on "gaslighting", "grooming", and other overused terms

date: june 1, 2024

i was browsing youtube a few weeks ago, and saw something that peaked my interest.

a screenshot of a Marques Brownlee video, "New AI Feature: Gaslughting surprised covering face emoji

in light of this, i wrote a somewhat angry post on Mastodon, which is essentially the thesis of this post.

👏 please 👏 stop 👏 using 👏 the 👏 word 👏 gaslighting 👏 to 👏 refer 👏 to 👏 things 👏 that 👏 are 👏 not 👏 actually 👏 gaslighting 👏 gaslighting is a fucking evil form of manipulation that leads the victim to question their own sanity, it's not just lying flippantly using terms where they do not apply diminishes their meaning and helps awful people

i'd like to expand on this though, because this hasn't just happened with gaslighting -- the right's moral panic over books containing references to trans people has many parallels. they refer to anyone who so much as mentions the existence of trans or non-binary people to children as "groomers". but here's the little thing about that:


much like gaslighting, real grooming is an insidious manipulative tactic used by horrible people to, among other things:

have you ever heard the line "every accusation is a confession"? i'm not going to argue that everyone on the political right are heisenberg-level abusers and manipulators, partially because i think that that is a gross mischaracterization and over-simplification, but also because that seems like giving too much credit. :P

remember Hanlon's razor. "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

i also hold this position because i used to be a very different person to who i am now. i'm fucking disgusted by the person i used to be -- there are many tweets i wish i could unsend, things i could unsay, people i could unhurt. but in real life, it's not that easy. i've been trying to right my wrongs where i can, and some of that involves things like this post. it gives me hope though that someone as far along the alt-right rabbit hole as i was, could be brought back to reality -- in my case, just by meeting the right person. (i miss you [redacted])

i'm not going to try to blame all of my indiscretions on others, there's certainly some personal issues that factored into them. but my point behind writing this is to say the following. if someone in your life seems to be slipping into a complex web of mis - (or dis) - information, it might not be too late to bring them back to their senses. but what certainly does not help anyone good, is the overuse of these terms.

oh, and one more thing. none of this is new. i'm gonna link a clip from a PSA produced by the government of the United States.

god help us

it's not said explicitly in that clip, but hopefully you can see my point nonetheless. this moral panic is not even a new one, it's just the group in question that is changing. hopefully being aware of the cyclical nature of moral panics will make identifying them easier in the future.

i'll probably re-write this post in a bit, i just wanted to get these thoughts out there.

~ spv, 2024