Gaslighting the nation

Gaslighting is a term associated with domestic abuse. What it means is a deliberate process of destroying a person’s mind with the intention of leaving them unable to defend themselves, make decisions or trust their own sanity. A person who thinks they are mad, or whose reality has been damaged by gaslighting is much easier to control and abuse.

I think we’re seeing this happen at a national level. I’m going to speak to the British experience, but suspect it’s not just us.

We’ve had a lot of conflicting messages: Migrants are here to scrounge off the dole, but they’re also taking your jobs. We can afford nuclear weapons, but we can’t afford to look after the vulnerable. Socialists are an out of touch elite, while millionaires understand the needs of ordinary people… and many more such tales. Clearly these things don’t add up, but we’re getting a steady diet of incompatible ideas, which is more than enough to damage anyone’s sense of reality.

Gaslighters use blame and shame to control their victims. We have a government that blames people for not finding jobs despite the fact that universal employment is not feasible. The sick and disabled are blamed and demonised, as though their problems are wholly of their own making and purely about getting the pittance the government allows for those who cannot work. The poor are blamed for the consequences of poverty, demonised, dehumanised…  And in recent conflicts, we’ve seen teachers, doctors, and other once-respected professionals equally blamed for things beyond their control.

We’re told that we can’t trust experts and professionals. People who should know what they’re talking about – we are to believe – know less than unqualified, uninformed people. Doctors don’t know if their patients are too sick to work.  Teachers don’t know how to teach. Exam boards don’t know what subjects to offer. Scientists know nothing about climate change. Economists can’t be trusted to comment on the economy. Judges can’t tell us about constitutional law. And on it goes. Who do you trust in such a mad world? Who do you believe? How on earth do you make sense of things?

If the government and the media were living with us (we may be back in the austerity household for this paragraph) they would, under UK law, be guilty of controlling and abuse behaviour. If we, the other people in the austerity household wanted to run away from them, the police would help us get out to a place of safety. If any of us were treated by a spouse in the way the Tory party, and the media that support right wing politics are treating the British people, it would be very easy to label.

Why do people keep voting for politicians who will only hurt and harm them? I think it’s the same answer as why abuse victims so often stay with their abuser. When you don’t believe things could ever be better. When you have no hope, when you don’t trust your own ability to make decisions, when your reality is scrambled and maddening, you stay with what you know for fear that what you don’t know will be even worse.

It’s not an easy situation to get out of, but many victims of domestic abuse manage it, so perhaps whole nations can manage it too. It’s the point when you try to leave that a domestic abuse victim is most at risk of injury or death at the hands of their abuser. If we’re going to get out of the austerity house without more people dying, we need to look after each other.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

28 responses to “Gaslighting the nation

  • janeycolbourne

    I very much agree with you here. It’s not that people are ‘stupid’, as I keep seeing posted in social media. They are being powerfully manipulated.

    • steve p

      Yes people are being powerfully manipulated and of course the manipulators are extremely powerful and no doubt employ the best psychologists in the world that money can buy. And yes we need to reach out, listen and offer alternative views to the MSM. But at what point do people have to take responsibility for their own
      willingness to be a part of the charade when there is more than ample real life evidence of what is happening all around?

      • Nimue Brown

        I think its easier to take responsibility in face of knowing. It’s easy to say ‘why aren’t people resisting this?’ but unless we ask why instead, those of us who want to see change will be no closer to achieving it. I may have an easier time thinking about it simply because I am not much exposed to advertisements, my head is less cluttered. I feel a responsibility to try and offer alternatives to people who are being constantly overwhelmed by maddening things.

  • Robin

    “People who should know what they’re talking about – we are to believe – know less than unqualified, uninformed people”

    That’s the Internet generation all over, not just dodgy journalists and politicians.

  • cassandralathamjones

    Hard hitting and bang on target. Excellent post Nimue!

  • brighid1109

    Brilliant!! 100% agree. Can I be nosey and ask which part of the Uk your from??

    Im from Scotland and a supporter of independence, a subject that most people argue about. However, I’m very interested to hear and try and understand why people are against it and so up for a Tory led country…. my suspicions ” you stay with what you know for fear that what you don’t know will be even worse” .. very well said!

    • Nimue Brown

      I’m in Gloucestershire, more specifically The People’s Republic of Stroud. 🙂 And entirely pro Scotland doing whatever Scottish people want to do as a collective. I’m all for holding power at the lowest feasible level in all things.

    • angharadlois

      I hope you don’t mind me chipping in 🙂
      Our household is a sort of celtic union transplanted to Yorkshire, and my husband voted for Scottish independence. I was ambivalent about Indyref – some friends really supported it, some were quite upset by it – but, as I see it, voting to protest against the government in Westminster is very different from voting out of the union. This government won’t last forever; the trend towards progressive, socially-conscious politics in Scotland won’t last forever. These things come and go.

      I was cautiously in favour of more independence for Wales, and in some ways still am – people make all sorts of ridiculous economic arguments against supporting our language and culture, as though we could put a price on these things – but a recent trip around the former Yugoslavia has made me rethink a lot of my assumptions.

      More thoughts later, if you like, when I’m not running for a train!

  • garycohenblog

    Agree with the comments in this post. Well said I think.
    I have in my capacity as a qualified Heath professional been ignored by those assessing people in order to get them back to work and off benefits. I had advised against pushing someone to work and stopping benefits. The outcome for ignoring me and carrying on with their own agenda to probably meet targets resulted in further mental health problems for the person. This was not an isolated case.

    • Nimue Brown

      Horrible, and bad and wrong… and it must be a nightmare to have to work in that context, too.

      • garycohenblog

        It was unpleasant to have to watch it happen. It actually is counter productive as the person is very willing to work when the health issues are more stable. They don’t want to be ill. I am state funded as well so it just means one area is ignoring the other. Very sad.

  • juliebond

    Very well said! A good analogy.

  • Annie Hatton

    Thanks for confirming that which I’ve also believed for quite a while. I think the only way to change is for us peasants to revolt (as the saying goes) by NOT buying the rubbish that is fed to us in newspapers and media – purely aimed at brainwashing the masses into acceptance of the ‘norm’ that they create and if we could only NOT vote at all the ensuing result may speed up the chaos but as long as we ignore those who demand a vote to confirm the vote is wrong/illegal/whatever…we could maybe start again from the ground up and get our politicians to finally work for us. The flaw being that the rest of the planet’s leaders may see this as an opportunity to finally own us… ……..forgive me if I’m wrong…

    • Nimue Brown

      the trouble with not voting at all is that those with power can claim it is apathy, and ignore us. Independent candidates, small parties, that kind of thing can be more effective. We should have a ‘none of the above’ option though.

  • angharadlois

    The antipathy towards ‘experts’ dovetails nicely with the de-professionalization of services like libraries (increasingly staffed with volunteers and ‘customer service assistants’), universities (with lecturers on tenuous teaching contracts and students up to their eyeballs in debt), schools… ‘Experts’ give people the means to question and resist the system. No wonder they are coming under attack.

    I read this blisteringly brilliant article earlier today: – and then I read the comments 😦
    I try to maintain openness to differing opinions and avoid creating my own liberal-socialist-pagan echo-chamber, but really, one should never ever ever read the comments…

  • John Hare

    I share a lot of the politics of the blogger and of those who have commented but I think we have to be pretty careful about the whole “experts” thing. Firstly it’s not a long step from “ordinary people don’t know owt about economics” to “therefore democracy is impossible in a complex modern society”. Anyone left of centre wants to be careful about saying that most people aren’t smart enough to have an opinion but that is where the ‘experts’ debate leads us. But secondly, and for me more importantly, why have people become so sceptical about ‘experts’? Big question, but at least part of the reason is that a pretty healthy chunk of expert opinion has been easily co-opted into the same bubble that already contains politicians, the media, the law & the super-wealthy. In fact many ‘experts’ are employed directly by the super-wealthy via philanthropic think tanks, universities, etc etc. They then provide the intellectual ballast and justification for the political views that enhance the wealth and status of the bubble. Being sceptical about these people seems a pretty healthy political instinct to me, if you’re not one of the people who’s getting rich out of their prognostications.

    • Nimue Brown

      I entirely get where you are coming from with this – and informed option is something that should be taken seriously no matter the person’s background. The devaluing of experts by manipulation, money and agenda is a thing that bothers me a lot, and is clearly part of the problem, but my fundamental belief is that we need people who have some idea what they are talking about, from experience, or from research.

    • Robin

      In order to have think tanks and intellectuals independent of billionaire philanthropists, the public would need to be willing to fund such organisations out of their own pockets. At the moment the majority of people see running scared (thanks to lying politicians and their media lackeys) that there isn’t enough money to pay for granny’s hip replacement, so I doubt that many would think spending money on intellectuals who say things few people understand would be anywhere on the priority list. Though I rather doubt it would be even in times of economic boom when people are feeling financially safe – I just don’t think we ave a culture that generally values things of a philosophical, highly academic bent.

      • Nimue Brown

        It’s a bit of a chicken and an egg, how to change the culture without the means to change what’s delivered, how to change what’s delivered without changing the culture. But, just asking people what the basis for their opinion is makes a start.

  • Laughing Dakini Tarot: Readings by Donnalee

    Clearly the same in the US: “put someone belligerent, ignorant, and unqualified with no experience in government, and with a long public history of fiscal incompetence and crookedness, including current millions of dollars in personal debt to China and other countries, in charge of the US–oh, and have him drag along a religious fundamentalist who takes it all over the minute the head bully gets knocked off, perhaps by the religious dude’s crowd–nothing can go wrong, clearly”.

    Really, best wishes to all, including head bullies–may we all smarten up soon the easier way as opposed to the hard way.

  • Abusing your tolerance | Druid Life

    […] The idea that inclusive people who don’t need everyone else to conform to their preferences are in some way the cause of people becoming Nazis, is one of the most curious bits of double think I’ve seen in a while. It recognises that the Nazi bit really isn’t good, or desirable, but rather than blame the Nazis amongst us, is blames the people who are doing most to try and resist that very thing. At this point I can only shake my head in confusion and point you towards my recent post on gaslighting. […]

  • stev ie

    I was going to say nothing has changed since the days of the ragged trousered philanthropist,but it has…its got much worse. But i do believe the pendulum swings both ways,it just takes time.

  • Gaslighting – Dangerous Lover

    […] via Gaslighting the nation — Druid Life […]

  • Hearth Goddess

    Reblogged this on Dangerous Lover and commented:
    Worth the read – Wonderful Post!

  • Believe in truth | Druid Life

    […] of the things that abusers do – it’s called gaslighting – is to provide the victim with conflicting information with the intention of driving them mad. […]

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