As the current political atmosphere gets more and more toxic, and the barometric pressure jacks up ever higher, I’ve been wondering what would happen if the media just did not cover the White House for 24 hours, and then 48 hours. Rather than feed the bonfire of vanities on all sides, what if the oxygen (endless attention and ratings) needed to keep it burning were cut off? Back in middle school science class you probably had to place a candle into an inverted test tube to prove that fire uses up available oxygen. Then, when there is no more oxygen, the fire is no more. Remember how the flame suddenly extinguished and then smoke took up residence in the tube? Yeah, I do too.
Hmmm, you know those purple bug lights that zap mosquitoes and moths? How about translating that technology into social media and television and talk radio applications? As each offending blatherer reached his/her limit for the day, a strong static electric shock would hit him/her, deleting all previous verbiage for the preceding 48 hours. The shock ‘s half life would be 24 hours. In other words the offender would be self disqualified from civil conversation for a minimum of 48 hours, and would lose his/her previous 48 hours of precious discourse. Before you scream of First Amendment protections, consider that this suggestion is a self contained self censorship, like peeing on an electrified fence. If you are that stupid, you deserve to have your curiosity rewarded in voltage and amperes not with ratings and site traffic. Such strong negative reinforcement would lead our punditry to pause as they came closer to their self inflicted electric storms.
“You can’t make this stuff up”, claim many in the media. Well, sure you can. As older folks know, the best lies contain a percentage of truth; that’s the escape hatch, the candy coating of verisimilitude.
Allow me to digress into a parallel example. In order to pass inspection for the fire department, I needed a fire escape other than the open staircase to my second floor office. Well, strangely enough I have some sort of aluminum shaft outside my back room window. In order to get to this lifesaving device, in the event of a fire in the wooden staircase, I’d have to shatter a double paned window with a heavy object and then reach around to a handle that in theory would open up to a tiny metal ladder. If it ever comes to that point, I’ll just jump the twelve feet onto a car roof or hood. Still, that silvery shaft attached to the rear of my office building has the official approval of Turtle Town’s fire inspector, or did at some past time. So I am safe in theory. Why here is the schematic plan of escape.
However, in the multimedia land of trolls, fires are lit hourly. Some die of their own lack of consumable material. Some rage on, aided and abetted by rumor and speculation. The worst, though, sputter up and down due to their sources being manipulated. This technique is referred to as gaslighting. Let me define the term.
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.
Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to Gas Light, a 1938 play and 1944 film. It has been used in clinical and research literature. [wikipedia]
Are we getting warm yet? Gaslighters don’t need to fully lie. All that is necessary is to shave the victim’s reality by ten percent. Then the gaslighter inflates his reality by ten percent. The result is that the gaslighter ‘gains’ 20 percent in this deceitful exchange. The technique is smooth yet so effective. Simple manipulation gives the gaslighter a 5 to 4 ratio of perceived ‘facts’, leaving him the victor. We can call him upper case VICTOR when this strategy is perpetrated on a group of people and not just one anxious housewife, as was the case with Ingrid Bergman.
The solution, it seems to me, is the same with real fires or imaginary ones: stop feeding it with attention and air. Stop. Likes Elsa sang in Frozen, “Let it go.”
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all