Gaslight (1944)

Gaslighting is someone trying to convince you that you cannot trust your own judgement; you’re better off trusting the gaslighter. I’ve come to realise that gaslighting is a problem only if the victim refuses to accept it. It is otherwise the basis of a particular kind of civilization. 

In such a civilization, it makes no sense to fight the people who are trying to ‘help’ you. You can’t get into trouble for believing what you’re told to believe. Now the strife has ended. There is unity and harmony.  For a civilization, social cohesion is more important than doing things in the way that makes most sense.  An army, led by a liar, is more effective than a democratically-organized rabble.

Paradoxically, a culture of gaslighting is therefore ‘fitter’ than one which is not. It gets more stuff done. Whether you want that stuff, is again, a subject of gaslighting.

It is another irony of gaslighting that a recalcitrant victim is always the bad-faith actor.  There might be two bad-faith actors, but there is at least this one. Why? The accusation of gaslighting is so serious, observers cringe. It threatens social cohesion. Observers amplify any doubt or possible reinterpretation as possible exit strategies.  Since nice people give the benefit of doubt, observers can be certain that at least the recalcitrant victim is not nice.

It is this cult of doubt, more than the actual act of gaslighting, that makes gaslighting a nightmare.  One can stare down a liar, but not surrounded by the moans from a doubting chorus.

It has never mattered that I have been able to convince observers of gaslighting episodes.  Person X said Y when it can be shown that he knew Z. The next day, observers embrace doubt for the sake of social cohesion. “Are you sure it wasn’t a misunderstanding?”

I get it that social cohesion is better than social dissolution, and by this metric, I’m indeed a bad person.  Unfortunately, the cohesion of a gaslighting culture is no priority to me.  I will do nothing to preserve it. I refuse to be both a victim and the bad faith party. It’s infuriating.

Choosing strife for the sake of mental peace seems paradoxical — however, I can understand why the Ukrainians, after years of cringing before a menacing and lying Russia, suddenly embraced war. They could have welcomed their old masters and thereby avoided wide-spread destruction and loss of life. The answer? It is a great relief.

Just can’t take it anymore. Sorry.

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