Gaslighting describes the act of professing skepticism, disbelief, or denial of another person’s lived experience, feelings, or perceptions of reality. It’s one thing to disagree respectfully with someone; it’s another thing altogether to deny the validity of their point of view to the point of aggression, and attack them with hostility. Gaslighters are engaging in a kind of covert aggression, manipulating people into distrusting themselves, their thinking abilities, and even their own self-esteem.

Gaslighting is a favorite tactic of narcissists and a common feature of narcissistic abuse. It is also a goto tool in the arsenal of sexual abusers and traffickers, who leverage the often “he said / she said” nature of the interactions in question to twist the story in a more favorable direction to themselves. Considering they have no qualms about abusing others and treating them as objects for their personal pleasure, they have no trouble lying for the cover story on top of it — in fact, they get additional sadistic pleasure and narcissistic supply from overpowering the victim’s protests in a kind of retraumatization ritual that may occur many times in the lifetime of an abusive relationship.

a narcissist gaslighting, by Midjourney

Gaslighting in propaganda

Beyond the interpersonal realm, gaslighting is also used in and by institutions, and by business, religious, political, and other leaders in society to avoid consequences for wrongdoing. Gaslighting is a powerful propaganda tool, and was wielded in the form of a crude hammer by the Worst President of All Time.

When used as a tool in politics, the tactic veers into psychological warfare territory. Joseph Goebbels was the most infamous gaslighter pre-Trump, and we ought to really take stock of that fact.

Gaslighting is a dangerous psychological weapon of mind control, being wielded casually by Congressional GOP and Republican candidates up and down the ballot as if it weren’t an overt domestic attack on more than half the nation — on all the nation if you consider that they are ultimately attacking the MAGA / QAnon crowd too.

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