What a nice, useful article on an overused term. Sincerely, people are doing exactly what she talks about all the time and if they are they should read this!
However, political, institutional, and medical gaslighting happens every day.
To get the full effect go to university and sign up for courses on critical race theory, post colonialism, queer theory, gender studies, disability studies, or more generally ableism. Words to look for include “critical theory” and “inter-sectionalism.”
Concepts you won’t need or find will include empiricism, critical thinking, and any meaningful coverage of western literature, unless of course as a vehicles to denigrate them and their authors.
Or save money and just watch major tv “news” or mainstream print media, Twitter etc.
Bonus points, if you live in the states, just follow public teachers unions in the big cities and attend school board meetings in those areas.
No… you’re just gaslighting me
The key difference is that gaslighting involves getting someone else to believe something you know is false – you know, like convincing an innocent young woman she is kleptomaniac. Getting people to join your cult is slightly different in that cultists generally tend to believe the bile they are spewing, with the possible exception of Scientologists, since they believe in a religion that was invented by a second-rate science fiction writer and I can’t imagine how anyone could genuinely believe that.
but it does appear like you didn’t take much interest in actually reading the article, which is a shame because it is quite good.
Are you being ironic with your gaslighting?
I don’t even know what irony is so I don’t see how that could possibly be true.
As my opening sentence said, I read and sincerely liked the article. I saw myself in it – we all get a little nuts when we get upset. She did a great job of laying it out in a very accessible manner. It’s just that I generally recognize my own BS so it was nice to read but didn’t help me other than to remind me what we can all be like ;-).
The definition you are applying, while common and undoubtedly valid, is not the only one. And I think you including cults is helpful
Here is the definitional reference I drew from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/gaslighting#where-it-occurs
Finally, thoughts on the term’s applicability at the levels I used. In this context, the gaslighting at medical, political, and organizational groups is perpetrated by ideologues, i.e. those seduced or possessed by an ideology.
I use ideology to mean something like a simple, single-factor explanation for large, complex questions encompassing many variables, e.g. Marxist, Anarchist, “pure” capitalist, etc.
Someone seduced by an ideology can’t see they are wrong and so they are not lying to others, i.e. gaslighting – it is simply what they believe without much (traditional) critical thinking. However, if the ideology is false, and pretty much all of them by definition I am using are, then that doesn’t change the outcome – the manipulation of another towards a mendacious belief system.
Someone entrenched or I’d say possessed by an ideology will often claim the ends justify the means and so they think lying and even violence are justifiable in their quest to bring about their perceived utopia. That never ends well.
So, I claim that these examples also meet the definition you favor.
That is true. There are many deceptions around and the people deceived act on their deceptions even to violence.. On a lower scale we can be deceived into believing something is not true when it really is or vice versa. That’s part of life. The lies I believed in my youth became apparent much later on and I had to recognise it and move on. The whole thing boils down to what is true and what is not and that is a life quest.
“go to university and sign up for courses on critical race theory, post colonialism, queer theory, gender studies, disability studies, or more generally ableism”
Or Join the USA Military and be forced to take all these classes, even though it does tend to eat into the time on the rifle range and training for combat……
Soldiers should be taught to fight and students should be taught subjects to help them in their chosen spheres and not be brainwashed by wokism.
Why on God’s earth would the military need to train for combat?
Universities appear to have left the truth behind decades ago.
I agree about the political institutions and the medical profession. We are living in days when polititions and medical people are saying things that you have a gut feeling are wrong. In the past one kind of submitted to them as “they must know”, but nowadays one wonders if they can be trusted. I suspect that sometimes they use their authority to gaslight us relying on unproven theories.
Wonder no more, once you understand the underlying ideological belief system taking over education in the West since the 80’s it makes perfect sense what your experiencing. Read:
https://www.amazon.com/Cynical-Theories-Scholarship-Everything-Identity_and/dp/1634312023 – academics aren’t actually hiding what they believe and what they are doing, very well referenced.
Or this one: https://genderparadox.com/books.html#gender-paradox – best and most accessible explanation of the critical theory mindset, and a well-researched takedown of gender ideology.
Or from a religious perspective, https://www.amazon.com/Awake-Not-Woke-Christian-Progressive/dp/1505118425
All are very well referenced. If you don’t have time to read all of those, the first is a dense, academic read, then just spend an hour or so digging around here: https://christopherrufo.com/journalism/
Good luck to us all.
When Biden and his minions say the US is not in a recession, and that the southern border is secure, gaslighting is the polite, hip term for what is happening. In the past, this was simply called lying.
Another good example of gaslighting in movies was in the film Amelie where she plays tricks on the greengrocer who is nasty to his young employee.
I took the article to be an excuse for the gaslighting common in the all pervasive leftist politics of the day. The term is overused, therefore it ain’t happening to all you conservatives out there. When you’re being told there’s a new definition for “recession,” and that sending 30+ armed FBI agents to Mar-A-Lago is not a “raid,” it’s the objective truth of Democrats who identify as journalists. Who are you to argue with them? They’re the professionals. You’re just populist rednecks.
It’s amazing how it’s OK to ignore big pieces of the Constitution, like the Bill of Rights. The Trump search warrant allowed seizure of any “government and/or Presidential Record created between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021.” How does that meet the 4th Amendment requirement that search warrants must “particularly describ[e] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized?” It does because AG Garland and a Democrat Federal Magistrate say so, even though an ordinary viewer might think it’s way too general. The FBI seized cocktail napkins with writing on them as part of the search. Anonymous leaks say they may have been top secret napkins. Who knows?
The assumption seems to be that after 6 years of investigations based on allegations falsified by the Clinton Campaign, and anonymous lies, we’re still supposed to believe the walls are legitimately closing in on Trump. Schiff has been promising evidence for years, but produced nothing admissible in federal court. How early and often can these folks lie to us and still have any credibility at all?
However, gasslighting is an overused term. It really hasn’t been happening for 6 years. And the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, who ruled the 2020 election was conducted illegally, should be ignored. Everybody knows the 2020 election was the most perfect election ever! If you don’t believe that, the FBI may put you in jail. After a fair trial, of course.
Or unfair trial.
You could add “Russian Collusion” and the “Hunter Laptop story was Russian disinformation”. On top of “every vote must be counted” regardless of how it got sent, of course.
And then there are some old favorites, “2 weeks to stop the spread”, “you can keep your health insurance”, “no new taxes”, “I didn’t have sex with that woman”.
And finally, the showstopper, “The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022”.
I thought the essence of gaslighting was I will make you — or third parties — believe my narrative even though I know it is false, not we honestly disagree or believe different things.
This will help: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/gaslighting
The real key is who is asking or asserting what.
For instance, if I believe (as a ridiculous for instance) that men can become women simply by declaring it so….and you try to convince me that such a ‘transition’ is physically, genetically, biochemically, neurologically impossible …. I AUTOMATICALLY know that you must be gaslighting me!
How do I know that?
Because I know that I’m absolutely right: men can become women! And since I credit you with a ‘modicum’ of intelligence, my working assumption is that you MUST KNOW THAT TOO! (Either that or you’re an idiot!)
You, on the other hand, to your point….have been convinced by all kinds of real-world evidence that sex-to-sex transition is, indeed, impossible. It’s not a question of ‘belief’ from your perspective, it’s a matter of scientific, provable, indisputable proof.
So again, from your perspective, you are not and cannot be gaslighting because you know — evidentially — that my assertion is provably wrong.
BUT, again, from my perspective, it can only be that you’re a gaslighter.
It’s like re-imagining the movie with the gaslights ACTUALLY FLICKERING…with Ingrid ACTUALLY STEALING…and Boyer points all that out only to be accused by a Woke Ingrid of ‘gaslighting’ her. Boyer object and her response is, “That’s just what a Gaslighter would say!”
The writer is way behind the times in her understanding of modern tropes..
”the putatively touching story of millennial Olivia, gaslit by “Ben”, a man she thought she was dating. After sleeping with her, telling her she was the best person he’d met in years, and talking about going to Italy together, Ben told her they had only ever been “hanging out” and not dating after all.”
This is ‘Breadcrumbing’
”What Is Breadcrumbing?Breadcrumbing is the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal social signals (i.e. “breadcrumbs”) in order to lure a romantic partner in without expending much effort. In other words, it’s leading someone on.”
On-Line Dating, its a new world out there…
Thanks for this handy article on a subject that’s been bothering me for a while.
I have no doubt that people can be guilty of ‘gaslighting’ from time to time, and I have certainly on occasion seen men operate in an arrogant, condescending manner that could be described as ‘mansplaining’ – but I have also seen both terms misused (and overused) as simply a means of attempting to silence anyone who disagrees with you – in much the same way that anyone daring to raise legitimate questions about gender ideology is immediately dismissed as a ‘transphobe’ or ‘TERF’, as Prof Stock has herself experienced.
It is entirely possible to disagree with someone in good faith. The shutting down of debate and free exchange of ideas via this weaponisation of language cannot be a good thing for future discourse at any level of society.
The combination of a trained philosophical mind with the gift of lucid prose is sadly rare. How lucky are we that Professor Stock has turned her mind to journalism. I’m sure I’m not alone in putting her in that very small group of “must read” writers when selecting from the vast journalistic output we all face.
Thank you Professor Stock.
The most egregious example of genuine gaslighting in my experience was when UK government ministers insisted that a group of refugees from Syria were children, even as several were photographed with fully mature bodies and five o’clock shadows. The evidence of our eyes was denied by the ministers’ words.
Perhaps… but weren’t those refugees ‘identifying’ as children, in order to gain greater traction with the authorities? In other words, they were trying to gaslight us. That’s not a comment on their status as genuine refugees by the way, simply an observation on manipulation coming from both sides.
The problem was the government insisted on taking their claims at face value, and refused checks such as dental checks (or rather, the dentists’ professional organisation refused to do them). Whatever, there was a continual, defensive insistence from the top (if I remember correctly, PM May was one of them) that these were children.
They should have just been treated as refugees. God knows why they couldn’t be. Probably because the country is full of racists so everyone had to lie about it to save face.
Well done to the to the dentists professional organisation for not allowing their profession to be abused as a way of justifying sending back genuine refugees for being the wrong age.
Your lack of knowledge and understanding of the situation suggests to me that you are a US citizen or a complete prat. Child refugees coming into europe get special priviledge. There was worry about sexual advances to female fosterers and ‘real’ children. I know some of the foster “Mums” who were involved at that time. From memory one of the “Child Refugees” was identified as a 33 year old male by people who had known him at university.
I have a simple solution to this problem – accept all refugees and then they won’t have to lie about their age. I’m not going to pretend that Syrians aren’t human beings, capable of doing harm, but you don’t help refugees because they are saints – you help them because they are human beings fleeing war zones.
I think people worry about people lying about refugee status, but even during the height of the troubles most of the people living in ireland wanted to stay put. Human beings generally don’t leave their families and homes for anything less than a bloodbath or a famine (though there will always be some amount of people who are disenfranchised enough to want to seek a better life somewhere else – and why shouldn’t they? Nobody should be impoverished by the accidental of geographical location of their birth).
When I was working as a charity fundraiser I met a syrian doctor who was living on less than forty quid a week and not allowed to work because of his refugee status. If you don’t think we live in a country that has draconian and racist policies towards immigrants and refugees, you haven’t been paying attention.
I mean you saw the windrush scandal. The government attempting to fly people back to syria despite the protests of basically the entire legal profession.
I’m sorry, but you guys clearly aren’t as smart as you think you are.
The majority country represented by boat refugees is Albania. They do not have a war there and haven’t had for decades. They figure highly in the prostitution industry in Britain. Are you saying we have to admit all immigrants regardless without any checks on the health of our country? What about boat people who have murdered people later on in the name of Jihad.
We know what May did. In charge of Brexit and trying to figure out a way not to fully leave. The trouble in N Ireland was down to her. She wasn’t really fit to be leader.
Anyone under the age of 18 is legally a child. Some people under 18 have physically mature bodies – get over it. And if anyone is an idiot here, it’s people who think that being over eighteen means you’re not allowed to flee your country because it is torn apart by violence. Apparently, there are people who think that Syrians don’t count as human once they start growing facial hair, which is probably why the government lied to you, but a refugee is a refugee whether they are six or sixty and you’d have to be a massive t**t (british sense) to think otherwise.
Congratulations on utterly missing the point AND squeezing in a completely unnecessary ad hominem.
Thanks for dealing with the woke racist.
I’m not woke and I’m not a racist. People who think that syrians can’t be refugees but ukrainians can actually are racist.
All I can say is that I am glad it is not up to you. We’d have to destroy more fields and woods to house those whom you would let in.
1) These men looked well over 18, they were not physically mature teenagers so please don’t join in with the gaslighting; 2) The background was that in 2016 the UK refused to open its borders to a mass influx of Syrian refugees, but it did accept a modern counterpart of the ‘kindertransport’. We were all expecting children – real children.
Yes, the background is that Britain is a hugely racist country. This is not news. Don’t think there’s anything morally superior about accepting only children, rather than you know families or even just people who are refugees. Has anyone suggested only taking in Ukrainian children? No? Wonder why that is.
Do you even know what a refugee is?
Or the TV journalist standing in front of the burning church and describing BLM’s racist hate rioting as mostly peaceful.
What a philosopher Kathleen Stock is! She rips through the everyday word manipulation of the bullshitters with the ease of Charles Atlas tearing up telephone directories and does so with a superb and entertaining deployment of the English language herself.
I love reading everything Professor Stock writes. She is brilliant
I recommend everyone watch the 1944 Film “Gaslight”. Truly a masterpiece of the golden age of film!
I think the aggressive nature of internet discussion has a lot to answer for when it comes to the hyperbolic distortion of English.
‘The sheeple’ is a phrase chiefly used by people who place themselves on a higher plane than the rest of us, the very act of doing so which costs them their lofty self-elevation.
Indeed. 1984, here we come… if we allow ourselves to go along with it.
Its not really like 1984 because its largely corporations that are to blame, rather than a totalitarian government.
Who would have thought that privately owned transnational corporations that transcend national democracies and answer only to a select group of shareholders would operate almost exactly like totalitarian states. I certainly couldn’t have predicted that.
To be sure the corporations are doing the dirty work, but only with the respective government’s approval. There used to words for that, too when it happened in Germany and Italy in the early 20th century.
I think the government is doing the dirty work with the approval of the corporations, since that is where all the power actually lies, but what do I know, I’m just a woke racist lefty.
That the government has a hand in it is obvious. It’s not just the big corporations.
It is astounding how Hitler deceived the majority of the country into murder and persecution of innocent people, not to mention Mussolini.
The Oxford Club and Sovereign Society that I read of and followed online were pounding the table in the late 80’s and 90’s about this very thing. The Davos crowd owning the earth. Guess they were right.
A government spokesperson announced today that the Ministry of Truth has been reorganized and privatized. It’s now known as CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Google, Twitter and Facebook. Even the woke agree that censorship is more efficiently performed by private companies.
The Ministry of Truth ain’t any more acceptable because it’s privatized and run by friendly oligarchs.
You forgot the Guardian, BBC and the Independent.
Mainly those who are part of WEF I would say. I have only just found out that the UN is supported 80% Gates a regular member of WEF. Throw enough money at things and it can be a big influence in getting your way over the interests of the ordinary people.
Recently I had a conversation with a trans activist maniac that was banging on about how trans women were women and that ROGD was a myth and other insane nonsense. After trying to argue that she was mistaken with a fair amount of examples to back my position, I ended the conversation by saying that I’m glad I no longer smoked.When she huffily asked me what that had to do with anything, I replied that I with all her attempts at gaslighting me, we’d be both blown to smithereens by all the gas coming out of her orifice. When that was met with a blank look, I said, look, I’m just trying to tell you politely that I think you are talking out of your a–e, and there’s no point in continuing this discussion.
I’m afraid I’m not very good at decoding acronyms. What is ROGD?
It means ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria’; I looked it up. I must admit I did think it was a ‘thing’ (as much as anything can be ‘thing’ in psychology) and that psychologists believe that this explains the increase in young girls presenting as trans, however, many trans activists don’t believe that it exists. I may be wrong here and am open to correction.
The term originated in a paper published by Lisa Littman, an adjunct professor who noting a sudden increase in teenage girls suffering from gender dysphoria, created the term. She described what she found after carrying out an online survey of parents who believed their teenage children, mostly girls were identifying as trans as a result of online social media contagion and peer pressure.
This was later examined further in the book “Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier.
Detractors claim that the idea that social contagion spread by internet social media is not backed by credible scientific evidence.
Which means these parents of trans identifying teens, mostly girls could be mistaken in believing that ROGD is spread by social media and peer pressure.
Social media contagion? Peer pressure?
I mean this YouTuber has only one million subscribers.
Only 2.3 million people have watched his ‘bottom surgery’ video.
Have a look and of you want, you can order a T-shirt.
So she was gaslighting you and she probably thought you were gaslighting her. In the end it comes down to different points of view. A man convinced against his will if of the same opinion still.
Seems to me that gaslighting, or being gaslit, is simply another way of saying “i’m in a relationship” – of pretty much any kind!
I’d go further, and say that having relationships simply involves consenting to being gaslit, perhaps as a preferable option to living the life of an hermit. Everyone, in the non-pathological sense in which Stock describes it so entertainingly, is seeking to influence everyone else to a greater or lesser degree. Indeed, the phenomenon of being termed an ‘influencer’ suggests we recognise all this and (at least some) positively seek it out.
When we choose which Unherd articles to read, we’re consenting to being potentially influenced, or perhaps to having our ideas, our ‘reality’ reinforced. The opposite of walking the gaslit street is to retreat into our echo chamber.
That this feeds into the narrative of critical theorists is no coincidence. Stock’s defenestration from Sussex has opened up a window for us all to contemplate. Dare we jump, or will we be pushed?
“the opposite of walking the gaslit street is to retreat into our echo chamber” – what an excellent summation, I shall make a note of that.
Isn’t this the issue with Postmodernism, the balance of power, who has it, the hidden meaning of words and how they are used to maintain that power and change “reality”?
Is there an award for improving the public understanding of philosophy , if there is Professor Stock should be in the running.
e.g.: “Here too, in an age (and a country) hardly known for rampant epistemic humility,”
Not only uses epistemic clearly and precisely to make the point, by doing so, it also takes it out o the high clouds of academia and pretension and makes it a usefull word.
Anyway back to Gaslighting, I think the crucial thing in the film is that Charles Boyer actually messes around with what Berman is able to perceive as reality. Its far more than just disagreeing.
So if I call my self Julie and say I am a woman, I’m just lieing. If I change all public records and bully everyone into telling you that I am the brave and beautiful Julie then I am gaslighting you?
Professor Stock’s expressive clarity is a standard feature of analytical philosophy. The public equates philosophy with pretentious nonsense because they only ever see the excrement produced by postmodern clowns masquerading as philosophers.
There is no such thing as ‘your’ reality. It’s not subjective. This is where the confusion and stupidity get in. We have pretty much abandoned the objective standard in everything – even in science and biology when it comes to sex. It’s now considered ‘gaslighting’ by many to say that males and females are not ‘assigned’ their sex at birth. Rather we must accept the unreality of subjective feelings about ‘gender’. That IS gaslighting on a massive scale.
You are correct Miriam. Nothing will ever persuade me of that rubbish even if politicians say it. Once you move away from the truth in a thing the only way forward is to believe a lie.
Good, calm article. Language evolves, in response to unadmitted politics. “To “gaslight” someone once had a specific, narrow meaning; now, as the author notes, it’s close to being a synonym for merely arguing. Of course, in the age of new secular religions, mere disputation now is A Bad Thing and must be discouraged. I have similar reservations with folks – on both left and right – using overblown words such as “tyranny” and “dictatorship” when talking about e.g., Priti Patel, or the EU.
In the law faculty in Queens Univ Belfast, many years ago, one would be set a “moot” essay on an assigned (contentious / arguable) subject. You had no choice of what subject might be assigned to you. You’d be asked to write 2 essays, one for one side of the argument, and one for the other. Then there’d be a faculty mooting competition, presided over by an actual beak. And you’d be told a couple of days before which side you were taking.
All good training for life, never mind law. But a form of mental discipline that, in our age of boil-in-the-bag secular certainties, seems about as archaic as ‘phone boxes, cash and choke-levers on cars. The idea that, for the crack, you could argue against your own position has largely been lost.
From a short blog I did on the topic (with a clip of an elderly Heidegger):
“The basis of thinking is an ability to embrace inner conflict. If you wish seriously to think about anything, you have to dismantle your own comfortable ideas, and argue against yourself.
That’s the basis of an adversarial legal system; both sides in a case slug it out and try to make dirt of each other’s position. And, obviously, swap the lawyers, and they will easily tomorrow argue against their own position yesterday.
That seeming cynicism and amorality leads to lawyers being culturally derided as unprincipled by the hoi polloi.
However, it also points up how principle itself is an impediment to thinking.”
Blog here: https://ayenaw.com/2021/07/18/post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc/
Is gaslighting, then, something peculiar to political correctness? One might say that political correctness is the product of a raised consciousness, not so much the product of critical reasoning. What I am asking is whether the charge that one is a “denier” is a analogous to the charge of gaslighting. That is, is it charge aimed at the person, not at the argument? Is the issue not whether a particular proposition is true, but whether one is the right kind of person, a person who can see and accept not what is only true but what must be truth?
I’d dismissed you as a troll but this is an interesting post, as is the first article of your blog. I will read some more tomorrow.
The ability, or more importantly the will, to seriously argue both sides of a case is not only enlightening it’s fun.
I commented recently on a mediation technique whereby one is required to seriously summarise the position of your opponent before countering. If done seriously, rather than an a straw man exercise, it becomes a debate rather than a gaslighting (as currently understood) exercise.
So, ill mannered, arrogant troll, make a case in favour of, and against, tomorrow’s essay, and smug, snide guy will try to do the same (without the benefit of a Law degree from Queens.)
Lets face it, it’s another thing for women to accuse men of doing.
I think it’s sad that a strong word with a very specific meaning has been diluted to mean no more than trying to persuade someone they’re wrong. Why has this happened? I think because the word has such a lovely sound that people can’t resist using it and also because it has victimhood built into it.
Can’t be helped, of course. Language evolves and often for the worse.
There are two sides to every story. Then there is the truth.
Quite so. What is truth is part of life’s quest.
To see ‘meaningless “mission statements” and motivational pharases’ look no further than the WEF website. What a load of old word-salad cobblers is that masquerading as saving the world.
Gaslighting is an extremely useful term to describe a certain type of insidious undermining by one person with power in a relationship of another person with less power. While I agree that it is overused, the phenomenon itself is real and can cause long-term damage. It’s not the same as arguing, at all, which is an interaction between two equals. It is part of a pattern of behaviours which result in the dominant person having control over the other person, and it takes years and years to undo the effects. Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I was sexually abused by a housefather in an orphanage for nigh on a year. He used to say that I must be a monster not to enjoy it. Gaslighting?
It seems we’re dealing with a common abuse of language: the dilution of the meaning of a word by applying it sloppily (or with intent) beyond its original scope. An example: “survivors” are no longer those that survive a dangerous situation— often one that might have killed them or others— but instead are people who underwent an unpleasant experience. The idea is to wrap a cheap idea in expensive paper.
… and “hero”. People can become heroes if they uncomplainingly endure an illness, this is not heroism, it is stoicism; they are lauded as heroes when they say something publicly that is already the accepted view.
Here, here. As in the signs hung outside all those retails stores that read, “Heroes work here”, during the pandemic. Showing up for your job as a cashier hardly makes you a hero in any realistic sense of the word.
I am a survivor of when my boss shouted at me.
You must still be traumatised, go and lie down.
It is one of my favourite films.
I also think Gas Lighting is the core on which “Stranger Things” the Netflix series turns on. The only people who know the truth are misfits and children. The Agency is super gas lighting.
The corollary of all this dissembling is when you are 18 metres underwater or 3,000 metres up on an open-sided exposed traverse I tend to find it helpful that my buddy and I agree on the truth, anything else will get you killed. I find those experiences refreshing and put all the noise in perspective.
Gaslighting is not about arguments. They are for the most part people arguing about the meaning of words.
My father who constantly cheated on my mother (he was a mental health professional) attempted to suggest she was unwell and imagining things towards the end of their marriage. Maybe she wasn’t, he was finally fired for having a relationship with a patient. No, I am not a victim and it had no effect on my onward journey, to cover another base.
Good article again from Kathleen.
The fact that a bunch of undereducated ignoramuses use a term they never bothered to look up so they would know what it actually entails doesn’t preclude the ongoing gaslighting by both political parties and their cohorts in the mainstream media. It may have originated as an evil scheme to rob someone, but it’s based on principles known since Bernays told us how useful it was to maintain political and social control over the masses.
You could just have easily cited “genocide” and “brainwashing”, two other terms eagerly bandied about on a regular basis. I could probably come up with another dozen if I set my mind to it.
Dismissing the very real fact that the public is being bombarded with carefully designed propaganda 24/7/365 is dangerous, because especially in the US, where critical thinking skills ceased being taught in public schools 40-odd years ago, it allows the march toward authoritarianism to continue unabated.
Whenever someone asks on Twitter what overused terms should be banned, I always reply “Gaslighting”. It seems to have replaced not only ‘lying’ but also less extreme concepts, especially when referring to politicians one doesn’t like – including ‘spin’, ‘exaggeration’ and even ‘saying things with which I disagree’.
Brilliant. I’ve been a bit unclear what “gaslighting” actually is, or is meant to be (understandable given its breadth of application and ubiquity) and this makes it very clear. It’s another weapon (the accusation, not the act)
“What if he had never really been clear in his own mind whether they were merely hanging out or dating, and what if Olivia had never really forced the issue in conversation either? In other words, what if this was all entirely the result of standard human ambivalence, indecision, and poor communication skills?”
Interesting. But that is not the point. Either he betrayed the relationship or he didn’t. How confused he was leading up to crossing the rubicon is utterly irrelevant. This undermining of personal responsibility, accountability and honesty to one-self (even if nobody else) is the problem and why people believe gas lighting is even a thing.
Yes, his internal justifications are immaterial – if Olivia’s telling the truth (as we must suppose), he did betray her. To use a now unfashionable phrase, he led her up the garden path. When making future plans with someone, you do have a responsibility towards them which would include telling them you don’t see your relationship as the kind that involves future plans.
It isn’t gaslighting, but it is moral cowardice at best and, more egregiously, manipulation. I feel Kathleen was much too lenient with the dismissive Ben.
I was married (not for long) to a man who, I later discovered, told everyone he was single. We had mutual friends who didn’t know we were even an item, never mind married. This was manipulative, selfish and dishonest but still not gaslighting. Gaslighting would’ve been trying to convince *me* we weren’t married! It is a real thing – just not the profusion of dishonest behaviours that Olivia and Twitter think it is.
I don’t agree. There is a moral difference between intentionally deceiving someone and being confused about what you want. I don’t think being confused absolves you of responsibility, but it clearly does muddy the waters – and intimate relationships often involve muddy waters, because of the intense nature of the feelings involved.
Fair enough, though I think gaslighting is a useful term to describe the abuser who then blames you for the abuse and tells you they are actually the ones being abused.
I never used the term. It doesn’t exist in Portuguese (I think). But in the professional realm, I have been putting things in writing for years now. It helps. “As previously discussed” “As per our last meeting”. I have found myself several times in conversational cul de sacs. I work for a person that has the ability to time travel, going back in time and change thinks according to his desire. He does that with all the staff in the company and he also has the weird ability to argue both sides of the same topic. It wasn’t always like this but now is. Sad.
The universe is gaslighting every one of us. And all creatures that feel any emotion at all.
Bravo! Brilliant article.
Gaslighting isnt convincing someone they are wrong and you are right about something.
It’s much narrower than that, it’s trying to convince someone that their perceptions are wrong and that therefore they are crazy. If people use it in a more broad nebulous sense it will cease to have any power as a word beyond every day retorts of disagreement
The “Olivia and Ben” article wasn’t as poor as Stock makes it sound. Yes, you can undermine the accusation of gaslighting by extending the description of Ben’s behaviour or (as Stock does) giving it a context in which Olivia’s narrative doesn’t quite suffice to get a conviction in the Court of Morals (our morals now being so slack). But, equally, Olivia could have given more narrative that put the accusation of gaslighting beyond all reasonable doubt (for instance, if she adduced evidence that Ben only pretended to book the Italian holiday, evidence which would have a tendency to establish he never meant it to take place). The question at issue is whether the term “gaslighting” has content, not whether it is possible to apply it wrongly (for instance, leaving out the intention to undermine somebody’s self-belief) or with insufficient justification. The “Olivia and Ben” story was quite good at answering the first question, but didn’t address the other two.
“When a man I had been seeing told me we were never dating, I felt it in my stomach. The sheer injustice of those words.”
I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want to date someone this entitled.
Interesting article but just to be clear, what are the dodgy ideas behind disability studies? I’ve heard a few fellow disabled people making hyperbolic remarks but to me the basic idea of the ‘social model’ seems pretty sound. Please excuse me if I don’t reply to your comment right away. I needed sighted help when posting up this comment as even with access technology this website isn’t as easy to use as it might be. Oh look, that’s an example of the ‘social model’!
Well done. I put the wildly misused term in the same category as “what aboutism” and “yeah but”: merely a means to derail discussion about a given issue and deployed by one losing an argument.
I understand that the word ‘gaslighting’ is rude and unpleasant so …. GO AWAY
This teacup tempest called ‘gaslighting’ is yet another variant of the so-called logic trap that uses the Other’s objection to an assertion as proof the assertion is, in fact, accurate. The more we struggle to escape the Tar Baby the more inextricably we become entangled.
You assert X; I counter with Y…and then you accuse me of ‘gaslighting’ you — trying to convince you you’re wrong, when clearly you are not!
And how do we know you’re not wrong? Because I’m gaslighting you. I obviously wouldn’t be gaslighting you (trying to convince you you’re wrong) unless obviously you were right.
And how do you know I’m gaslighting you? Because I’m trying to convince you you’re wrong!
Implicit in this nonsense is the bedrock assumption that one is ALWAYS RIGHT (thus any counter-assertions or ‘proof’ that one is not right can only be gaslighting).
Kafka-trapping of any type is insane, of course, but the only way to avoid this particular idiot tar baby is to avoid it absolutely.
Unfortunately avoiding it absolutely requires that we NOT engage in argument absolutely. If I assert A and you know B is correct, then the very act of trying to convince me of B, convinces me instead (via Gas Lighting) that my assertion of A is 100% right (AND, that YOU are a Gaslighter!)
Kafka Trapping is more typically associated with accusations of racism / sexism. ‘That’s a racist thing to say!” The heated rejoinder, ‘No, it’s not’, becomes, via the K-Trap, proof positive that you are: “That’s just what a racist/sexist would say.”
For the True Believer, those convinced absolutely in the absolute rightness of their dogmatic Belief Narrative, it’s hopeless. They can’t be helped because every attempt to extract them from their ideological briar patch simply pushes them further in.
So how has this notion of Gaslighting come so strongly into vogue? Why now?
Ideological isolation coupled with ideological certainty leads only to the utter diminishment of the ability to reason. Why reason…why evaluate, analyze, and question when you already KNOW? Why bother with evidence when you’re already certain of what that evidence will prove? (and if it doesn’t, obviously you’re being gaslighted!)
The Left KNOWS that the Arc of History bends Left. They know EXACTLY and in advance the only possible answer to every possible question. Go down the list: Green New Deal, Climate Change, Gender Fluidity, Gender Identity, Masking, Sexual Assault, Glass Ceilings, Orgasm Gaps, Open Borders, Carbon footprints, Children should vote, the Horrible Terrible No Good History of all of Western Civilization! We’ve heard the same answers from every Progressive talking head since forever. (Can we get some more global apology tours!?)
And any and every attempt to prove the world is actually different? There you go…gaslighting me again!
Fundamental to all this is the rejection of the Absolute. If there is no Heaven, no Hell…then everything’s permissible. Reality becomes whatever we say it is. My lived truth, no better, no worse than your lived truth….and all lived truths. What matter is my own feelings about my own subjective experience. If I say you’re a racist, you’re a racist. If I say I’ve been assaulted, then I’ve been assaulted. If I say I’m a woman with a p***s, then I’m a woman with a p***s! And — If I say the world is ending, then it’s ending (and by God you’d better do something about it NOW). #BelieveMeAlways
Sooner or later, of course, Reality will triumph. It always does. In the meantime down the Rabbit Hole we go!
“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum: “but it isn’t so, nohow.”
“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”
“I was thinking,” Alice said very politely, “which is the best way out of this wood: it’s getting so dark. Would you tell me, please?”
But the little men only looked at each other and grinned.
Gaslighting involves one person knowingly telling another lies so that the other, who believes what is true, changes his or her mind and instead believes the lies. If an argument involves two people stating what they both believe to be true, then neither is gaslighting.
I did not learn much at university law ” moots” or my cases as a ” frivellous and vexatious litigant” aka as a frustrated non- barrister who didnt manage his post grad exams…. BUT… I did learn the basics of debate, argument and polemics. Rest assured that it an empirical impossibilty to argue with people who do not understand that heresay, speculation, and conjecture are not evidence, and that evidence is fact, expertise and/ or ” first hand” backed and based. The corollary to this state of affairs is that if one does ” stress test” one’s opponent in argument on these bases, all you achieve is anger and emotion from your ” opposition”- it is a pointless excercise.
Liz Truss gaslighting? What do you mean?
Another term that’s become misused and over-used to such an extent that it’s now effectively useless. More often deployed as a passive-aggressive weapon by people who just don’t want to face the possibility they might be wrong about something and to engage in mature reflection and discussion about it.
Excellent article on a term the use of which has similarly been irritating me. I find it bemusing and alarming that many people seem to be able to be suspicious of the motives of others but not see that their own motives might also be dubious. Or more generally, that people can decide that someone is the victim in a certain interaction and then blind themselves to the possibility that even a victim may have persecutory motives.
“or Liz Truss towards everyone”
An unworthy cheap shot at someone who is down.
top marks for quoting Rick & Morty at the end
I just thought people who use the term “gaslighting” were the types who hold a lite match to their backsides a little too much.
Is it really only heterosexual women who accuse men of mensplaining? I would have thought that lesbians suffer from it equally. Is Kathleen stock trying to gaslight us heterosexual women? Or am I “just f-ing crazy”?!
Too many long words like pathologise.
While it’s certainly true that the term gaslighting is now trendy and overused, it has also become the modus operandi of many in the political world. Trump continues to lie about losing the 2020 election, and claims that anyone arguing against this is evil and crazy. He has the majority of a major political party going along with this. And that is truly crazy. And they will then accuse me of gaslighting them in turn by saying this. Qanon has become the mindset of many, and that’s truly gaslighting of the worst kind.
Gaslighting by the media…this article is about domestic abuse…sadly making the modern opinion that an over used term means its ‘rare’ sadly a I know someone who took their own life and gasliting was very much ignored and a major reason why they took their own life. Its so easy to read up on this and make a judgement without ‘knowing the truth’
I agree its easy to jump on a phrase that the media is using…particularly in cases involving famous people but sadly the reality of domestic abuse is being ignored for multiple reasons and the recent media depictions in TV drama do not highlight enough that women and men are not believed!
Sadly this interesting article has been used to bring up aggressive political issues…the manipulation of the masses by media and politicians is age old and deserves a different discussion than this one