If you’re unlucky enough to have ever had to deal with a pathological liar, you’ll probably be familiar with the term “gaslighting.” It’s named for the 1938 play (and subsequent movies) “Gas Light,” in which an emotionally abusive husband tries to drive his wife to madness, initially by constantly changing the lighting conditions in their home whilst insisting that the light is, in fact, the same as it ever was.
Of course, these days we’ve all got experience dealing with a pathological liar, as there’s one serving as “leader of the free world.” Trump’s constant revisions of his own history are glaringly obvious, although in his particular case it’s not manipulation so much as stupidity and mental illness. Trump, it would seem, isn’t trying to deliberately gaslight the world – he genuinely thinks he’s infallible, and if he’s ever wrong about something he convinces himself that it never happened.
Still, Trump being deranged and stupid doesn’t mean that other, smarter people around him (read: any other people around him who haven’t just been hit with a brick) aren’t trying to gaslight the public. It’s at this point we need to look at another term: fourteen eighty-eight.
1488 would seem to be a fairly innocuous number, but it’s actually a commonly used Nazi code, the 14 part being a reference to the “Fourteen words” of white supremacist David Lane, who used as his slogan:
“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
It turns out you can be good at racism or catchy slogans, but not both. Still, these fourteen words became a rallying cry for neo-Nazis and skinheads and a lot of other people whose parents were brother and sister. The “88” part represents the 8th letter of the alphabet, for HH or “Heil Hitler.”
The 1488 thing has been around for years, a semi-secret sign between Nazis and their ilk. Here’s a few tweets from right-wing author Jack Posobiec which, taken at face value, seem innocuous:
Once you understand that those numbers are not random, it becomes a lot more sinister. What’s really terrifying is that we’re starting to see this code crop up in government.
First, the Department of Homeland Security released a document entitled “We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again.” The fourteen word title, which echoed Lane’s “we must secure” wording, was dismissed as coincidence. Maybe it was, but given how many white supremacists and Nazis are avid Trumpsters, it’s uncomfortable.
What’s more concerning is that in a recent review of the migrant kids that the government isn’t really keeping track of, the Health and Human Services Department claimed that 1,488 children were unaccountable.
Again, this could just be a Hell of a coincidence – tallying missing Mexican kids into a number frequently used by people who hate Mexicans – but that’s what’s so frustrating about gaslighting. People can use literal Nazi codes right in front of your face and still claim that it’s just an innocent and completely random number.
The only way to really fight against it is to make sure as many people are aware of Nazi dog whistles as possible – even under Trump’s fascist regime, Nazis are still mostly in hiding. They know they don’t have a numerical advantage over decent people, and so they keep their views a secret. The more of them who are exposed and challenged, the better. And the only way to do that is to flush them out of their hiding places, physically and linguistically. Learn to spot coded hate speech and call it out. These people are nowhere near as smart as they think they are, and the more they can be put on the back foot again, the better.