Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Who sought to deodorize and sanitize Arfang Domorifoday’s image and personality on mass and social media political persuasion and propaganda choreographed PR show mischaracterized a narrative in politics in a modern political campaign as “Documentary” that even the vaguest pretense to traditional watchdog journalism is in the throes of death in the Gambia’s institutional news media was instantiated by the political advertising of Arfang Domorifoday on the media. It was out and away from a PR job that masqueraded as journalism.
Although the questions and answers were feeble, obvious follow-up prompts were ignored, the questioner and interviewees were shy, and the viewers were left scratching their heads about what they had just watched. It was the journalistic equivalent of a sinister circus. I am glad that people clinically dissected the “documentary” trying to deodorize positively about an annotated autobiography of Domorifoday showed what a tragic professional theater the documentary was. Even though I was initially inclined to comment on the poor quality of the conduct of the content, I chose to cut the content in some slack because I thought managing to get reclusive and tight-lipped Domorifoday to talk about his childhood and religiosity for so many years of ignoring the domestic news media was praiseworthy.
Fatoumatta: Although Arfang Domorifoday sanctioned supported in real-time on social media, archived on the web, and reported in the domestic press, people who witnessed questioned their perceptual stimuli, recollections, and even sanity. However, unfortunately, that is the propaganda tactic Donald Trump routinely deploys in America. He tells outrageous lies (he has told more than 50,000 lies since becoming president, according to several media houses that are keeping records!), repeats them ad infinitum, ignores rebuttals, and causes otherwise ordinary people to question their reality live in and the evidence around them.
This media propaganda and mind management tactic is called gaslighting. Its goal is to defamiliarize reality and the truth through intentional, in-your-face obfuscation of the facts—or through popularizing what Trump’s former counselor Kellyanne Conway once called “alternative facts.”
In a January 2017 article for Psychology Today, Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D., defined gaslighting as “a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.”
I have seen otherwise intelligent and critical people fall victim to the Gambian politician’s kind of Trumpian gaslighting propaganda tactic amid the December 4, 2021, presidential election even though historical evidence exists of promoting sheer incompetent and political mediocrity.
I observed social media conversations about the audacious propaganda of Domorifoday, and I was amazed by the number and types of people who were gaslit by the political documentary on social media.
Although gaslighting was initially studied in interpersonal settings, it has now been expanded to account for how people with political and coercive authority (such as presidents, and or political leaders, etc.) and even symbolic power (such as celebrities and public intellectuals) can use their positions to muddy the waters and confound otherwise self-aware people.
Fatoumatta: The website “Healthline” tells us that gaslighting can cause people “to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them,” adding that “A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.”
It is the reason millions of Americans have become suckers for Trump’s absurd, easily refutable lies, and why millions of unreflective Talibangelical African Christians worship and believe him even though he is not a Christian and hates and disdains them because of their race.
Psychologists say the most potent solution to gaslighting is to recognize and accept that you are the victim of a carefully planned emotional manipulation by people who have conscious and unconscious political, symbolic, or interpersonal dominion over you. The blame for this gaslighting, of course, rests entirely with the Gambian voters. Many of the peddlers of the Domorifoday-approved falsehood or accounts of what happened in his life story there are hyperbolized— are also victims of sophisticated emotional exploitation. I will never be part of that.
Domorifoday’s election campaign and propaganda are refreshing. Still, he advertently or inadvertently enabled it in his blind pursuit of an increasingly implausible presidential ambition.
However, Domorifoday’s cloying, self-aggrandizing, and mind-bendingly eulogistic post-documentary removed all doubts that social media was merely conscripted as an instrument of presidential propaganda and mind management in the aftermath of the growing national reprobation that Domorifoday’s ill-thought political ambition has activated. So who better to recruit for the job than previous presidential propagandists and mind managers?
Fatoumatta: So, in retrospect, it makes sense that the “documentary” did not have the haziest resemblance to a professional journalistic interview. Instead, it was a predetermined, duplicitous public relations performance that stole and wore the garbs of journalism to give it undeserved professional legitimacy. Now let us look at the print version of Domorifoday’s presidential marketing project. Although the documentary was pre-recorded and edited, which gave Domorifoday’s friends and loyal supporters more verbal clarity than we have become accustomed to lately, they were still repetitive, cracked the same humorless jokes, avoided questions that required them to demonstrate familiarity with the nitty-gritty of contemporary events, and gave and got away with puzzlingly off-center responses to questions he was asked.
However, sponsors of the documentary want Gambians to disbelieve what they saw, transport themselves to an alternate universe, and persuade themselves that Domorifoday is alert, alive, informed, confident, relaxed, witty, and capable of disarming humor in the documentary. This is classic gaslighting. Many people who read the autobiography of Domorifoday were compelled to re-watch the documentary to see what they had missed. Instead, they found that a professional mind manager was psychologically manipulating them.
The presidential political advertising project would not be worth its while if it were not deployed to impugn the growing evidence that Domorifoday is held hostage by his loyal supporters, which we have called attention to over two decades ago. We know of people earning their pay, which is fine, but they should not promote ignorance in the process of doing so. A choreographed one-hour interaction is not what you need to disprove that someone lacked political ingenuity and leadership qualities. A one or two hours of political marketing and personal branding project cannot erase all the evidence of political incompetence and political mediocrity we see in Domorifoday.
Fatoumatta: Anyone who wants to believe that Arfang Domorifoday is the picture of a perfect, charismatic, visionary, and transformative leader with cognitive skills because he did not drool during a choreographed PR show documentary is free to do so. However, it takes nothing from the truth of his progressive political degeneration and unfitness to be president of a complex, developing country like the Gambia with no solid institutions to withstand an endless obsession-plagued leader.