Anatomy of a gaslighting

September 3, 2018
3 mins read

If you were anywhere near a media website or Twitter during planted Senator John McCain’s embarrassingly long apotheosis ceremony on Saturday, you doubtless came across an article or ten with headlines like the following:
Washington Mourned John McCain. President Trump Played Golf. New York Times
Donald Trump Played Golf During John McCain’s FuneralNewsweek
Trump Visits Golf Course as Washington Mourns McCainCBS News
Donald Trump at Golf Club During John McCain MemorialUSA Today

Gaslighting at its finest

If you saw any of these, or any of the literally dozens like them, congratulations: you’ve been gaslit.
Gaslighting is “a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.”
In short, gaslighting is an organized effort by the corporate press to make you believe what ain’t so, and to make you think you’re crazy for believing what is so.
Veterans of #Gamergate will doubtless remember the fateful day when no fewer than a dozen games “journalism” sites published articles claiming that “Gamers are dead.”  It was, in fact, the catalyst that opened the eyes of millions of gamers to the fact that their hobby press a) hated them, and b) was colluding with each other.  #Gamergate would never have taken the form it did without the press colluding with the express purpose of gaslighting gamers.
Followers of Qanon can hearken back just a few weeks to the day the international  press did the same thing following a Trump rally where lots of “Q” paraphernalia was on display. Take a quick gander at the results for a Qanon news search and you’ll see all the telltale signs of collusion and gaslighting: you’re crazy for believing in this, this is very unpopular, all the cool kids know this is false. Dozens of articles, all the same talking points.
So what does that have to do with Trump’s Saturday golf outing? Quite a bit, actually, and it illustrates how gaslighting is designed to work in real time.
Now, it’s completely logical to note the fact that Trump was conspicuously not invited to McCain’s funeral*. So what else is a golf-loving man going to do on a beautiful Saturday but golf?  It’s perfectly reasonable that he should hit the links while everyone else lies about what a great guy McCain was.
But that is far from the impression** that the headlines give.  And it’s important to remember that gaslighting is *not* working in logic or fact, but in emotion.  It is flashing images, not propositions. So what are those images saying?

  1. Donald Trump is isolated. Everyone who is someone is at A, while Trump is at B. He has no friends. And you’re a loser for supporting him.
  2. McCain was universally loved and Trump does not love him. Trump is a mean, petty person. And you’re a loser for supporting him.
  3. Trump doesn’t care about the business of state** and certainly not about the business of you. He only cares about his own pleasure. And you’re a loser for supporting him.

Ryan is #MeToo. Imagine that.

Not only did plenty of news outlets make exactly the same point in headlines, plenty of Democrats-cum-journalists made exactly the same point in tweets and speeches and commentary on the “news”.
If you’re looking for actual collusion, it’s hard to start with a better case than that one right here.
The bad news is, coordinated hits like this demonstrate just how ubiquitous the left’s hold over the press is.  Even local Fox affiliates ran identical articles.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter a whit.  If your average normie American*** cared what CNN thought, CNN would not consistently place below Nick at Night in the weekly TV rankings.  The average American doesn’t read the New York Times or Newsweek or Time. He does not care what the Beautiful People say.  In fact, to the extent he hears any of it, he is becoming more and more likely to dismiss it out of hand. Fake news is an inoculation against itself.
“Fake news” is a powerful meme.  We should continually thank the Washington Post for inventing it.****
Gaslighting the American public is becoming harder and harder, which explains the renewed efforts of the press, as well as social media companies, to constrict the sources from which you can get information.
But they will never put the truthpaste back in the tube.  They cannot recapture the trust they squandered in their pursuit of partisan gain.
And they certainly cannot hurt Trump by claiming Washington is united against him. That Trump stands alone against Washington is the very reason millions of Trump supporters are Trump supporters in the first place.
* McCain was as petty and vindictive in death as he was in life. Give him a medal for consistency, anyway.
** Which in this case is apparently bewailing the god McCain like a poor man’s Kim Jon Il.
*** It matters what normies think, because they are the people – not the partisans – who decide whether Trump or Hillary (or Biden, or Harris) will become president.
**** You remember the day when “Fake News” was rolled out, with articles and research in a dozen publications hitting the same talking points? Gaslighting.

El Borak is an historian by training, an IT Director by vocation, and a writer when the mood strikes him. He lives in rural Kansas with his wife of thirty years, where he works to fix the little things.


  1. Leftists gaslight on a personal level too, which is why conversing with them at length is tedious and unrewarding. The Bible describes such as those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

    • It’s hard to have a conversation with people who are lying, who know they are lying, and who know you know they are lying.

      • Things must be slow for you, to resort to writing an article like this. It wasn’t worth my time. It’s sad to think others are reading this ridicules junk. Don’t you think there are more important issues others need to know about? Your a critical person that needs to share positive information. I’ll never read another thing you write. Don’t bother commenting back, I will not be back here to follow.

          • It just feels like some weird emo-Boomer copypasta: “I read this and now I have sads. You should have written something that gave me happies, so I’m leaving forever.”
            If it has one redeeming quality, it’s that the whole thing is so insufferably vague that you could paste it as a response to almost any post on the internet, and it would be just as feckless.

          • Wow! Do you think that they have figured that out, regarding the ability to copy and paste? Man, I am impressed that they could figure that out.

        • TEJ,
          Thank you for offering a fine example of “Gaslighting” for us to learn from. Fortunately, we are immune to your silly tactics!

    • How dare you quote the Bible in defense of 45? Psalm 11 also says: the Lord weighs the righteous as well as the wicked: but those who delight in violence he abhors.
      45 delights in the violence of dividing and separating the people of this nation, all in his efforts to make himself feel superior. He UPHOLDS and praises the wicked – Putin and Kim Jon – while blasting our own American HEROS. The funeral of John McCain was the Lord’s vindication for him. Show me one who agrees w 45 that McCain was not a hero, that America is not a great country, that a handicapped reporter is one to be made fun of, that women are to be “grabbed” by their genitals and PAID to keep their mouths shut, and THAT is a wicked, twisted soul.

      • “Show me one who agrees w 45 that McCain was not a hero, that America is not a great country, that a handicapped reporter is one to be made fun of, that women are to be “grabbed” by their genitals and PAID to keep their mouths shut.”
        McCain wasn’t a hero.
        America had been languishing under Obama and Democratic policies. Trump has been undoing the damage.
        Trump didn’t make fun of his handicap. You are gaslighting.
        Women like powerful men to give them attention. I’m sorry that you don’t have women throwing themselves at you. Sounds like envy.
        Lots of people are paid to keep their mouths shut. You are purposely conflating the two events, you liar.

      • “How dare you quote the Bible in defense of 45?”
        If you had read more carefully, PGM was talking about people who gaslight, not in defense of Trump, but having noticed a pattern of behavior. The article is about gaslighting, after all. Trump coverage is just an example.
        “45 delights in the violence of dividing and separating the people of this nation…”
        You really think division in this country is caused by Trump? Surely all the wall to wall coverage of police shootings, blowing small events out of proportion, playing on fears, belittling people in flyover country, and blame game of white privilege and accused repression of minorities might have had just a wee impact…and of which were in existence long before Trump even announced his presidential run?
        You may want to read up on John McCain’s life a bit more to curb some of your enthusiastic defense. Ask some Vietnam vets what they think of him.
        If you familiar with litigation, you would know that settling (or as you put it, paying off) is more often than not far, far less expensive than going to court. Trump may be guilty…or he might have settled because it made fiscal sense.
        Trump may be a wicked soul, but I will quote the Bible: “For all have sinned…” I’m not going be throwing stones at Trump any time soon. Rather, pray for him and don’t expect him at act like a Christian.

        • Thanks. I do pray for him and for the country. And I honestly don’t mean to cast stones. This read intrigued me because I’m all too familiar w gaslighting, a defense mechanism learned and used by many narcissists. And the sad part of the personality disorder is that it’s caused by abuse (of any form) and is really not even the persons fault. I just happen to think that 45 has some of the traits. We’re all entitled to our opinions and I respect others’ totally. So thank you again.

    • PG: *quotes bible about leftists*
      Triggered leftist: How dare you quote the Bible in defense of 45?
      I’m not sure it’s gaslighting, so much as just misdirection, however. I’ve always been of the opinion (maybe incorrectly) that gaslighting is distinguished from lying by the corporate effort involved in the former.
      So if I say I’m a woman, I’m lying (either to you or myself). But when the media, academia, and law all go along with the lie by making you act as if I’m a woman and make every effort to get you to believe I’m a woman in spite of your knowledge and experience otherwise, that’s gaslighting.

  2. Typical Trump touting, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Trump is the master of gaslighting. For decades he has manipulated the media. Remember John Baron, his PR guy who sounded just like DJT.? Touting his prowess as a real ladies man dropping names like crazy. Now he’s telling us straight up how great he is and how there is “NO COLLUSION!” Over and over again . Sounds like gaslighting to me. Your whole editorial Borat oops I mean Borak is plain old gaslighting.

    • Well, that was very insightful. Thank you for your piercing commentary. Now, try to stay on topic and do it again.

      • Hmmm, Are there ‘bots here a-posting? Looks a bit shilly to me. The puffed up, indignant tone. MOW, y’all have made the list!
        That said. Well written, B.

        • Thanks, Reb. Doubt they are bots, just triggered libs (or perhaps just one triggered autist) who feel their hold on the narrative sliding, sliding away.
          P.G. sure got the ‘tedious’ part correct, good grief.

    • Right, Kathy Devy. Generally gaslighting is done following narcissistic abuse…. you know, like degrading a veteran not in spite of but because of his POW experience. Or rationalizing Trump’s golf outing though everyone was waiting for it after the insult I refer to above. Narcissists like to use projection to throw off critics as well, like having some minion write nonsense about Democrats gaslighting while their president, the king of it, insults and plays plays golf.

    • Upon further review, I’ve decided that the comment of the lady who cannot capitalize her own name properly deserves a response. Or at least a fisking.
      “Typical Trump touting” – *disqualify, disqualify, disqualify*. Is that not the first SJW rule for arguing on the internet? The second is like unto it: be sure not to address any point in the argument you are responding to.
      “talk about the pot calling the kettle black!” – It’s a cute bit of “whataboutsim,” if misplaced. The question at hand is “is the kettle black?” If the kettle *is* black (i.e. if the press is gaslighting), then the pot is not lying by saying so. He’s telling the truth.
      “Remember John Baron, his PR guy who sounded just like DJT.” – This one is funny, for the Washington Post ran an article a few years back, “The amazing story of Donald Trump’s old spokesman, John Barron” (note the correct spelling) that said that for a decade, “reporters unwittingly quoted Barron as if he were a real person.” If Barron sounded “just like DJT”, how is it possible that so many reporters – speaking with him on the phone – “unwittingly” quoted him for a decade? So you have to make a choice. Either he didn’t sound just like DJT, or reporters played along with an obvious charade because the quotes were good. IOW, they were gaslighting their readers with a source they knew was fake. So which is it?
      “Touting his prowess as a real ladies man ” – this is rich. I do wonder how these people find Trump’s claims to be a ladies’ man to be a lie while simultaneously accusing him of banging pr0n stars and models. Again, pick one.
      “and how there is “NO COLLUSION!” Over and over again” — Well, where is it? Since he is in a position to know, and no one has provided incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, we are again dealing with a matter of truth, at least so far.
      “Sounds like gaslighting to me” – That’s because you demonstrably don’t know what gaslighting is.
      “Your whole editorial Borat oops I mean Borak” — oooh, now *that’s* clever. No one has ever made that joke before.
      All in all, a decent effort, given how far the commenter is in over her head. A scrappy C- for the effort.

  3. Taken from “Gaslighting for Dummies” . Thank you for explaining what 45 does to the American public on a daily basis. But every dog has his day. The money trail is being followed. The sane people of the world wait patiently.

  4. Our enemies cannot help projecting: Dishonesty, corruption, manipulation, and the fear of coming judgment. Aside from this, the only notable feature of their anti-Trump rhetoric is its utter incomprehension of Gen X psychology.

        • There used to be a telltale arrogance to their heckling, the braggadocio of scorners who could still believe that history was on their side. They’ve lost that old confidence, and they know they’re bluffing. And they know we aren’t.

    • Yes, they do not realize that we are energized and motivated by their virtue signalling and screeching. It is a glorious thing.

  5. I don’t know of one Vietnam veteran in my circle of acquaintances who has had anything good to say about McCain. To them, he was a traitorous asshole, and his assholery has extended into death. When I look at who has turned out and sung his praises for his apotheosis, I know he was not one of us. Thank God his moldering corpse is finally in the ground.

    • Did you see what John Kasich said on CNN with Cuomo about McCain? What would their feeling be on this? Note, it may get scrubbed…

      • I have not seen it. I never watch CNN and only notice Kasich when he is shown elsewhere. I pretty much ignore him, as well.

  6. What truly amazes me is the number of libs and SJWs in the comments crying over an article jokes on you guys thanks for the free ad rev and page traffic. Lol

  7. The facts are, that he was conspicuously not invited, insulted in his absence, and then reviled for not going. The President did offer low key condolences to the Senator’s family. At least he was more consistent (honest) in this than at least half of DC. We all know those two couldn’t stand each other. The only reason McCain got so much praise was for that fact. I’m not this President’s biggest fan, but the fact that so many in DC and the media hate/feel threatened by him says a lot in his favor.

  8. And Donner seems to be spoiling for a fight-like the little devil on my shoulder who gets me in trouble. You may actually had the best response to those trolls.

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