I’m Stumped
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I’m Stumped

Your Gaslighting is Gaslighting

A friend tagged me in the post below. I think this is a perfect example of why Trump was elected and why we have such a hard time not constantly fighting each other over every issue.

Gaslighting is, of course, a real phenomenon. But the problem with accusing someone of doing it is that it is really in the eye of the beholder. To you one of the examples below is gaslighting. To me, Trump soliciting a bribe from a foreign government and then telling the public there was nothing wrong with the conversation is gaslighting.

In other words, anyone saying anything that contradicts your view of the facts can be considered gaslighting. So, while it is a real thing, employed by everyone from politicians to rebellious teenagers, I’m not sure it makes a point either way in terms of the current political landscape other than that Trump is probably the “best” at it of anyone I have ever witnessed.

But more to the point I made at the beginning, here are my two main takeaways from this post.

First, the 2016 election revealed that a huge amount of people in this country feel exactly like the author of that post. They feel like they are not being heard and not allowed to be heard because when they try to speak their minds, some liberal or member of the media tells them they are backwards, racist, ignorant, etc. So, they feel like suddenly they are being made the enemies for standing up for the “good” things they believe this country has always stood for: law and order, freedom, respect of authority, traditional family values, capitalism, apple pie, puppies, etc. So when Trump came along, even if he was a terrible unprincipled man, he started telling all those people, you’re not backward racists, you are true Americans.

That felt good. Really, really good. Good enough to ignore all of the signs that Trump is unfit for the office. Finally, someone was making the world make sense again. Ok, maybe he should have a better filter, but in the end, he at least recognizes reality and stands up for the everyday Joe that the liberals on the coasts are constantly trying to slam. The exact dichotomy referenced in the post above.

Meanwhile, the “liberals” on the coasts were seeing terrible problems especially in the large cities. People were not breaking out of poverty. Racial minorities continued to stay in the same negative cycles regardless of their own efforts. The more they examined the issues, the more they saw problems with the systems in place. Whether it was law enforcement or prisons or equality in the workplace, the same problems kept coming up over and over and the old solutions weren’t working. Many of the most vulnerable people were feeling abused and treated unfairly and their complaints made sense. For those stuck in the negative cycles, they became frustrated and angry. For those who could see the issues, they became frustrated on their behalf. So they began to question traditional ways of thinking. The current systems were built by a certain kind of person and they mostly work for that kind of person. If someone of a different color, gender, race, etc operates in the system, they can find success, but it is much much harder and less common.

The people who created the systems don’t see it because they never experience anything other than the systems working well and so they assume that if someone has trouble with the systems, it is their fault. And to question the systems is to force them to examine themselves to determine if perhaps they are part of the problem. As I said in a recent post about admitting when you’re wrong, Americans really do not like this type of exercise.

But to everyone else, the systems seem broken and they can’t figure out how the people who created it don’t see that too. So they started coming up with new systems and new ideas. They were able to identify little things and big things that were making it hard on the people who didn’t create the systems. Ways of talking, ways of thinking about things, etc. And they adopted those things as “obviously” good and discarded the traditional ways of doing things. But they did all of that without ever talking to people who built the systems or considering their point of view as anything but outdated and wrong. Instead of reaching out and bringing them along, they started demonizing them and fighting them and calling them bigots. And because the people outside the systems live in the cities and the cities control the media, Hollywood and Madison avenue began to widen the divide. They showed the new liberal way of thinking as if it came to them in a divine vision as opposed to a painstaking thoughtful process. A process that was not experienced by the system creators. Meanwhile, the builders of the systems started to feel like they were losing their minds and their voice.

Neither side talked to the other until both were so dug in that all they could do was yell and accuse. But both think they are being gaslighted (gaslit?) by the other because each sees their own reality and can only see the other distorting it. The post below presents one of those perspectives. I could easily write one that would portray the other.

That’s how a loathsome buffoon became President.

Trump has no political philosophy or principles. He was not active in any party because he supported whoever made him money. But then a few jokes about running got some “but what if you did?”s and became plans. So, lacking ideas of his own, he bought a franchise that would get him elected. That franchise was to adopt those things that the creators of the systems seemed to care about. Never mind that most of those things were things Trump had publicly criticized or or just eschewed personally. So, he bought the franchise and called himself a Republican as it seemed to fit best and he was probably still pissed at Obama for tax policies that cost him money. He opened up a bag and in it he placed Christianity, White Supremacy, Pro-Life, Pro-Law and Order, Pro-Military, Anti-Immigration, Pro American Symbols and the like. To be clear, he could not care less about any of those things and most of them he doesn’t even understand what they mean (which is why he says dumb stuff about the military and seems to contradict himself at every turn).

And he was right. The franchise duped the public into voting for him because the system creators desperately wanted to feel like they were still right and have someone who would stick up for them against the media backed left. The post below could be a flyer for that franchise. Don’t think about these issues. Don’t listen to the people really experiencing them. Just “go with your gut” and if that tells you the world is going crazy, then it must be true. In other words, trust the systems that have worked for you in the past and give no thought about how they are working for anyone else and if you do, blame them. There is no nuance or balance to the things listed above. They are simply a recitation of traditional thinking demonstrating an unwillingness to accept the idea that there could be another perspective with just as much logical force as your gut is showing you here.

Second (yes that was all just the first one), this post is a mildly clever reframing of an argument to allow for a canned response and avoid nuance or complexity. The author sets up this false argument (sometimes called a “straw man” in debate lingo) that is easily struck down, but is also not representative of the real argument. For example, the argument on Covid is that Trump critic’s are arguing that NY did it right because some democrats have complimented Cuomo given their recovery from their Covid disaster. That is easily struck down by pointing out that NY was a disaster at first. But that’s not the real debate. I read a lot and have never heard someone try to justify their Covid position solely by heralding Cuomo. I have plenty to say about how Trump handled Covid and it has nothing to do with NYC. I’m no supporter of Cuomo. It’s irrelevant. It would be like picking out some small town, pointing to their positive covid numbers and saying, clearly Trump’s policies work. It’s a fake argument, and not even one that people are making.

Or the next point about protests, you see the same thing. No rational person is claiming the protests have been peaceful. Rather, there is a debate about who is instigating the violence (and possibly a more minority debate about whether violence is justified). But this post says nothing about that because it doesn’t fit the argument. So instead they raise the straw man that people are claiming the protests contain no violence (which they clearly do), skip the questions that matter about who is causing it and how we should address it, and move right to striking down their straw man argument that never mattered in the first place.

And so it goes. If the position is law enforcement is the only cause of problems in the City, then it is an easy argument to strike down. But I don’t really hear people saying that and certainly don’t believe it myself. I’m not saying no one has said that, but it’s easy to take the most radical fringe argument on instead of addressing those people trying to make a more complex point about a very complex problem. The fact that there is a lot of crime does not mean that there is no racial component to law enforcement. Another fake argument.

So, my overall point is this. This kind of thinking is what brought us Trump. People trying to progress our thinking beyond the systems that serve only a few did not adequately consider the value in convincing the people that created the systems that there might be a better way. Instead, they tried to shame and bully them into submission and those people became so upset they were willing to elect anyone who would take up their cause no matter how disgusting or unqualified that person is. And now, both sides keep their ears shut and their mouths open and try to score points with logic games, ad hominem attacks, appeals to fear and straw men arguments that no one is making but are easily mowed down to make ourselves feel better about our own positions.

It’s getting us nowhere except farther apart. That’s no gaslight. That’s bringing the ugliness of our reality into the light. My question then for you is, when will you be tired of shouting into the echo chamber enough to consider a different tact?

NOW THE POST I WAS TAGGED IN: Not my words or sentiment.

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘am I crazy?’ If you have ever asked yourself

that, you’re not crazy. You’re most likely being gaslighted. Gaslighting is

a form of psychological abuse aimed at controlling a person by altering

reality to the point where the person will doubt their own sanity.

The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1930’s play called Gas Light. The main

character in the play literally tries to drive his wife crazy by gradually

dimming the gas-powered lights in their home. When she notices the lights

dimming, her husband not only denies that the lights are dimming, he

convinces her that she is imagining it to the point where she questions her

own sanity.

We are living in a perpetual state of gaslighting. The reality that we are

being told by the media is at complete odds with what we are seeing with

our own two eyes. And when we question the false reality that we are being

presented, or we claim that what we see is that actual reality, we are

vilified as racist or bigots or just plain crazy. You’re not racist. You’re

not crazy. You’re being gaslighted.

New York State has twice as many deaths from Covid-19 than any other

state, and New York has accounted for one fifth of all Covid-19 deaths, but

we are told that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled the pandemic

better than any other governor. But if we support policies of Governors

whose states had only a fraction of the infections and deaths as New York,

we’re called anti-science and want people to die. So, we ask ourselves, am

I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

We see mobs of people looting stores, smashing windows, setting cars on

fire and burning down buildings, but we are told that these demonstrations

are peaceful protests. And when we call this destruction of our cities,

riots, we are called racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re

being gaslighted.

We see the major problem destroying many inner-cities is crime; murder,

gang violence, drug dealing, drive-by shootings, armed robbery, but we are

told that it is not crime, but the police that are the problem in the

inner-cities. We are told we must defund the police and remove law

enforcement from crime-riddled cities to make them safer. But if we

advocate for more policing in cities overrun by crime, we are accused of

being white supremacists and racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No,

you’re being gaslighted.

The United States of America accepts more immigrants than any other country

in the world. The vast majority of the immigrants are “people of color”,

and these immigrants are enjoying freedom and economic opportunity not

available to them in their country of origin, but we are told that the

United States is the most racist and oppressive country on the planet, and

if we disagree, we are called racist and xenophobic. So, we ask ourselves,

am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Capitalist countries are the most prosperous countries in the world. The

standard of living is the highest in capitalist countries. We see more poor

people move up the economic ladder to the middle and even the wealthy class

through their effort and ability in capitalist countries than any other

economic system in the world, but we are told capitalism is an oppressive

system designed to keep people down. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No,

you’re being gaslighted.

Communist countries killed over 100 million people in the 20th century.

Communist countries strip their citizens of basic human rights, dictate

every aspect of their lives, treat their citizens like slaves, and drive

their economies into the ground, but we are told that Communism is the

fairest, most equitable, freest and most prosperous economic system in the

world. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

The most egregious example of gaslighting is the concept of “white

fragility”. You spend your life trying to be a good person, trying to treat

people fairly and with respect. You disavow racism and bigotry in all its

forms. You judge people solely on the content of their character and not by

the color of their skin. You don’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity.

But you are told you are a racist, not because of something you did or

said, but solely because of the color of your skin. You know instinctively

that charging someone with racism because of their skin color is itself

racist. You know that you are not racist, so you defend yourself and your

character, but you are told that your defense of yourself is proof of your

racism. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Gaslighting has become one of the most pervasive and destructive tactics in

American politics. It is the exact opposite of what our political system

was meant to be. It deals in lies and psychological coercion, and not the

truth and intellectual discourse. If you ever ask yourself if you’re crazy,

you are not. Crazy people aren’t sane enough to ask themselves if they’re

crazy. So, trust yourself, believe what’s in your heart. Trust our eyes

over what we are told. Never listen to the people who tell you that you are

crazy, because you are not, you’re being gaslighted.


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Joshua Stump

I am a Dad, a husband, a son, a brother, a follower of Jesus, a lawyer, a songwriter, and just generally someone with a lot of strong opinions about stuff.