Gaslighting and dissembling in our government

March 3, 2019
Helen Avila

My first experience with a landlord was decades ago in another state.

After I signed my lease and moved into my home I felt as though I was in heaven. My deck faced the mountains and the beauty and serenity surrounding me were a little piece of paradise. Life was good.

But soon after I moved in, the area’s property values soared.

Because my rent was so cheap I soon learned that being a liability created a battle of wits between my landlord and me. His behavior became erratic and it seemed that he was bent on sabotaging my little home to drive me out.

He put a screw in the thermostat to freeze the temperature at 95 degrees, turning my place into an oven. I removed the screw and said nothing. He started turning the water off outside the trailer just as I would step into the shower preparing for work. I started showering at the gym. He falsely claimed people were smoking and drinking on my deck when I was out for the evening. He turned the sprinklers on at night so that the water hit my home’s siding, keeping me awake.

I said nothing and began looking for a new place to rent. I wanted as little interaction with him as possible because his intimidation was beginning to frighten me. I was young and naive and ignorant about how self-serving individuals could be.

I began thinking about this experience after reading letters to the editor by local Fox News educated individuals and convoluted articles written by members of our esteemed congressional delegation — Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson — all of whom faithfully advance their religious adherence to dissembling and gaslighting.

My former landlord from decades ago could be the poster child for dissembling and gaslighting. It certainly honed my radar for the emblematic agenda of our current batch of politicians or anyone who believes they have ultimate power or authority. Dissembling is when someone hides their true intentions or emotions.

Gaslighting is a tactic used by a person or entity to gain more power and make the victim question reality. And, history has shown us how well both tactics work with those who refuse to research political rhetoric. Everyone is susceptible to gaslighting and it is a common technique used by abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim does not realize how subtly they are being brainwashed.

Dissembling works because many people are either trusting, immature, ignorant or so attached to a single philosophy feeding their emotional ego they will take the word of the one doing the dissembling as gospel and adopt it as their own truth.

My landlord from long ago was not very sophisticated with his clumsy attempts at manipulation, but then he wasn’t a wealthy white conservative politician either. Unfortunately, mainstream media uses these methods to sensationalize events without putting any meat into the issue because the meat (aka the truth) doesn’t sell.

Headlines are used to stir the pot and increase ratings from non-thinkers. On the other spectrum, hate mongering right-wing media uses the same sensationalized news to twist the issue to fit an agenda of racism, bigotry and misogyny to stir the pot, increasing their ratings from non-thinkers.

This creates the notion that there is no truth and has become a mantra for the ignorant. It’s easier to let someone else determine what truth is than educate oneself with statistics and history (because we all know the adherents to these two forms of information believe it as true while denying there is such a thing as truth). Both should be categorized as entertainment because there is little substance to either.

A fact is a statement that can be proven true or false. An opinion is an expression of a person’s feelings that cannot be proven. Opinions can be based on facts, half-truths, or emotions and sometimes they are meant to deliberately mislead others. We have become numb to the difference because of the current attack on facts by those whose opinions are fed to them by the media.

I don’t have all the answers and some of my opinions are based on experience, but I do check facts, even though those who do not check facts tell me that the facts I check are skewed. I’m uncertain where they get the fact that facts are skewed, but I do know that most of their ‘’facts’’ are provided by mob cheerleaders and the media.

I remember the first time I was called ignorant. I was angry and hurt by the comment, but I was young then, and I truly was ignorant. At the time, I did not understand that ignorance and stupidity are not the same thing. But unless one makes the decision to stop being ignorant they will eventually grow to be a stupid adult. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge, information or awareness about a particular thing or things. Stupidity shows a lack of intelligence or common sense, being dense, mindless, gullible, foolish, dim-witted or vacuous.

We have become dominated by an ill-informed, ignorant public that verges on stupidity. A public who believes they are more informed than experts and revel in sharing their beliefs that have been fed to them by design. An excellent read concerning this phenomena is a book by Thomas Nichols entitled, “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.”

The anti-education movement shows how the ignorant appear to be fearful of any knowledge that does not fit their agenda — an agenda that has been shoveled into their heads by the right-wing blathering of media moguls and politicians who relish their popularity with those they can manipulate. It is a preference to choose bad behavior as a survival advantage because self-serving behavior has a competitive edge for the attention of the most ignorant and vocal in our society.

The behavior, honed by media personalities and conservative politicians, is called Gresham’s Law (aka The Copernicus Law). It keeps them in the spotlight and feeds the basest desires of those who feel helpless in a society that does not fit their white-is-right philosophy. The poor, white, uneducated population are most susceptible to being manipulated by the adept and effective methods used to address their primary fear of being marginalized by non-whites.

It serves a practical purpose to adhere to self-interested behavior that works and creates the practical purpose of seizing power. They have come to believe their existence is a form of natural selection and appear to be willing to go to great lengths to prove it.

Misinformation has replaced knowledge. The conflict between experts and the general public has grown to a palpable mistrust. Ignorance has become a badge of honor with anti-vaccine adherents, flat-earth advocates, moon landing deniers, birthers, chem-trail theorists, Sandy Hook deniers, climate change deniers and other blatantly manipulative conspiracies, and has become a frightening norm.

Dialogue has become impossible because of the need to shout the other person down and keep talking loudly to avoid any dialogue.

Civics, the study of the rights and duties of citizenship, has been reduced to rote memorization and testing with no experiential requirements. This has diminished the impact of what is essential about civics and it is a sad fact that we have side-stepped the full experience of what it means to be a citizen, replacing it with mottos, mantras and acronyms created by those mob-promoting cheerleaders.

There is also an epidemic of belligerent in-your-face anger to show one’s supremacy, patriotism and authority, which, in reality, only exposes their fear. Our nation’s loudest critics concerning humanity, environmental issues, equality and education have become the bullies of the world. If there is no personal profit or absolute agreement for their media-fed opinions, then they prefer anyone opposing them be silenced.

Until education ceases to be attacked by the under-educated, divisiveness, hate mongering, blind loyalty and stupidity will only increase, making this nation anything but great.

Helen Delahunt-Avila of Pocatello is a graduate of the University of Washington where she earned bachelor’s degrees in history and comparative religions and a master’s in international studies.