Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group. It makes them question their own memory, perception and sanity.
The tactic relies on persistent denial, contradiction and lying in an attempt to delegitimize the victim’s belief.
Gaslighting … the term “gaslighting” comes from a 1938 play, and subsequent 1944 film adaptation, in which a murdering husband manipulates and confuses his wife by dimming the gas lights in their home and then denying it’s happening.
“It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.”
Psychologist Bryant Welch, who wrote a 2008 book entitled State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind, told NBC News that President Donald Trump uses the tactic regularly with the American people.
Said Welch: “The very state of confusion they are creating is a political weapon in and of itself. If you make people confused, they are vulnerable. By definition they don’t know what to do.”
He added: “You come in and undercut their trust in the established sources of information. It tells them to go ahead and hate this person who is delivering bad news. Then you begin to substitute your own news, your own version of reality. If Donald Trump can undercut America’s trust in all media, he then starts to own them and can start to literally implant his own version of reality.”
This is a tactic which the Tories have been using. They have been gaslighting half the country, and causing confusion over the withdrawal from the European Union.
Parliament seems to have become a pantomime of confusion, a farce going nowhere. Brexit became something everyone was talking about and no one wanted to hear any more about. It became an obsession, polarising voters who had to be in one camp or another.
There was talk of indicative votes, single markets, red lines, and backstops, bad deals, and no deals, revokes, and repeals. The intention is that the confusion distracts from the real issues facing our people.
Among the confusion the government shifted one way and the other, and no one knew what would be the outcome. Did the government support a deal or not? Did the Tories support Leave or Remain? Were the Tories just rallying support from voters ahead of a General Election? With the Brexit Party doing so well in the EU election, was it really just about Boris Johnson trying to save the Tory Party, who really want to stay in the EU anyway?
Referring to a popular term for a false impression about the reality of a situation, Labour MP Alex Sobel said that Mr Johnson’s “willingness to gaslight the British public seems to have no limits”.
Mr Sobel, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum, said: “Recently, Boris Johnson was claiming that the chance of crashing out of the EU in a disastrous no deal was ‘a million to one’ but just a few weeks later it’s “touch and go”.
“The catastrophe of no deal is the opposite of what Boris Johnson and other leave campaigners promised in 2016. Yet now they are trying to impose this disaster on the country against the wishes of the majority of the public and of parliament. It is an affront to our democracy.”
Meanwhile, all this has done is distract voters from real issues facing this country. Ordinary people are more concerned about whether they can find good affordable homes, whether their NHS hospital will stay open and be adequately funded, whether they have enough money in the bank to pay for their groceries, whether they can afford tuition fees for their further study, and whether we can trust the government to take on the Climate Crisis which is way, way more important than Brexit.
These are the issues which must be heard during the election campaign, even though Conservative Party would very much like a confused electorate. They may want to control our thinking, but the voters can think for themselves and know we need to rebuild our society, and reject the destruction which the Tories have inflicted on us all. There is no confusion about that. We need a Labour government. And we need it now.