Opponents will be portrayed in grainy black-and-white, nightmare footage. We’ll hear creepy voices. We’ll see candid, hand-held photos of opposition candidates exposed in unguarded moments. Sound bites will flash by utterly out of context.
It all taps into our psychological vulnerabilities, needs and fears.
It is also a dangerous charade. Without a “media literate” electorate, a functioning, rational democracy is impossible.
But wait, there’s more!
This year’s campaign has introduced and entirely new psychological element beyond advertising manipulations. It arrives courtesy of the one, the only, Donald Trump. Although he would deny it, I’m guessing it is the product of invisible, high-paid geniuses — those psychology majors—hired by his campaign.
I’m thinking this is no less than the work of the candidate’s psyops (psychological operations) team. It is also a hand-and-glove fit with the candidate's own weird psychological profile and acting skills.
It works on several fronts. I’ve mentioned before Trump’s use of the non-verbal. Without “saying” anything in words (allowing deniability) he speaks volumes in gestures. The smirk, the pause, the nod, mimicking (of the disabled no less), the flailing of arms, flagrant ignoring of “boundaries.”
Others include overt bulling and outright lying. (We are seeing increasing references to Hitler and “The Big Lie” in expressed concerns about Trump as The Leader.)
I’m particularly intrigued with Trump’s technique of producing off-the-wall and crudely vivid mini-images. Their being indelible attaches them permanently and subconsciously to Trump’s victim. Because the images are disgusting, to use Trump’s own word, they have a particular deep psychological resonance with conservative voters.
See research reference: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/10/30/your-brains-response-to-a-gross-photo-can-reveal-your-political-leanings/
You can bet that the Trump psyops team is well aware of the research.
And so we have Trump citing and critiquing Hillary Clinton’s trip to the toilet in the recent Democratic debate. Without going into the scatological details of the non-event, Trump simply labeled her break as “disgusting.”
He leaves his audience to fill-in-the-blanks.
As noted above, disgusting images set off conservative subconscious alarms.
The image, of course, provides a graphic association to Trump and his backers’ views of Clinton and her campaign.
Clever, huh? And oh so funny.
Would any other Republican candidate invoke Trump’s own biological need to defecate, let alone label it “disgusting”?
In the odd world of Republican politics, they would seem to be missing a psychological opening to right-wingers.
Beyond drum-beat citations of “American Exceptionalism” and the nation’s seemingly divine mission (God bless America!) and the dangers of terrorism, they should be invoking Donald in the toilet.
This, fellow citizens, it what we call democracy in action.