As with so many other words, phrases, and conditions, the term "gaslighting" has become little more than a pejorative insult in our over-politicized culture, hurled with both increasing frequency and little regard for its actual meaning.
- If someone adamantly and forcefully pushes a position that others disagree with, they are slapped with the label "gaslighter."
- If someone backed into a corner cites a bogus statistic in an attempt to justify their position, they are called out for "gaslighting."
- If someone offers a different perspective on a policy, notes potential unintended consequences that would likely arise from its implementation, they are often categorized as guilty of burning the "gaslight."
In other words, the legitimate offense of gaslighting is going the same way that the legitimate offenses of racism, sexism, and bigotry went – into the political trash bin of meaninglessness. Overused, exploited, and overcooked to the point of futility. That's too bad given that gaslighting is a serious matter, particularly in the realm of power politics.
The term itself refers to the psychologically manipulative practice of making a person question their own reality and perceptions. Obviously the dynamic of power plays a major factor – someone in a dominant position can exercise extraordinary influence on the sensitivities and discernments of those under their influence. Kidnappers and sex traffickers often gaslight their captives, abusive husbands gaslight their victimized wives, and more than a few politicians make the tactic a paid profession.
What's interesting is that in politics Republicans will accuse Democrats of gaslighting them, and Democrats will accuse Republicans of the same. But properly understood, individuals you are naturally suspicious of have the most difficulty in swaying your opinion and altering your understanding of reality. In other words, the people most responsible for gaslighting Republicans are Republican officials, and those most responsible for gaslighting Democrats are Democrat officials.
That's why I think this is such a legitimate issue currently – because our political tribes are so polarized and the distinctions between them are so well-defined that most are unwilling to call out their own side for the deceit. We want to believe what we're being told, so we do – even when we know it contradicts everything that comports with the reality occurring around us.
Take Hollywood actor and director Rob Reiner's recent tweet:
While the laughter and pushback from the right was expected – including the fully anticipated references to the nickname of Reiner's All in the Family "meathead" character – the noteworthy response was from the actor's leftist allies. Nearly a quarter of a million "likes" to the demonstrably false claim, nearly 30,000 retweets. Admittedly I don't know if Reiner himself is gaslighting, or if Reiner is a victim of gaslighting himself. Did he say this to abusively manipulate the minds of his followers or was he himself abusively manipulated by the Democrat power brokers who control him?
- The ones who fanatically assert that men can get pregnant.
- The ones who zealously claim that the Afghanistan evacuation was conducted competently.
- The ones who passionately contend that Hunter Biden's laptop wasn't real and the issue is non-existent.
- The ones who fervently proclaim the southern border is secure.
- The ones who parlay their journalism gig into activism and advocacy to say this…
When just two years (and a different president) ago, they were saying this…
So again, let's be clear, a politician breaking a promise isn't some new phenomenon. And this…
…while annoying and frustrating, isn't "gaslighting." But pay attention, Democrats. When your middle class family tax bill goes up because of this policy and your elected representatives tell you that it didn't, that's the kind of abusive, manipulative gaslighting we all, regardless of party affiliation, will guard against if we're wise.
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