Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Illusionist in the White House

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

I have had to work with people like Donald Trump before. Not folks as materially successful of course, but just as wily, and with very similar personalities. It was my job to extract accurate information from them to assess whether or not their children were at risk of harm. There was always a lot at stake, so simply taking them at face value was out of the question. These interviews were among the most difficult and exhausting of my career. It was like engaging in an emotional game of three-dimensional chess. Extracting even the most innocuous facts was challenging. The experiences, however, had the effect of inoculating me from the expert emotional manipulations that are their genius.

Donald Trump spoke directly to the emotions of many voters during his campaign. It was a campaign like no other, but I recognized him right away. He constructed an elaborate emotional tableau, devoid of factual distractions, that resonated with a frustrated, angry electorate. People read into him whatever they believed. Other candidates and the beltway press tried but could not penetrate his invisible cloak with facts, logic or reason. His burgeoning movement of follower would not be dissuaded. Eventually, enough people aligned their feelings about him with the well crafted self-portrait he created through his speeches. He got just enough votes in just the right places to win the Presidency.

So here we are, a people habituated to the ubiquitous marketing assaults we succumb to every day, unprepared to see through the marketing cloud of Mr. Trump. Now we have a new President about who we really know very little.

Donald Trump. The marketer-in-chief. Master illusionist. And because no one could pin anything on him during the campaigned, he is free to define his term in office any way he likes. 

But beware! His disdain for the press, verbal assaults on journalists and his thank-you rally's around the country are not short lived anomalies. They are harbingers of how he will maintain his power. The deflection of facts and the creation of strong, emotionally evocative impressions is how he operates.

Here is one way to help visualize what is happening. People like Donald Trump have the ability to do with language what a scrim does on a theatrical stage. A scrim is a special type of fabric that can be translucent, transparent, or opaque depending on how stage lights are directed. You can project any image you want on the front of it and it will mask everything from view behind it. When you only light the objects behind it, the scrim disappears like a pane of glass.

Donald Trump created a campaign, and is now building a Presidency behind a giant scrim. When he takes office we will only see what he chooses to project or to reveal. He will continue to divide us and play our emotions like the maestro that he is. My fear is that our only hope of revealing what he is up to will be either by taking control of the lighting board or storming the stage.


  1. Thank you for your insightful article and your professional experience with people with the same psychological disorder as Trump apparently has. Emotions trump (no pun intended) reality, it seems, as the human need for self-preservation of the ego takes center stage ahead of facts and . emotional thinking can blind a person from seeing what another person is really like. This partially explains why so many people voted for Trump - his is a master of his trade, a businessman who must always market himself and his goods in a good light, even when it's a bad product. Perhaps it's true also that some people really do want a king instead of a president,someone who will tell them what to do and how to think so they don't have do that heavy lifting themselves. The uneducated also haven't learned how to think critically so they leave the thinking to those in the media and their politically-minded pulpits to do the thinking for them, and never see or attempt to see a complicated issue from different perspectives. As a Christian,I see a spiritual aspect of Trump's personality as well, a dark side caused by sin-sickness and a prideful unrepentant heart, a strictly human condition, which stands in the way of true repentence and leads to the spiritual salvation of an individual. As you said, people saw in Trump exactly what they wanted to see, a hero, a king, a savior, and refused too see the divisive, dangerously narcissistic con-man that he really is and that others were able to see in him from the beginning. My hope is that this master illusionist will make himself disappear as soon as possible and forever. Thank you for listening to my venting.

  2. Still holding true. Trump remains a master illusionist.

  3. A similar idea to mine is expressed in the video link that follows. It equates Donald Trump to a media magician who is a master of misdirection, or of "selective attention." My only hesitation is my reluctance to give President Trump so much credit for the skills and forethought it takes to conduct yourself in this way. See this video:


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