Gaslighting. Sealioning. Tone policing. Concern trolling. These days, it’s all about keeping people silent and full of doubt.
Ever had a crystal-clear story in your head that you wanted to share?
Or a well-thought-out opinion about an issue?
Only…once you begin to talk, the ideas get all twisted around. The other person isn’t getting what you’re saying. You seem to be missing the mark, judging by their responses. You’ve never felt like communicating has been an issue before.
Out of frustration, you stop.
Later on, it doesn’t make sense. You could not seem to get your point across. How did expressing yourself become so tough?
It might not be you. It might be a game. A horseshit, dishonest game played by people who want you silent. Bros who confuse white privilege with aggressiveness play. Billionaire fetishists consider this their favorite game. Internet trolls play as well. And yes: you weren’t asked if you wanted to play beforehand. That’s the idea.
As predatory capitalism grows more predatory, those with vested interests in maintaining the unequal status quo undermine instead of confront. Richer whiteboys want to keep their tax shelters and control the stock market. Poorer whiteboys want to pretend that it’s still the past and the 1960s never happened.
The manipulation tactics known as gaslighting, sealioning, tone policing, and concern trolling get used a lot these days. America is changing and the Right wants to stop all talk about the changes. Only here’s the rub: the Right also comprehends that sounding like nazis who want to silence others will make them come across like…what’s the word…nazis. And these days, they will get called nazis. So, instead of giving up their nazified dreams and joining the human race, they turn to these four trolling techniques.
Here are four examples to show how gaslighting, sealioning, tone policing and concern trolling differ from one another. We’ll use white supremacy’s rise as the sample topic. You’re in a group talking to four other people.
You: “I’m concerned about white supremacy in America. It seems like we are regressing.”
Gaslighter: “You’re not seeing it clearly. The media blows minor incidents out of proportion and gullible people like you believe what you see and hear. Nothing is wrong.”
Sealioner: “White supremacy…hmmm…Could you give me a definition of this quote ‘white supremacy’ and maybe three or four specific examples?”
Tone police: “White supremacy is NOT rising in the United States. Whiny people with negative attitudes is what’s rising.” (While the most abrasive, tone policing is also the most overt—it’s like the most honest of the four. Weird, huh?)
Concern troll: “This whole white supremacy thing you seem to be going on and on and on about…are you sure you’re okay? I’m worried about you.”
One person can utilize more than one of these four forms of abuse—and they are abusive—in the same conversation. Tactics can work together to sabotage someone’s intent to speak. You are dealing with malicious intent. Someone does not want you to feel okay about speaking freely. They want you doubting yourself.
Back to the white supremacy example: some whites in America do not care about white supremacy’s rise and people of colors’ fears at all. But…they also know that airing such opinions could make them look like racist dicks. (Racist dicks tend to hate being thought of as racist dicks, like nazis can’t stand to be called nazis.) So they keep their true feelings hidden and gaslight, tone police, concern troll or sealion instead.
These tactics are dishonest, end-around responses from people who, deep-down, want to straight-up disagree. Like Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men, the users of these tactics desperately want to yell, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THAT I LOVE RACISM AND YES: YES, I WILL INDEED SUCK A BILLIONAIRE’S INFECTED DICK IF HE ASKED ME TO—AND NOT ONE BIT OF THE SAID SUCKING WILL BE GAY BECAUSE WE ARE BOTH WHITE DUDES WHO HAD RELATIVES WHO FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR TWO AND WE BOTH LOVE MONEY!”
Overprivileged, ammosexual chickenhawks love these four disingenuous conversational tricks. White dudes who think they are one decision away from joining the 1% and strutting around Bro Country Club in their own monogrammed sport jacket.
Wall Street loves this game. Silicon Valley can’t get enough of this game. Democrats who worry more about their own retirements than the world play it, too.
But look on the bright side: if you got targeted, an insecure person felt threatened. A weakling saw you as the strong one. The person who did this to you is the type who states that life is a big joke, but they shit their pants as they boast. Everyone can see them shitting their pants, but this is America and we don’t talk about white dudes shitting their pants unless the white dudes are liberals. Bro-descendants of WWII veterans don’t feel fear.
Insidious times. Dumb people are freakin’. More importantly, their masters, the fellas with all the money in the Caymans, are freakin’.
As the middle class shrinks and the country gets stupider and sicker, the people who aim to profiteer from the regression don’t want people talking about their plans.
So, in closing, look at it this way: if you are being gaslit, tone-policed, concern trolled or sealioned, guess what? You also bring truth. Continue bringing that truth.
I don’t just write blog posts like this. I write fiction as well. And, in my spare time, I write movie reviews from the year 2028 during the reign of President Eric Trump.
I also post at Medium.
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