Merriam-Webster Declares 'Gaslighting' 2022 Word of the Year
Dramatic spike in usage in response to our current Orwellian administration.
By John Leake
Merriam-Webster just announced the following:
In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time.
A driver of disorientation and mistrust, gaslighting is “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” 2022 saw a 1740% increase in lookups for gaslighting, with high interest throughout the year.
Merriam-Webster’s report and definition of the term acknowledge that the meaning of ‘gaslighting’ has evolved since the word was coined. In my opinion, the current spike of usage is based on a misunderstanding of the concept. In the current, popular imagination, gaslighting is often confused with gross lying and deception, but in fact the term refers to tricking the victim into believing he is losing his mental competence so that he will doubt his perceptions of reality.
The term originated in a play and 1944 film Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, in which a woman is manipulated by her sinister husband into believing she is losing her sanity. In his initial gambit, he rigs their home’s gaslights to flicker periodically. When she asks him, “Why do the lights keep flickering?” He says he doesn’t know what she’s talking about—that the lights are NOT flickering.
In another notable scene, he gives her a valuable brooch—a family heirloom that he claims had belonged to his mother—while warning her that she must be very careful not to lose it. “You know how you tend to lose things,” he says. Later, when the brooch goes missing from her purse, it seems (in her mind) to confirm her husband’s concern (not realizing that he removed it from her purse).
Gaslighting is a particularly malevolent form of psychological warfare, most often deployed in interpersonal relationships by what the Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg called “malignant narcissists.” The concept of the malignant narcissist is closely related to Dr. Robert Hare’s concept of the psychopath. Incidentally, during my recent conversation with the British cardiologist, Aseem Malhotra, he observed that the pharmaceutical industry displays distinct traits of psychopathy in the way it conducts business.
I suspect that the spike in usage of ‘gaslighting” is an outcome of our current Orwellian administration. As Orwell memorably wrote in 1984:
The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.
I frequently thought of this command as I was reading Edward Dowd’s new book, Cause Unknown: The Epidemic of Sudden Deaths in 2021 and 2022. Every day we see reports of young people suddenly dropping dead, and our mainstream media would have us believe the cause is unknown.
This is a crazy-making form of mass deception and pretending that indeed bears a resemblance to the original meaning of ‘gaslighting.’
Courageous Discourse™ with Dr. Peter McCullough & John Leake is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.