DT Tactics: Expect ‘Shifting’
By understanding these DT team tactics we are likely to see during our campaign, you will be able to remain calm and not be as distressed by them. We provide an overview of what to expect, and suggestions to help you out.
Main DT Tactic: Bullshifting
We recently ran across the term ‘bullshifting’ (note the ‘f’!). During a discussion, bullshifting is a verbal shift of focus by the responder from the discussion topic to another topic. The new topic often has nothing to do with the topic being discussed. The new topic may include word(s) like Hillary Clinton, e-mail, no collusion or Mueller. The bullshifter/responder may raise their voice or get angry, to get us upset too. The responder may recall facts incorrectly (or maybe make them up!) in the heat of the moment, to support their point of view. The DT administration uses this tactic almost daily.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of shifting one’s focus to the bullshifter’s new topic. Now you find yourself thinking about the new topic, the logic of what they are saying, and the accuracy of the bullshifter’s facts. The original topic of interest disappears from the discussion and our minds.
DT is the consummate verbal bullshifter…he uses it often during his press conferences. Here’s a recent classic example from the July 2018 Helsinki press conference. Notice he doesn’t answer either of the reporter’s questions in his rambling response.
REPORTER, Associated Press: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is: who do you believe? My second question is: would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you want him to never do it again?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats [director of national intelligence], came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? 33,000 e-mails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails. I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people [GRU officers indicted by the Department of Justice]. I think that’s an incredible offer. OK? Thank you.
Bullshifting was discussed in detail here, if you want to read more: Article about Bullshifting
Variation on a Theme: Tweet Shifts & News Shifts
Tweet & news shifts fundamentally work the same way as bullshifts, but are used in social media or news pronouncements.
The U.S. President has access to the U.S. significant intelligence gathering operations (FBI, CIA, NSA etc). Also, DT is undoubtedly given the professional courtesy of being told a day or two before news hits, the news that will be released, or announcements that will be made. Negative news from these sources can be deflected by ‘tweet shifts’ and ‘news shifts’. These shifts are effective, as we live in a country of ‘instantaneous news’ shared over the internet, and news organization’s inclination to be the first to report new news. So if there is negative news about DT (and there always seems to be!), a DT news or tweet shift will shift the focus from the bad news DT knows is coming, with ‘not so bad’ news— to deflect our attention from the unflattering news.
Another recent news shift: word came out that nearly 3,000 people had died as a result of the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, a number much higher than had been advertised, and suggesting U.S. support could have done much more to help. Then the DT news shift, DT saying (on camera) he thinks we deserve an ‘A+’ for how the U.S. managed the Puerto Rico hurricane disaster. So any further analysis of DT’s tacit lack of support for Puerto Rico takes back seat to a discussion of how can DT say we got an A+ grade when 3,000 people died. DT mission accomplished!
A tweet shift works in a similar fashion, with DT tweeting about an unrelated or partially related topic.
How to Personally Manage the ‘Shifts’
How to deal with the bull, tweet & news shifts? First try your best to remain calm (see discussion under Blowbacks), as you now understand this is a common attention shifting technique. Then:
- Slightly smile. Politely interrupt the Shifter after 2 or 3 sentences, if at a “live” press conference or meeting.
- Compliment the user on their bull shift.
- Then remind the Shifter of the original question or news item you were concerned about, and rephrase the question to shorten it. Ask the Shifter to respond.
- When they likely still don’t respond, interrupt them again and ask them to get back to you with an answer shortly.
If one applied these techniques to the above DT Helsinki example, it would likely have looked something like this:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that.
Reporter (smiling): Nice bullshift, Mr. President. I originally asked do you believe your intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, or Mr. Putin that the Russians did not? And if you believe Putin interfered, tell him never to do it again?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: (becoming angry): I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators ….
Reporter (still smiling, interrupting): I can see you are not prepared to answer today my simple question of who you believe, our intelligence community or Putin. Perhaps you can get back to us with an answer shortly.
I think we all can sense this issue is still to be answered and would be the focus of the later news, rather than Trump’s non-answer.
One can apply this approach to anyone’s tweet shifts you read as well. You won’t be interrupting of course. But complement the tweet (or news) shift, and remind the tweeter of the original question. Then after the second response, point out to all the original question was never answered.
Selective Fact Sharing & Other Tactics
Frankly, this is a tactic we all use at one time or another. Essentially one focuses on and shares the facts and information that support one’s own position. The DT administration does this quite often. If all the facts were ‘on the table’, DT’s position would be much weaker than it appears. One needs to understand most all the facts and bring them up ideally during the discussion of the issue, to combat selective fact sharing.
For example, our recent tariff tiff with China has changed their interest in working with the U.S. in our de-nuclearize negotiations with North Korea. That’s probably why the U.S. is no longer involved directly in the negotiations being between North and South Korea. One wonders if these negotiations can be successful without Chinese support. This impact of the Chinese tariffs has not been mentioned or discussed, because it weakens DT’s Korean negotiating position. A November 2018 U.S. report documented that North Korea continues to develop their nuclear weapons and missiles, which was not covered by our agreement with North Korea. “Kim Jong Un only committed voluntarily to halt long-range missile tests,” according to Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association. This is yet another example of selective fact sharing, as we were given the impression by the DT administration that weapon development had also stopped.
Another tactic in the news is Trump’s use of “gaslighting”, the tactic of getting people to question their direct experience. It is a type of psychological manipulation . A person who is gaslighting an individual or group that they have chosen to target does so by getting them to doubt their own memory, perception, and reality. Through persistent lying , misdirection, and contradiction, the gaslighter attempts to delegitimize the victim’s beliefs by confusing and destabilizing them. (Note 1). Taylor Swift, the pop star, recently called out the President as a gaslighter, documented here.