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How the Australian people have been bullied by our politicians

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. (Psychology Today)

People who gaslight typically use the following techniques:

  1. They tell blatant lies.

You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

  1. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

  1. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.

They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.

  1. They wear you down over time.

This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.

  1. Their actions do not match their words.

When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are saying. What they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.

  1. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.

  1. They know confusion weakens people.

Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.

  1. They project.

They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.

  1. They try to align people against you.

Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.

  1. They tell you or others that you are crazy.

This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.

  1. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.

The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s trap.

Remember that as you listen to our politicians.


41 comments

  1. Diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    Just reading the above list brings on PTSD.

    Yes, our politicians are graduates of the art of gaslighting.

    Just an observation on point 8, Projection.

    The bully will project any of their behaviour onto their target, for example anger or lying. Also they may accuse their victim of being akin to group of people which the bully knows their victim will rail against being included with such a group. Calling feminists nazis for example.

    As you say, gaslighting is a weapon of disorientation.

  2. Andrew J. Smith

    Also seems to match attributes of NPD narcissistic personality disorder, not restricted to elites either.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Diannaart,

    I would never want to add to your discomfort. I am sorry if it brought back memories.

    I was just astonished at how well it describes what is going on in politics. They empower bullies. They applaud and reward bullying behaviour. Politicians and media lauded Tony Abbott as an effective Opposition leader. No-one, not even him, pretends it was because he offered better policies.

    He was a bully who could tear people down with personal slurs. He was a bully who was prepared to say anything – whether it be about carbon-pricing, the NBN, or asylum seekers – in order to attack and destroy.

    It’s hard to know for sure what Turnbull’s motivation was but, when he took over, we all hoped the bullying would stop.

    It didn’t. They forced him to join in by threatening him too.

    Morrison has shown his colours – debt and deficit disaster no longer gets a mention, stop the boats has been dragged out again, climate change deniers in crucial portfolios, choosing Abbott despite Indigenous opposition, leaving Dutton in charge of asylum seekers, paying Barnaby to do a pub crawl.

    The gaslighting and bullying will only intensify.

  4. diannaart

    Thank you, Kaye Lee. I know the modus operandi only too well, so well I am not giving out any more personal experiences any more.

    … and the gaslighting and bullying will continue, safe in the knowledge it will take a great deal of courage along with indisputable proof to call a halt.

    “If s/he can’t offer proof, nothing to see, everyone just move along.”

  5. Kaye Lee

    Yup.

    And even when you can offer incontrovertible proof, they don’t care. They have alternative facts.

  6. SteveFitz

    On every point, all too true Kaye Lee – What you describe strikes me as more of a personality trait peculiar to politicians and apparent in anyone who would see us as fair game and open to exploitation and abuse.

    On a personal level, once you are aware of the tactics used by these despicable low lives’, you are more able to maintain faith in yourself. Faith in yourself is who and what you are and it’s worth protecting. Never let anyone take that from you.

  7. lawrence winder

    It seems the ruling rabble and their acolytes have been superbly trained with thyis tactic.

  8. New England Cocky

    Well said Kaye Lee… sound like a pre-requisite for membership to the Liarbral Party. The National$ should prefer Adulterers and a woman’s place is in the home, barefoot and pregnant … so that they do not compete successfully against less capable males.

    Remember, half the voters are women and Women supporting Adulterers support National$.

  9. Andreas Bimba

    I suspect only the dumbest conservatives still support the current gaslighters. They are their own worst enemies and Labor are certain to win the next election in a landslide.

    More reasonable Liberals like Julia Banks have had enough and are leaving.

    Trumpet is also a perfect example of gaslighting.

    The coal lobby appears to be the main driver behind the current Liberal coup and the fossil fuel industry probably pulls the strings for Trumpet. The political puppets then use whatever trick they can think of to gain power.

    Thanks Kaye for this new insight into the degeneration of politics.

  10. Cheryl

    Hi The Aim
    I just wanted to inform you that in your survey section at the end the ads are taking over and won’t allow you to answer every question.
    Anyone else having this issue???

  11. John Glue

    Invaluable article. Is there other terms for this malicious and dishonest practice, because ‘lighting the gas’ is not necessarily a bad thing.

  12. Jaquix

    Our “New Generation” Prime Minister is an enthusiastic proponent of gaslighting. Just the flag badge is one example. His boast that hes worn his for “many, many years” is a blatant lie. Its never been seen before. It doesnt appear in his profile pictures. All the attention is on Dutton this week, and Taylor “taxpayer will fund coal while Morrison out of the country (wearing his badge?) but he will be back, full of spin.

  13. Political Tragic

    Great article; I knew the b******* were up to something! Seriously though; just in case you did not know the whole boiled frog syndrome is a myth, or perhaps only a metaphor. For information on this see: Next Time, What Say We Boil a Consultant”. Fast Company Issue 01. October 1995.

    In reality what we are seeing is more a classic example of ‘creeping normality’. To quote McClellan; “Creeping normality is a term Jared Diamond used to describe the way major changes can seem normal if they happen slowly. This explains how things that a society might have found completely objectionable at one time can later appear to be quite ordinary.”(McClellan, Bill (2013-10-27). “Normality creeping on”. St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

    If this is not a good description of, Manus, Nauru, Newstart, robodebt, etc. etc. I do not know what is.

  14. Josephus

    Kaye your article is painful but informative and apt, never having heard of the term you use. We have lived through this; our adult child told us that violence happened every weekend after going to a pub (there was no pub nearby and the supposed abuser rarely drank, and that only at home), that no birthday or religious event was ever celebrated; yet,when a week later the child denied ever saying it: ‘We were liars.’ Yet we have never doubted our own sanity. Instead we doubted the adult child’s.

    On another tack, I am active in the community; I know that some incline to ad hominem comments, eg was recently dismissed in advance at a public meeting as ’emotional’, though I had never spoken out in that assembly. I was thus discredited. Knowing this, in general I seek, and get, validation from younger males who confirm the facts that I point out, which validation ensures that I remain confident in my own sanity, and more inclined to defend myself when challenged.

    I think this may be why some women in Parliament or in politics feel threatened by male bullies (Dutton). Men would just tell the bully to nick off.

    Or not: I remember the case of an Anglican vicar in the UK whose daughter accused him of incest. He lost his living and his reputation. Then a doctor thought to examine the daughter and found she was a virgin. But the father was broken.

  15. paul walter

    Husar, Banks, Angela Williamson, Bernard Collaery, Manning, Abbott as “envoy “for Indigenes…that is just in recent weeks.

    The cowards, under siege, show their real character.

    Fn, just noted someone above mention asylum seekers. Too true.

  16. Andrew J. Smith

    Agree, especially Andreas B’s comment, conservatives and/or nativists don’t think of these tactics themselves.

    They are exported and/or imported from US with fossil fuel and other lobbies well skilled in this dark art.

    I’d also suggest the US conservative evangelical Christians way of preaching and/or bullying is part of the style.

    Whatever it takes…

  17. Kaye Lee

    For those who don’t know the origin of the term gaslighting…..

    “The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 stage play Gaslight, known as Angel Street in the United States, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The original title stems from the dimming of the gas lights in the house that happened when the husband was using the gas lights in the flat above while searching for the jewels belonging to a woman whom he had murdered. The wife correctly notices the dimming lights and discusses it with her husband, but he insists that she merely imagined a change in the level of illumination.”

  18. guest

    One of the areas in which obfuscation and lying is very prevalent is the matter of Climate Change. I was amused when an agriculture person on Meet the Press said we need to talk about Climate Change. I would have thought that we have not done much more than talk about it. I was amused also when there was talk about clear felling of trees and the reply was that there was a need for grasslands – and that if these things are important a price should should be put on them. But clearly, grasslands are a priority.

    It was interesting to see a farming couple in north Qld saying that the effects of run-off and pollutants has been “over-stated”. In other words, nothing to find here.

    If there is a price on everything, then I ask What is the cost of cooking the planet?

    For those who think that CO2 has no effect on temperature, I ask If CO2 at 280ppm is able to keep the average average Earth temperature at c.14 degrees, what average temperature does c. 410 ppm achieve?

    For those who think the temperatures have not risen much since 1998, ask them how many hottest years have we had since 1998?

    As well, consider the rise in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere since 1850 which corresponds with the rise in temperatures. Mann’s Hockey stick analysiis has been proven correct by Wahl and Ammann (2007) according to Eggleton (2013) p. 149.

    And while some deniers will talk about temperatures and CO2 concentration millions of years ago, according to Eggelton (p. 133) “At present the world is warming at the rate of 1 degree in in 60 years; that is, 20 times faster than any previous sustained rate of temperature change.”

    But then, the denier discussion is not about the science. They do not want to know about that, They are interested in the money they can make from digging up coal to be burnt in an antique technology which threatens human life and health, not mention the life of the planet itself.

    No wonder they do not rally want to talk about it.

  19. Lejolie

    This explains your ad hominem behaviour diannaart.

  20. corvus boreus

    KL,
    Thank you for defining the origin of the term, saved ma consulting google
    So gaslighting is incremental alterations to normal processes that are large enough to warrant notice but small enough to be accredited to perceptional discombobulation.

    I guess a conversational example would be the use of the word ‘nativist” into a discussion of Australian politics.
    ‘Nativism’ is term derived from and mainly restricted to the USA, and seems to have 3 main dictionary meanings;

    1) the policy of protecting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants.
    2) the policy or practice of preserving or reviving an indigenous culture.
    3) philosophy. the doctrine that innate ideas exist.

    Now I both qualitatively support and have active participation in the first 2 meanings, especially since the preservation of native biodiversity and long-term local cultural heritage are within the main aims written into my main job description.
    The 3rd meaning; seems like an interesting if abstract topic for self-indulgent discussion over after-dinner drinks.

    However, language also evolves/mutates through social usage.

    Homosexuals have acquired another derogatory term (faggot!)at the expense of the specifically operative English word for a tied up bundle of sticks, yet people now openly bugger to avoid causing offence by phuqqing(see,even me).

    ‘Nativist’, in US parlance, has very loaded connotations and is now associated with racial-supremism and ultra-nationalism.
    As you know I oppose such entirely, but I do wonder about such an obscure term suddenly appearing in this discussion.

  21. guest

    And there are a couple (or more) of other areas of bullying and deception – such as Border Protection and the role of Manus and Nauru (see Behrous Boochani “No Friend But the Mountains” for more experiential details), or religious freedom vs LGBTI people, or “trickle down” economic policy, or how it is all the fault of Labor, or how education is infested by lefties taking the Long March through schools and universities etc etc. The end of all this boloney – will it never come?

  22. Diannaart

    Is being accused of “ad hominem behaviour”, an ad hominem attack and/or gaslighting?

    And who are you, lejolie?

  23. corvus boreus

    Diannaart,

    Is ‘ad-homineming’ a legitimate verb?
    Is ‘ad-mulierem’ the gender-correct terminology?
    Does ‘ad-homininem’ mean playing the Australopithecine, rather than rationally debating their grunting gesticulations?

    All are linguistic Koans worthy of contemplation.

  24. Diannaart

    Corvus boreus

    I had to go look up ‘ad-mulierem’ and I’m glad I did, I suspect the terminology is correct, that is if I am the object of attack.

    Um, ‘ad-homineming’ probably not legit, no reason why it should not become such.

    Not so sure grunts work sans audio.

    Anyway, thank you for your interest.

    Lejolie’s sudden concern regarding my abilities fitted rather well with topic, IMHO.

  25. Judith

    Thanks again Kaye for your clear explanation of this common form of psychological abuse.
    I would like to add that “confusion” is the first sign that indicates that you are being subjected to gaslighting techniques. If you are confused about something that was said, done, not done, it’s about keeping you guessing and it’s gaslighting.

  26. Max Gross

    Pure LNP!

  27. Watchdog

    Complaint investigation and self regulation is manipulated through gaslighting technique’s. Adversarial gaslighting under the Westminster system have flourished, disguised within the system’s advocacy for democracy.

  28. Ray Wurlod

    What would be really useful is another article outlining strategies that are available to counter gaslighters.

  29. Karl Young

    Is there any help out there for the perpetrators. The ones doing the Gaslighting.Is there a Gaslighters Anonymous out there for the
    ones lighting the match.They too need help.

  30. jimhaz

    I recall using the gaslighting term in reference to politicians a couple of months ago. I tend to agree with a hell of a lot more of what Kaye writes, than what I disagree with.

    “cult leaders”

    Ummm, I’m of the view that religion in its entirety is a form of gaslighting.

  31. John lord

    It can happen when you are totality unaware. It’s only later when you put all the pieces together that you realise your mind was being played with. Writing that is totally in sync with the times. Well written Kaye.

  32. silkworm

    Climate change and global warming deniers are characteristically gaslighters, but with them it’s an ideological thing. The gaslighting comes when they try to depict people who subscribe to the science of global warming as being part of a religion! What is curious to me is that many AGW deniers are themselves religious zealots, and have incorporated their science denial into their right-wing religious beliefs. In this case, their accusation that AGW believers are being religious is a projection of their own religious zealotry.

  33. Kaye Lee

    silkworm,

    George Pell is a classic example.

    Pell stated in his 2006 Legatus Summit speech:

    “Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Responding to the Anglican bishop and environmentalist George Browning, who told the Anglican Church of Australia’s general synod that Pell was out of touch with the Catholic Church as well as with the general community, Pell stated:

    “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.”

    Classic gaslighting.

  34. silkworm

    Karl Young,

    In the film Gaslight, Charles Boyer played a psychopath who had murdered his wife’s aunt, and his motive for gaslighting his wife was theft. Basically he was a criminal. Given that gaslighters are usually psychopaths, there is close to zero chance that you will get them into therapy.

    Kaye Lee,

    Exactly. I was thinking of Pell when I wrote my comment. Pell has substituted “pagan emptiness” and “Western fear” due to the lack of the “steadying influence” of religious belief (i.e., psychological unsteadiness) for “madness”.

  35. diannaart

    Gaslighting – something not to be performed in the clear light of reason.

    Gaslighting requires the dark obfuscation of a religious zealot.

    Pell’s amazing linking of “In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods”

    with

    “Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Scientists and others concerned about pollution are the 21st century pagans?

    Crazy talk, so crazy as to stick in the mind of the listener and that’s a good start for the demagogue.

    Closing off now, with the warning do not think about pink elephants.

  36. corvus boreus

    Quasi-quoth Cardinal George Pell (aka ‘the multiply accused defendant’)

    “If only those stupid scientists could realize how foolish they make themselves look!”

  37. corvus boreus

    Of course, my candidate for the most consistently mischievous ‘gas-lighting’ of the Australian public would be media-sith-lord Rupert Murdoch (an-Australian by legislative deed http://articles.latimes.com/1985-09-04/news/mn-23112_1_rupert-murdoch ).

    This biosperically cancerous hive-king ihas been shifting and hiding our cuttles and crocks, and not only been blatantly gas-lighting us, but also doing some lowly selective base lime-lighting and fouling the air with noxious stink-bombing (Rupert’s even offered up pix of elected officials photo-shopped into nazis and rats, plastered into perception as front page ‘news’.
    In our nation he sold Hanson as plausable, Abbott as PM, and even tried to land us with a Dutton.
    In blighty the ‘dirty digger’ sold tits to the Sun, then sold phone-hacks and bribery to the UK judiciary.
    In the US the sneaky devil turned yank-fox, proceeded to sell the tea party, then successfully peddled President Trump.
    The de-Australian-ised media mercenary has pushed the corporate denial of climate science where-ever so enabled.

    I try to be a compassionate individual, but I often catch myself casting cosmic endorsements for the hasty demise of the malignant mummified hemorrhoid that goes by the nomen Rupert Murdoch.

    Sobeid.

  38. corvus boreus

    PS, in commas, 2nd line should say ‘un-Australian by legislative deed’.
    In 1985, Rupert Murdoch renounced his Australian citizenship in order to further his US aquisitions.
    The fact that Rupert Murdoch is definitively un-Australian by both personal choice and citizenship documentation can be a relevant fact to point out to people you see patriotically buying Murdoch ‘news’-rags.

  39. corvus boreus

    A quote from a failed priest that is well worth remembering;

  40. king1394

    Within a week of Morrison’s promotion, we have a ‘refugee’ boat in Northern Queensland, and a terrorist associated with ISIS arrested in Sydney. Are we being softened up for an election telling us that only the Liberals will keep us ‘safe’?

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