodes the ability for the abused party to trust their own instincts. Because of the mantra “you misinterpreted me”, trust is systematically destroyed. To figure out the intention of the individual who is gas lighting means digging deeper into the psyche of the abuser. Most counselors working with domestic abuse victims, advise them to get out of the situation rather than try to fix it. By eradicating the behavior entirely, trust and stability can begin to grow again.
Over the course of this presidency, Trump has frequently used the power of language, emotion and intent to control this country. Without a plan to combat strategically employed naivete, this type of stupidity is a genius mechanism for chaos and control.
Text © Rebecca Lee
By Rebecca Lee