I was inspired this week by a movie that came out a couple years ago called Office Christmas Party. (No judgments! It was not what you would call critically acclaimed, but I will freely admit that I enjoyed it very much. More than once...okay, go ahead and judge me.)
In the movie, the local branch of a tech company is planning an office Christmas party (or "non-denominational holiday mixer" as the HR rep calls it). Clay, the good-hearted slacker who is in charge of the branch wants to have the party. His corporate boss, Carol, is very much against it. The plans for the party come up accidentally during a meeting, and Clay tries to downplay it, but Carol is clear that she thinks it's a waste of money and is cancelled. Clay assures Carol that, yes, it is cancelled, but immediately winks to his colleagues and mouths "it's not." Carol calls him out, and Clay again agrees that there will be no party, but then glances at his co-workers and indicates that the party is definitely on. Carol becomes more agitated: "Hey idiot, I'm looking right at you!" And it kind of goes on like that for a bit.
It's funny in the movie because Clay is the protagonist who is looking out for his people and ultimately trying to save their jobs. Carol is the cold, uncaring corporate exec looking out only for herself. It is exaggerated and ridiculous.
It's not so funny when it's a gubernatorial candidate looking to attract moderate and independent votes. And even less so when it's the President. (You can pick from the hundreds of examples, but one of the latest was that Medicare-for-all op-ed he submitted to USA Today this week.)
I don't know if there is a proper name for this particular technique. It could be classified as gaslighting, spoofing, trolling — but that just invites an argument over semantics. How about we agree not to put up with it?
John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.