If you’ve never seen the 1944 classic “Gaslight,” it’s worth the $3.99 at Amazon Prime, if only for the cast. But watching it will also help you understand why people keep throwing the term around in political terms today.
In the movie, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) marries Paula Alquest (Ingrid Bergman) and then attempts to make her think she’s going crazy through various small things like hiding a brooch he had given her as an important sentimental gift so that she’ll think she lost the precious, irreplaceable family heirloom.
I won’t spoiler the rest, but that’s enough to indicate why people are using the term to indicate lies intended to make us think we’ve gone mad.
An important part of the challenge is in sorting the knaves from the fools. For instance, does Chip Bok (Creators) genuinely not know that the money shipped to Iran in 2016 was their own, the previous regime’s payment for weaponry that was frozen at the fall of the Shah, then returned to them as part of an easing of sanctions?
He may, himself, be a victim of Donald Trump’s gaslighting, since Trump revived the old falsehood.
And then, given Trump’s inability to focus on his briefings, it’s hard to know when he was deliberately lying and when he was simply repeating some foolishness he’d heard on Fox News.
So it’s a lie, but it’s hard to pin the blame on Bok or Trump except that commentators and politicians have a moral responsibility to confirm their statements.
And the difference between intentional falsehoods and either laziness or incompetence doesn’t much matter if it leads voters to believe things that simply aren’t true.
It’s like comparing the inexperienced young fellow who has one too many at an office party and causes a fatal accident to the person who drinks to excess regularly and is driving on a suspended license when he plows into another car.
The distinction doesn’t matter to the victims.
And even First Amendment absolutists might ask Kirk Walters (KFS) if he has specific information indicating that terrorists plan to target the United States moreso than they did a month or a year ago?
It’s fair commentary to say that we should have stayed in Afghanistan, propping up the government, if you believe that’s why there have been no attacks from that quarter in 20 years.
But it’s also reasonable to worry over stirring up Islamophobia at a time when we are on the verge of welcoming 50,000 well-verified Afghani refugees, given the number of armed nutcases we’ve already seen murdering Latinos under the impression that immigrants are damaging the nation.
Gary Varvel (Creators) even includes immigrants as one of the disasters being visited upon the United States by an angry and vengeful God, along with mandates by which I assume he means vaccinations and masks.
Well, maybe we’ve forgotten God.
And maybe Varvel has forgotten Leviticus. You want some mandates? Look there.
Check off the ones you have not been obeying. Or, if it’s easier, the ones you have.
And don’t forget this one:
33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
There’s nothing in Leviticus about ice cream, but Bob Gorrell (Creators) is only one of several rightwing cartoonists to jump on Biden for liking the stuff. Again, I don’t know if that makes it a conspiracy or a mass delusion or simply a case of playing follow-the-leader.
It apparently stems from a time when the president got an ice cream cone and the press asked him about it, to the horror of Fox News and its adherents.
I’ve criticized the White House press corps often enough that I’m not going to disagree that they should address weightier matters, but I don’t think they dwelt much on this: I never saw the ice cream story and, when it popped up on cartoon after cartoon, had to look it up to see what the deal was.
But, yes, this was the first time in American history that the press had ever covered presidential ice cream.
Well, perhaps not quite the first.
Or maybe I’m crazy. Keep telling me until I believe it.
Jeff Stahler (AMS) points out that Fox News and other anti-vax spreaders are out of touch with what made American great, which was a loyalty not to political parties but to, as the Constitution puts it, a shared mission among Americans “to promote the general welfare.”
He’s hardly the first to point out the number of vaccines we readily accept and the good they have done, but his accusation against Fox is an excellent fit for discussing the topic of gaslighting.
The Miami/Dade school district has already, in the first two weeks of their year, seen 15 deaths among teachers and support staff.
Thank god they’re defying their governor and insisting on masks, but they didn’t, apparently, impose a vaccination mandate, and so now the children are learning a lesson that isn’t in the curriculum.
If not, maybe they’d learn better with one of those fables in which animals demonstrate the moral of the story. This one by Bruce MacKinnon seems apt, though it reminds me of my dismay when my boys brought home textbooks in which Aesop’s dire warnings were softened so as not to be unpleasant.
The one that put me over the edge was the classic story of the fox in the well, in which, trapped and facing doom, he shouts up to a passing goat that the water down there is wonderful and invites him to come try it. The goat jumps down for a sample, and the fox then springs upon his back and thence to safety, leaving the goat to perish for his gullibility.
In their new, more cheerful version, the fox says “I’ll help you out this time, but, next time, look before you leap!”
Teaching our children to trust upon the good nature of foxes is how we raise a generation of gaslit goats.
Yes, it’s time we guessed your name, and the nature of your game.