Gaslighting is when a person or organization makes their victim question reality in order to gain a power stance over them. It is a common tactic of dictators, abusers, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is typically done over a longer period of time, so the victim doesn’t realize they are being gaslighted.
In this current societal era that we are in, gaslight is all the rage!
The phrase was actually created in a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton titled “Gaslight” in which a husband carefully, gradually, and diabolically manipulates his wife into thinking that she has lost her mind. The play was then made into a film and starred Ingrid Bergman.
But the corporate version of gaslighting remains the same. Carefully, gradually and diabolically manipulating people to be brainwashed into whatever you want them to believe.
In psychological terms, it almost always happens the same way. It starts with the victim questioning the small things, such as whether they heard a detail incorrectly. Then it moves to bigger things such as whether what they heard or saw really happened. Over time, it breaks down the confidence of the person until they have lost all touch with reality.
And I believe, America, that we are being gaslit (gaslighted?) today.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic, the COVID (said just like a typical old person).
Everyone should be confused by the mixed messages of public health experts right now. That isn’t gaslighting. That is simply the public health experts going through something they have never gone through before and learning along the way.
But when we see from our own government, who is the one who is filtering the information we receive, a constant stream of gaslighting, then we know that we are in perilous times. It starts with everyone’s favorite target, the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Actually, it doesn’t start there. It starts with all the lobbyists on both sides of the political spectrum. You see, just like all of us, Trump is a pawn. He would never agree that he is simply a pawn, but he is. He needs to listen, not to his advisors, but to the millions of people in the country who are his supporters if he plans to get his way in office.
The public health experts have been telling us what would happen if we didn’t follow their suggestions of social distancing, wearing masks, and shutting everything down completely for a short time.
But unfortunately, the lobbyists won out. The people with the true money won out.
It started great. Let’s shut everything down for a time.
Home Depot, you can stay open because people are going to need something to do while they are stuck at home. Oh, and grocery stores, you can stay open because no one can go out and get 2 weeks-worth of rations, you need to stay open in case some family just can’t live without their filet mignon for the next couple weeks. Restaurants, you can stay open too, but you can only do outside seating and curbside pickup.
SIDE STORY: When all this hit, I ran to one of our grocery stores and started to purchase some food with my dad. I kid you not, as we walked by the seafood counter, there was a woman purchasing 6 live lobsters from the tank and she wanted to pick each one out individually so that she got the best ones.
Anyway, once the lobbyists heard that some stores would remain open, then everyone lobbied to stay open.
Let me give you an example. I live in Maryland. Governor Hogan, who I think started by trying to do the right thing, ended up allowing himself to be gaslit.
Let’s start with March 5. He puts out a press release about the first 3 positive cases of COVID in Maryland. He said not to panic but to stay informed with him at his press conference that night.
That same night, he declared a state of emergency. Basically that is a gaslight phrase in and of itself which says (according to Governor Hogan’s own site): “A state of emergency is a good indicator that residents should remain alert and follow officials’ orders and news stations in order to be informed of the situation.”
The state of emergency allowed the governor to begin the discussions with all the organizations throughout the state about getting plans in place for a larger issue.
On March 6, he gave updates as to the 3 patients and tell everyone that COVID testing will be free as insurers waive the costs of it.
On March 8, he announced 2 more cases.
By the 9th of March, he created a COVID Response Team of medical experts around the state. It was during this time that each person who contracted the virus was news in and of itself.
On March 10, he met with his first lobbyist group, the group who lobby for the long-term care facilities. They came up with an entire list of things to keep the older residents safe. He also met with the lobbyist group for colleges and universities. They came up with a 2-week plan to close campuses during spring break timeframe.
By March 11, he had met with several other concerned groups, mostly state government, to come up with plans for them. The MVA was going to appointments only, the prisons were not allowing visits, the veteran’s affairs were not allowing people in.
Then March 12th happened. This is where Hogan decided to take action. He started by activating the National Guard. He then banned groups of 250 or more as well as closing all senior centers around the state. He closed all schools in the state until March 27th. He also rolled out a lot more restrictions on people coming in from international travel and cruises and locked down the medical system even more.
These are good things. They are a process of learning for someone who has never been through this before. I applauded Hogan for the steps he was taking and the speed at which he did it. (For those of you who want to use this as a soundbite in the future, please don’t, this is not going to end in a flattering way for Hogan).
This where the plan starts to buckle.
On March 14th, he decided to expand the childcare programs in Maryland so that they would stay open. He was starting to hear from the lobbyists that their group of people still had to go to work and needed to have childcare in order for them to continue.
While I don’t envy the decision he had to make, it was a mistake. And it was the first of many that he would make along the way.
On March 15th he closed down casinos. On March 16th he closed down theatres, fitness centers, spas, bars and restaurants. BUT, in order to allow them to keep income flowing, he allowed restaurants to have carry-out, drive-thu, and delivery services. That’s a little crazy. There were absolutely no directives to restaurants and bars about employees, only how to keep them open.
Also, on March 16th, he prohibited groups larger than 50 people. It is at this point that the religious community got involved. But not all religious communities were vocal about it. Keep in mind that ALL retail was still open at this time except fitness, theatres, spas, and indoor only restaurants.
March 17th he must have been getting calls because he put out what he calls “interpretive guidance.” Now food courts inside of malls are still ok to keep open, so are food trucks. Barber shops and hairstylists are ok to keep open, but not spas.
On March 18 we had our first COVID death in the state. On the 19th, Hogan “tightened” things down more. This is where he starts listening to the lobbyists more than fearing the virus.
On the 19th, he prohibited gatherings of larger than 10 people. He again closed all restaurants, unless they are able to do carry-out, drive-thru, or delivery (just to be clear, he didn’t do anything different to them). He closed malls. He didn’t close any other retail establishments, but he closed malls. And he closed down any amusement-type business. He also required all state colleges and universities to finish the spring semester online at this time.
This is where the true mistake was made. He, on the 19th, allowed delivery and carry-out of alcohol. How, on any earth, is that essential?!?! He has immediately turned from someone I had respect for to someone who is now starting to gaslight for the purpose of keeping the lobbyists happy.
Also on the 19th, more interpretive guidance came out that said that convenience stores can remain open, as well as grocery stores.
March 23rd is the next mistake in a line of many. He closed all non-essential businesses. But he tried to keep all parties happy by telling everyone that this is “not a shelter-in-place” order.
But let’s look at those non-essential businesses:
- All the former businesses he already closed
- But restaurants and bars can still delivery food/alcohol and have carry-out and drive-thru
- And retail establishments that have their own door to the outside can continue operations.
- He added golf courses and social clubs now to the list.
- He listed a website of cisa.gov and when you get in there, it is one of the biggest, most confusing, websites I have ever tried to navigate to find information easily. Here is what the interpretive guidance on the Hogan website says can remain open:
- Laundry services
- The media can remain open (that is interesting)
- Defense contractors
- Law/Rescue services
- Energy services
- All financial services
- Grocery stores
- Convenience stores
- Farmer’s Markets (???)
- Alcoholic distributors
- Pet supply stores
- All healthcare
- IT services
- All forms of transportation (although he said in the same order that Marylanders were not to leave the state)
- Staffing services
- Door to door salespeople (he discouraged it, but didn’t discontinue it)
That is a long list. But that isn’t it. I guess he got a lot of calls from people wondering if their business was on the list. So there is more interpretive guidance that came out on the same day on who could remain open.
- Car dealerships
- Bike shops
- Moving companies (but I thought we couldn’t move anywhere out of state and were suggested to stay indoors)
- Tool rental companies
- Party rental companies
- All retail except indoor malls
But wait…there’s more! On the 24th he came out with more interpretive guidance on what can remain open:
- Trash pickup
- Residential cleaning services
And now we get to even MORE ridiculousness. If you deem your organization as essential, you should give all your employees a letter that says why they are essential in case it is challenged. Oh, and slipped into this latest order is that clergy is deemed non-essential. But we are allowed to have a skeleton crew that can keep the day to day operations of the facility going.
Isn’t that most churches? Most are just 1 or 2 people trying to get everything done.
But I guess the churches were starting to chomp at the bit a little. So on April 1, Governor Hogan put out directives to churches:
- You are allowed to have a drive-in religious service
- You may have indoor services if:
- They are under 10 people
- There is no physical interaction
- Everyone 6 feet apart and wearing masks
- A 4 hour gap in between services (and, yet, Home Depot or Safeway can allow in unlimited people all day long with no gap in between, interesting)
Effective April 18, everyone must wear face masks and socially distance themselves. The face mask MUST cover both mouth and nose. Under age of 2 doesn’t have to wear one. Between 2-9 the parent is supposed to do everything they can to get their child to wear one. Age 9 and above is required.
By April 20th, we now close down all barber shops and hairstylists.
By May 13th, the guidance came out that the following could reopen:
- Pet shelters
- Art galleries
- Car washes
- Pawn shops
- Tobacco and vape stores
By May 13th we enter phase 1, which allowed all those businesses above to reopen.
Why do I write all of this?
It is to show that even Governor Hogan, a highly respected state official, can become the victim of gaslighting. He was led astray by his advisers and lobbyists. When all it would have taken was closing the state down completely for a matter of time, now we have a long, drawn-out problem that is resurging again.
Remember I mentioned Trump above? Well, he has his own gaslighting moments, but so do all the other organizations that are trying to gain all the power.
So when you are listening to all the pundits and the voices and the media, ask yourself these few simple questions to determine if they are gaslighting you:
- Are they trivializing how you feel about the situation?
- Are they saying that your thoughts are not valid?
- Are they saying things that they later deny they said?
- Basically, are they in it for the power or are they in it to effectively take care of the people they serve? This is a good question to ask whether it is politics, relationships, church, work, or whatever.
So there you have it. We are being gaslighted (gaslit?). So now it is time to do something about it. Educate yourself so you know the signs.