The Trump Distortion Effect: The Black Hole

The President could be compared to a politically and socially disruptive black hole, radiating toxic emotional "gamma rays" and freakish gravity that bends people into either intense devotion and loyalty or a feeling of inescapable awfulness and horror for the many who are repulsed by him. 

In the dark awesome reaches of far deep space, lies the ominous black hole.

It is a dreadfully powerful cosmic quicksand pit with such astronomically intense gravitational forces, it can  distort the very fabric of time and space, bending light, while emitting massive streams of deadly X-rays.

President Donald Trump could be compared to a politically and socially disruptive  black hole, radiating toxic emotional “gamma rays” and freakish gravity that bends people into either intense devotion and loyalty (for his supporters), or a feeling of inescapable awfulness and horror (for the many who are repulsed by him). 

Millions of people experience a deep disturbance of their emotions and sense of order, in either of the 2 directions.

For Trump’s detractors, this is not some silly “derangement syndrome”, based on theories about birth certificates or histrionic suspicion of being secretly Muslim, or somehow being a socialist-communist, as some on the right have framed Obama [How this was done with Obama, a Wall Street-friendly, corporate centrist, is truly a miracle of modern right-wing propaganda]. 

There Are Reasons

It is partly Trump’s policies that are the cause of the deeply negative reactions. 

Just some of these policies include: Stripping immigrant children from parents, and growing numbers of dead immigrant children in custody; a huge, deficit-exploding corporate tax cut; dismantling many environmental protections; encouraging and cultivating the rise of white supremacy and white nationalism in America and elsewhere in the world; blithely jumping into a vast trade war; appointing corporate people to head major government agencies they want to destroy; lying about bringing troops home (he just moves them around); making money from foreign officials, various lobbyists, and the U.S. Military through his own properties; plus, the current litany of security, foreign policy and legal issues, as well as full impeachment proceedings, which are covered fully and continuously by major news outlets, and need not be recapitulated here.

Many people seem even more affected by Trump’s personal traits -His predictable in-your-face trash-talk and baiting, fingerpointing and lying, his thinly-veiled calls for violence against his detractors, and his moneyed boorishness, as well as his nonstop Twitter distortions and insults. Add to this his treatment of women and varied sexual misbehaviors, and the “black hole” is complete -Most people are inexorably affected -pushed and pulled towards either horror, fear and anger, or some form of euphoric adulation of this shock-jock president akin to an adolescent’s attraction to a “bad boy” type.

People on Both Sides Can Be Blinded

Tragically, the effect is so strong that many people on both sides can be pushed into different forms of irrationality, or be blinded in some way.

Trump’s powers of emotional triggering in both directions can distort perspective and even bend normal perceptions and opinions on both issues and important people, depending on their relationship to Trump.

These forces can be so strong, they can actually push people to hold an opposite opinion of what they might normally hold without Trump in the picture. 

Though it is not clearly perceived by many of those most affected by it, the Trump Distortion Effect (TDE) is real, and extremely powerful.

And it works in two directions.

The TDE Can Turn People Around, One Way or the Other

Suddenly, normally hawkish GOP Trumpian conservatives start talking like peacenicks regarding Trump-friendly Russia, and gleefully don t-shirts saying , “Russia is our friend”, although war with Iran evokes only silence when these folks are questioned, because conservatives, especially today’s Christian conservatives, are largely fine with war on Iran, and would almost certainly support without question any war he chooses.

These are no peacenicks; they are sycophants.

Meanwhile, in their own non-linear response to Trump, Liberals and people of color feel warm and fuzzy affection for institutions like the FBI and CIA, because recently, such institutions have expressed suspicion and even hostility towards him. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, seems to have replaced both sense and memory here.

These institutions, especially the FBI, have historically been very hard at times on people of color and dissident and civil rights  groups.  You would think it would be prudent for everyone, and especially people of color, as well as all potential peace activists and issue-based dissidents, to retain at least some healthy suspicion about these organizations, due to their past behavior. 

The FBI has its history of COINTELPRO, infiltration and harsh treatment of the Black Panthers and other peace and dissident groups, including the recent Occupy Movement, spying on MLK and other civil rights leaders, as well as lying in support for the Iraq invasion. 

Proper civilian oversight of these powerful agencies requires objectivity, not reflexive, fawning admiration, as is now being cultivated in the age of the TDE.

Revulsion Is the Key Emotion

Revulsion to Trump fuels the Liberal/left side of the TDE, and perceptions are indeed changed. For the people repulsed by Trump, public figures, just as much as some institutions that once held some negative association -If these are now perceived to oppose Trump- suddenly take on a far more positive and ‘friendly” aura than before Trump was a factor.

 “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” has become for millions, “Any enemy of Trump is my hero”.

In the negative gravity field of Trump, we see the spectacle of so-called Liberals waxing sentimental about Nixon, and even G.W. Bush, as if they, in comparison, were no longer execrable and disgraced (as they deservedly were). The TDE has clearly moved public perception for millions of people.

As the reasoning goes, well, Trump trashed the Bush family, so since Trump is so awful, then the Bush’s must be OK then, with the wars, deaths, deficits and economic ruin they wrought also now being put aside and apparently disregarded. 

Plus, G.W. Bush gave Michele Obama a candy mint at the McCain funeral, so that apparently smoothes everything over now, for some -Total moral redemption by Altoid. Made possible only by the TDE.

But we need to be honest -Any Bush “redemption” is really thanks to the ominous figure towering above all in his preeminent horribleness: President Trump.

The Russia Issue

The issue of Russia is a complex and difficult one. Recent relations with Russia, and some Russian behavior on the international scene, could certainly be seen as troubling.

No thinking person would disregard Russia as a serious rival and potential threat to the US.

But constant and repetitive media association with Trump in some outlets, from numerous news shows, to circulated memes and comedians on late night shows, has now emotionally loaded and dumbed-down any dialogue about Russia, and certainly increased the negativity and simplicity which many anti-Trump people now feel about Russia and Putin. 

For millions, simple, rigid emotion has defeated complex thinking. In their minds, Trump is awful; Putin and Russia are awful. Manichean “black and white” thinking has replaced ongoing analysis in many minds.

The constant repetition in some media outlets of “Trump-Putin-Russia” and “Russia installed Trump” or “Trump is an agent of Russia”, whether the issue is real or exaggerated, has had a powerful effect right out of B.F. Skinner’s book on Operant Conditioning through repetition. This has had an unmistakeable and observable effect on millions of people. 

This super-hyped negative Russian association, after being developed against Trump, is now being used as a full-blown propaganda device against figures very different from Trump.

Recently, accusations of being “Russian assets” have been weaponized against progressive politicians like Tulsi Gabbard and Jeremy Corbyn, and they have worked very well at discrediting those leaders.

Conditioning mass-numbers of the public makes it possible.

Just as dogs were conditioned by repetitive association to show a hunger response to a ringing bell, great numbers of  people have been gradually trained by constant media repetition to feel a paralyzing anti-Trump horror and disgust at the mere mention of Russia or Putin.

Through the magic of simple media repetition, rational, complex thought has been pushed aside for simple “snake-brain”revulsion, fear and anger.

B.F. Skinner smiles from beyond the grave.

Ignoring Reality

There is far greater available empirical evidence that the GOP did a lot more to rig the 2016 election than Russia was able to accomplish. And the rigging continues today.

But recent media conditioning through repetition has compelled millions of Americans to ignore or disregard the huge GOP role in election fraud, and become fixated on the idea that “Putin and Russia rigged the election and put Trump in the White House”. Their horror and resentment to Russia and Putin is palpable, and seemingly as strong as their feelings about Trump.

The US Military Industrial Complex will be the likely beneficiary. Now, millions of supposedly “Liberal” citizens have been persuaded to have very rigid, hardcore emotions towards Russia. They may, as a result, be much more receptive to the idea of a costly new cold war with Russia, which the Military and its intelligence wing would materially benefit from in terms of budget, and influence on government policy. 

The TDE may, tragically,  compel millions of Liberals to just go along with a vast new cold war as it develops.

Could a new Cold War effectively erase the Progressive movement? More people need to be asking that question.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, and its supportive media (MSNBC and CNN, esp.), have become almost literally subsumed into the intelligence sector of the Military Industrial Complex.  The message for both entities has become one and the same in the age of Trump.

Government intelligence luminaries such as John Brennan (the senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC and MSNBC), and James Clapper (who is a very frequent guest on those 2 networks), and others, have shaped a whole new pro-military/pro-intevention position for the Democratic Party and its media, all while attracting a large audience by hammering Trump.

Charismatic figures such as security specialist and analyst Malcolm Nance attract even more people to the “Trump is hurting our military security” arguments, and these figures use the TDE to make the military and its intelligence wing seem warm and cuddly in contrast to Trump and his endless ranting and unpredictability.

With Trump as the foil, it is not hard to do.

In the future, this alliance could become problematic for a mass-media desperately needed to cover post-Trump issues involving our intelligence services and military, objectively and without undue influence.

If these intelligence and military heavyweights, and their influence, stay embedded in our media, will objective coverage still be possible? This is a worrisome issue that could linger.

“Never Trumpers” Swing Democrats Rightward

A handful of anti-Trump Conservative and Neo-Conservative figures, formerly seen as very interventionist and staunchly pro-military (Max Boot, Bill Kristol, George Will, Mary Matalin and others) now appear as regular guests on NBC and CNN and elsewhere in corporate media as “never trumpers”. They have been recently elevated by the TDE in many Liberals’ eyes. None of these characters’ execrable and extreme prior views have changed -They just personally dislike Trump, that is all. But are they really deserving of hero-worship just for that reason?

Troublingly, those important media channels hardly have time anymore for Progressive figures, and discussion of Progressive issues, and now push an ongoing military-friendly dialogue that keeps millions watching in order to hear the steady anti-Trump message these outlets deliver.

The focus is usually on Russia or military-related matters. These may be important stories, but they are fixated-on to the utter exclusion of progressive voices, and of many other vital stories happening in our troubled nation.

Meanwhile, these very ideologically right-wing  personalities are no less virulent in their militarism or obtuse in their Conservatism than they have ever been. And yet, due to Trump Distortion, they have been somehow rehabilitated, much like G.W. Bush and Nixon, in the eyes of the anti-Trump public.

The effect of these personalities sculpting the “anti-Trump” messages in media has been to swing many Democrats, and the cable channels they prefer, to the right, in terms of military policy and pro-inteventionalism.

It does appear, when analyzed objectively, as if the center and mainstream “left” are being gradually prepped to support a new cold war.

Liberals and Democrats and their most sympathetic mainstream media outlets are being pushed gently, but steadily rightward, at least in terms of military policy, and focusing on foreign threats to elevate the status of the military, and the badness of Trump, in many peoples’ eyes. 

And the TDE helps this process.

The Pro-Trump Crowd Yields to the Distortion Effect by Becoming Trump’s Cult

On the other side of the TDE, we see a very different, but equally strong response.

It is enlightening to see now in stunning contrast, the same Evangelical Christians who reviled Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior, and despised President Obama (who many evangelicals suspected was a secret Muslim), now, in a supreme act of moral relativism, bow down, acquiess, and virtually worship Donald Trump, his daily distortions and rants (which align with their own angers), and his willingness to address their particular religious agenda.

Of course this is the same Trump, he of the multiple marriages and divorces, and paid-off affairs with porn stars -The infamous “Pussy Grabber In-Chief”. 

But somehow, on this side, the Trump Distortion Effect irresistably pulls some people TO him, in spite of obvious contradictions.

It is possible that evangelical Christianity in America may never again be the same after Trump, and his powerful Distortion Effect, have done their work.

Farmers Under the Spell of the TDE

Meanwhile, America’s Farmers are losing billions of dollars of trade with China due to Trump’s haphazard trade war with that country. And here again, Trump’s Distortion Effect rides to the rescue. It turns out that most of those farmers, amazingly, don’t blame Trump at all.

Outrageous Lying Is an Essential Part of the TDE

One essential part of Trump’s ability to distort reality for his followers is very basic and age-old: The power of lying, by brazenly telling desperate people what they want to hear.

Born wealthy and insulated from the daily trials of the working person, Trump doesn’t really have a truly populist bone in his body. But through his experience on reality media, he has sculpted a way of talking “simple-talk” (natural for him), and using colloquial-speech lying, about his loudly professed devotion to issues affecting regular working people.

When we see the folks Trump’s policies are doing the least for -regular working people and rural people- and a large portion of these people say, “Trump cares about me”, or “Trump really cares about America”, we can only marvel at the power of the TDE.

The TDE Has a Blinding Effect

For every million or so people who can see right through his falsehoods and distractions, there are perhaps 3/4 of a million  people or more who simply cannot, and fall victim to the toxic sweetness of his lies. These outrageous lies include visual motifs as well, as when Trump hugged the US flag to demonstrate his “love for America”. This was a transparently phony act in the eyes of much of the population, but an awesome act of love and faithfullness in the eyes of his followers. 

The only truly awesome thing here is the blinding, distortive effect of the TDE.

Trump talks economic populism, while giving the wealthy a huge tax cut and stripping protective regulations, as health costs soar, US infrastructure crumbles, and deficits mount. He places corrupt corporatist elites in high government positions, even as his conservative followers deride “elites” (probably meaning, “Liberals”) and blindly cheer claims of “draining the swamp”. Reality-based perceptions are as rare as bird’s teeth in the pro-Trump American rightwing.  The TDE is strong with them.

Dear Center and Left: Beware the TDE

But those on the left must also remember to be vigilant against the Trump Distortion Effect on themselves, and continue to be as circumspect as possible. 

No one is completely immune.

Bad former government leaders are not made good, nor is history rewritten, by presently being against Trump.  Bad policy that Trump might oppose is not made good by his opposition to them. Good policy that Trump may support (extremely rare as that may be) is not made bad by his support. 

Objectivity is especially precious for the left; We need to hang onto it. It is impossible to be a true Progressive without it.

We on the relative left must never stop evaluating both policy and political figures in terms of what they, or the policy, actually did, rather than just by how they relate to Trump. 

Being rational means being mindful of the potential TDE within ourselves, and how it may affect our judgement on any issue.

If we harbor potent, even explosive feelings of disgust or horror at Trump (and millions of Americans DO), we must be aware of this, and make our judgements carefully, and not just be emotion-driven. 

We must take time to look at issues on their own merit, and not in terms of Trump.

A Powerful Example -TPP May Be a Future Test for the TDE

One perfect example of an issue where a lasting Trump Distortion Effect could cause problems in the future is TPP.

Back in January, 2017, on the 3rd day of his presidency, Trump signed the executive order cancelling American involvement in the huge, controversial trade deal, the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP). 

The issue rapidly faded from media as TPP disappeared from public concern.

But someday, after Trump has left the White House, will TPP emerge once again? Knowing the intentions of its big corporate boosters, that would seem entirely possible.

Will millions of people, horrified by the Trump presidency, be pre-disposed to SUPPORTING TPP, just because they perceive TPP to be something Trump opposed? 

That would be a grievous mistake for Progressives.

In reality, no Progressive should support TPP, due especially (but not solely) to it ISDS provision -An international tribunal-court that supersedes all and any laws in any country that signs onto TPP, in favor of corporate interests. Literally, those nations would lose sovereignty to global corporations and banks.

TPP’s ISDS provision would make environmental laws, labor laws and even anti-discrimination laws unenforceable, if they inhibited corporate profits in any way. 

Many social policies could be compromised.

How could any progressive want that?

One’s feelings about Trump should not be a factor in their evaluation of TPP. TPP is bad for representative government and civil society in general, PERIOD.

It’s a bit odd that Trump would sign onto the “anti-TPP” side, Being a corporatist and oligarch himself. But he did -either out of ignorance, or desire to appear populist. It doesn’t matter.

Think of Trump as a broken clock, able to be “correct” for one brief moment in a long day. TPP is that moment. 

Don’t be fooled by the Trump Distortion Effect -TPP is a nightmare for any true progressive or social lIberal. Yes, even if Trump opposed it, too.

The Trump Distortion Effect may last for years after Trump is gone. We need to be mindful of that when we discuss future policy and candidates. The emotions will tend to persist in many people, and could be an undue influence.

TPP could end up being an ideal test of that one day.

The Future

Someday, Trump will be gone.

Many people got more interested and involved with following politics when they were disturbed by Trump’s election.

After Trump, we need many more people to stay interested and involved in the political process. We need more honest folks working to make the system operate better for more people. 

We must find ways to make positive change that eases the economic and social troubles that feed discontent for millions of people in this country, and helped propel Trump into office. 

It has often been said, but it bears repeating, that Trump is as much or even more a symptom of our troubles, as he is a cause.

The best insurance against more Trumps is to make America a better country for all its people to live in, and not just political and economic elites.

And the best way to do that is through Progressive policies.

Other articles by D. Lockman:

Corporate Centrism Is Failing All Over the World, Including Here in America (Part 1 of 2)

Corporate Centrism Is Failing All Over the World, Including Here in America (Part 2 of 2)

Inconvenient Fact: Immigration Cannot Be Separated from Other Issues


  • D. Lockman

    D. Lockman is a retired English teacher and former part-time musician, with a passion for politics that started before he was 10 years old. He is honored to be informed by some of the leading progressive and dissident voices to be found in independent media. He finds mainstream media to be insufficient at informing the active minds of sincerely curious people in these noisy, tumultuous times.

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