Resilience and Gaslight: Daily PlanetWatch

Thomas Schueneman

Thinking about the latest environmental news headlines from the Daily PlanetWatch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon. Friday, September 13

It’s all a distraction, of course. Except in so many ways it isn’t. The day after Donald Trump displayed his sharpie enhanced, out-of-date NOAA chart doubling-down on his claim that Alabama was in the path of hurricane Dorian, I posted a brief comment on social media. I suggested it’s likely best to ignore what Trump says and left it at that.

I indulged myself one post on the topic figuring it was a done deal and any further comment was buying into the distraction and obfuscation. A couple of trolls popped up asking what all the fuss was about; one poking the snowflake with “boo hoo” and another making a somewhat bizarre assertion that Trump was simply trying to “put together a plan”. Fair enough, I opened the troll door (albeit only slightly) and some trolls found their way in.

Now we’re done with this, I thought

But the president of the United State wouldn’t let it go. He kept at it, tripling, quadrupling, quintupling down that the sharpie thing was legit. That he hadn’t originally tweeted in error about Dorian’s expected impact on Dorian.

As reported by the Washington Post and others, Donald just kept hammering away at a story that should have been dead for days, especially in our current “what did he say now” politically climate. He says something, we look on aghast, and then move on. Most times Trump will reverse himself, presumably after the adults in the room (what’s left of them) steer him marginally back on course, ironically speaking.

In this case, Trump was arguably more untethered than usual. He had to be right, no matter who or what must be thrown under the bus. It’s one thing for Trump to issue misleading (or just plain wrong) scientifically-based statements.Even as of this writing, the president won’t let it die, saying that he “wasn’t mad at the weather forecasters” for correcting his erroneous tweet.

 Here’s how it could have gone:

  • Trump issues a tweet warning Alabamans of impacts from hurricane Dorian
  • The Alabama-based National Weather Service issues a tweet saying there will be no impacts, that Dorian has moved well to the east.
  • Trump issues a follow-up tweet apologizing for his mistake, says he only has the safety and best interests of all Americans in mind, and thanking the NWS for their diligence and hard work
  • End of story

Of course that’s not what happened. That’s never the way it will happen.

A teachable moment 

Let’s face it, the circumstances change, but not the methods to the madness. There is nothing that can’t be gaslit. Accepting this teaches us resilience. Not the resilience of seawalls and levees, but of psychological, emotional, and intellectual fortitude.

Sometimes a sharpie attempts to alter reality, but we know it’s just a sharpie. Whichever way the wind blows for our future, however we choose to respond, it will require individual and collective resilience. Don’t be fooled by the sharpie.

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