Politics--not as usual
the personal is political
Gaslighting is a very trendy term right now. If you've never actually been gaslit (or think you haven't), you might imagine that it's a pretentious word for lying. Well, yes--but there's so much more to it than that.
Gaslighting, according to Wikipedia, is a form of 'psychological manipulation in which a person or group covertly sows seeds of doubt in an individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception or judgment."
I think gaslighting is one of the most evil things one person can do to another, because unfortunately I got to watch a master gaslighter at work within my extended family for more than a decade. The brief story that follows perfectly captures the sad reality that we endured.
The gaslighter, who we'll call X, married a relative of mine after the death of his spouse. X called me a few weeks before Thanksgiving that year and told me that they wouldn't be coming to dinner, but would come over for dessert. Naively, I did not contact my relative to confirm this. Nothing in my life had prepared me for someone who would lie about when they would arrive at Thanksgiving dinner in order to cause trouble.
You can guess the rest. X and the relative rolled in just in time for dessert. I will never forget the look of shock and disbelief on my relative's face at the fact that the turkey had already been eaten--and the complacent satisfaction on X's at the ensuing uproar. X calmly denied everything. I was branded as the liar. My day, my week, my Thanksgiving was ruined. X's was made. The relative was fooled, I was not, but we were both victims.
Why does someone behave this way? Long psychological treatises have been written on the pathology of gaslighting, but it seems to me it is, at least in part, a twisted grab for power. The gaslighter feels that they cannot prevail simply by being themselves. They need to manipulate circumstances to become a victim and paint their target as a scheming monster, when in fact the exact opposite is true.
And that brings us, in a roundabout way, to the recent revelations about the FBI and the Trump/Russia collusion theory. As The Wall Street Journal's September 25 editorial "The FBI's Bad Intelligence" puts it: "It was worse than we thought."
According to the WSJ (and other sources), newly declassified documents released by Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham reveal that the FBI relied on a suspected Russian agent--himself a target of FBI investigations at one point--for the information it used to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump advisor Carter Page.
The article lays out how Ukrainian-born Igor Danchenko was the "subsource" for most of British spy Christopher Steele's accusations against the Trump campaign in his infamous dossier. Danchenko, states the editorial, was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 "based on concerns he was a Russian agent and a threat to national security". He left the country in 2010, says the Journal, but mind-blowingly (my words) was identified as the Mr. Steele's source in 2016.
The editorial goes on: "The FBI's realization that it was being fed potential Russian disinformation should have put an immediate halt to the Page probe...instead and incredibly, the FBI failed to disclose this information the FISA court in all three of its subsequent renewal applications against Mr. Page."
What followed was the long march of the last three plus years, the Mueller probe, and the endless, ceaseless incantation by much of the media and the president's political opposition that Donald Trump conspired with Russia to win the presidential election.
I never believed a word of these charges. It's not because I'm a (moderate) Republican who voted for Trump. It's not because I'm a fortune-telling super-genius who can see into the future. It's because I know gaslighting when I see it. I had a front row seat to it for many years, and the only good thing I came away with is a highly developed spidey-sense for that particular form of manipulation.
The notion that someone as contrary, stubborn and independent as Donald Trump was working for Russian (a "puppet of Vladmir Putin") is hilarious to me. The absurdity of this enormous lie should have been put to rest by the conclusions of the Mueller investigation, and should be even more forcefully debunked with additional information like the revelations above.
But it wasn't and it won't be. It's a story that's just too good not to be true. Trump as a Russian agent is gospel to many, and Trump's political and media adversaries (and apparently the FBI) are fine with that. The actual details of Russiagate are complicated and worse, they feel like yesterday's news. There's so much else going on. The story has been written, minds have been made up, and the world has moved on. Mueller feels so 2019, so pre-Covid.
Gaslighters create their own reality and it's only when you wrench free that you realize how upside down that reality is. My story has a happy ending. I no longer have any contact with my gaslighter--the connection has been permanently severed.
I wish America could do the same.
Written under pseudonym Jeanne Whitney and published in the Lowell Sun, October 11, 2020