WholeHearted Media

Gaslighting, Medical Misinformation, and Controlling the Narrative [Part 1]

We are in an age of infinite information. Many of us walk around blindly questioning what is true and what is false. The word “misinformation” is in our faces on a daily basis. Confusion is rampant, and a unique word seems to be floating around many conversations in regards to acknowledging, or refusing to acknowledge, other people’s truths, and that word is: Gaslighting. 

Before we look at how gaslighting might be occurring in society, and particularly in the context of the pandemic, let’s look at what the actual definition of gaslighting is, as well as its origins. 

ORIGINS OF GASLIGHTING

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, “Gaslighting [is] an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings[…] Gaslighting has the intention of “converting vulnerable people into intellectual and emotional slaves.”

The term “gaslighting” originates from a British play written in the 1930’s that was later adapted to a film called “Gaslight.” The film stars Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman who play a married couple. Throughout the film the husband, Gregory, convinces his wife, Paula, that she is going crazy by using techniques that we now associate with the phenomenon of gaslighting. He persuades her to believe that she is stealing things without any memory of it and that she is hearing noises that aren’t real, amongst other things. 

GASLIGHTING FROM A LARGE-SCALE PHILOSOPHICAL VIEW POINT  

There have been multiple analyses of ways in which the government and other large actors may be manipulating the public using gaslighting techniques. We’ll provide a couple perspectives:

In 1956, a social scientist, Dr. Albert D. Biderman, created a report called “Communist attempts to elicit false confessions from airforce prisoners of war” that looked at tactics used by Chinese and North Koreans on American pilots and other military members in order to elicit compliance and false confessions. As you can see from the graphic we’ve included, the chart of coercion techniques observed by Biderman has been compared to some of the mandates implemented to “combat” COVID-19. 

In the original report Biderman documented that, “the ever-present fear of violence in the mind of the prisoner appears to have played an important role in inducing compliance.” If  we switch out “fear of violence” with “fear of illness and death” it does seem to create a similar parallel to the way the mainstream media and the majority of governments have spread information to the public regarding COVID-19, despite its current 99.93% survival rate in Canada. Using the phrase “stay safe” over and over again in itself elicits a subconscious reminder that no one is safe from the virus. 

Reading down the list of methods in the chart, there are some additional interesting parallels to gaslighting. We see under the chart of coercion, “induced debility and exhaustion” is created in order to  “weaken [one’s] mental and physical ability to resist,” and  “people… become worn out by tension and fear.”  Additionally under the section labelled “Isolation,” we see that the result is to “[make the] individual dependent upon the captor,” as well as “[develop] an intense concern with self.” Going back to the original definition of gaslighting, these methods certainly borderline similar terrain as they both ultimately result in the loss of trust in one’s self, and thus cause the victims to rely on their captor(s) (or government, for example) to corroborate their reality.

In the COVID-19 comparison chart, we see that social distancing and quarantine are listed under the category of “Isolation.” As well, under “Induced debility,” are the concepts of forced stay-at-home measures, negative media content, and restricted exercise and socialization. Regardless of whether or not the intention behind these COVID mandates is to weaken the individual’s psyche, with all of the mental health challenges happening globally, it is obvious that the pandemic is having a significant effect on people’s ability to cope with reality. Medical News Today recently wrote a piece on this topic, finding that, “Scientists are starting to see a global “surge” in depression. According to a December 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 42% of people in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depression that month. This was a huge increase from the 11% they recorded in 2019.”

They also noted that based on surveys from their readers, people have been observing a lack of concentration, lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, and [have been engaging in] unhealthy eating habits.” These stats certainly seem to convey that society is becoming a bit debilitated. If in fact induced debility and exhaustion have the effect of wearing people out, and isolating people makes them dependent upon their ‘captor,’ it would seem that there is the potential that society is being manipulated in a way that makes them reliant on their governments to control their actions and outlooks on life.  

If you read through the original Biderman report, on the surface it would seem that the American prisoners were subjected to much more intense methods of physical violence than what we see subjected on larger society today, however it is also important to acknowledge the ways in which violence has been inflicted upon today’s masses more covertly. Particularly psychological manipulation has been utilized during the pandemic to coax global society into a state of hysteria over COVID (see four paragraphs below, where we look at the ways the government and mainstream media have exaggerated worst case scenarios to instill more fear in the public).

This hysteria has resulted in violence in the form of record numbers of increased of deaths from overdoses Canada-wide [1], [2] [3], astronomical numbers of canceled medical treatments, to look beyond Canada, a UN report even suggested that “the disruption in healthcare services caused by Covid-19 may have led to an estimated 228,000 maternal and child deaths in South Asia,” not to mention the 227,000+ reported adverse events, 4,201 deaths, and 18,528 serious injuries following COVID-19 vaccinations in the US alone. To be clear, these are just a few statistics of theoretical violence. The impact of restrictive mandates and other policies is much greater than these examples. 

Regardless of if all these measures to ‘combat’ COVID are unnecessary, and/or ineffective, they certainly have violent impacts. However their negative consequences seem to be overlooked by the media and governments and instead they are disguised as benevolent measures being enacted by our governments in order to ‘protect us.’ Society has been convinced that these measures are in our best interest. This creates an interesting dichotomy between the circumstances of the American soldiers, vs society today. The American soldiers were being held against their will, in the case of the world-wide pandemic, we are observing a scenario where individuals are being “asked” to comply with the recommendations of the government, and even support them.

When we look at individuals being asked to willingly choose to comply with government mandates, there is an interesting intersection with the works of English writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley (most famously known for his novel “Brave New World”). A group called After Skool has overlaid audio from a lecture he gave at UC Berkeley back in 1962 with a visual graphic demonstrating some of the conditions of present-day society. The overall theme of Huxley’s discussion is on techniques used to enslave large populations. He suggests that in order for a controlling oligarchy to demonstrate any level of success in societal enslavement there has to be a level of consent amongst the subjects/slaves. In order to elicit this, he indicates that rulers must combine methods of terror with methods of persuasion, with the intent of creating voluntary acceptance amongst the masses. 

When we look at the way the pandemic has played out, there is no doubt that many governments and mainstream media platforms have emphasized worst case scenarios for COVID-19. For example, when the pandemic started, predictive modelling suggested that the COVID fatality rate might be as high as 3-5 percent. In our included graphics, you can also see commentary on this concept from journalists such as Alex Berenson on how the media has been focusing on the most fear-inducing statistics, without balancing them out with positive improvements. Even celebrities such as motivational speaker Tony Robbins have come out exposing how the media has been intentionally trying to increase people’s fear in their coverage of COVID in order to elicit more attention and reliance on the media. Through the lens of Huxley, it would appear that this terror could have been used in order to persuade society to do things such as social distance, wear masks, shut down entire economies for exorbitant lengths of time, and even manipulate people into advocating for further restrictions out of fear. If the majority of Canadians didn’t agree with the current public health orders, there would be no way to justify or enforce them. It is only possible to enact such health orders with the public’s consent. The question is, are the current measures really justifiable, or has society been lured into a false state of terror in order to acquiesce or even perpetuate the government’s mandates? As of May 3rd, 2021, Florida has decided that there is no longer a state of emergency and has suspended all remaining state COVID-19 public health restrictions. At what point will Canada decide to do the same? Or perhaps more importantly, at what point will the media reflect COVID in a light that no longer encourages society to be afraid, and thus no longer encourages individuals to request further restrictions from their governments?  

These philosophical perspectives shed some light on how global society may be being “convert[ed…] into intellectual and emotional slaves,” through various methods of gaslighting. 

GROUP-THINK PSYCHOLOGY and GASLIGHTING

We can also analyze some of the ways in which gaslighting may be playing out collectively by looking at the psychology of human beings and their potentially innate desire to conform. One of the most famous psychology studies on peer pressure and conformity is the Asch Line Experiment.

For those of you who haven’t taken PSYCH 101, the study was conducted in the 1950’s by Psychologist, Solomon E. Asch, who “showed his subjects a picture of a vertical line followed by three lines of different lengths, one of which was obviously the same length as the first one. He then asked subjects to identify which line was the same length as the first line.” The study was conducted in groups where only one person was actually a participant and all the other people in the room were actors.

When the actual participants were asked which lines were the same length without the influence of anyone else, they answered correctly 99% of the time. However, when the participants had to answer in a group setting where the actors collectively answered incorrectly, he found that “75% of the participants answered incorrectly at least once in order to conform with the group.” Finding that overall, participants would answer wrong 33% of the time to conform. In an article written by Practical Psychology on the Asch Line Study, they highlight some of the study’s limitations – noting that the United States (where the study was conducted) has evolved to encourage free-thinking over the last 70 years, and that if the study was conducted today it would likely find very different results. They emphasized that at the time of this study, participants “were likely aware of the “Red Scare” and the “Mccarthyism tactics” used to blacklist people for alleged communist practices[…] If people were not conforming to the capitalist idea of America, they would potentially lose their careers and dignity.” Flash forward to today, and we see some very similar blacklisting occurring through mechanisms such as cancel culture and mass-censorship.

Active public shaming of anyone who is questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccines, particularly the COVID-19 vaccines, for example has gotten to the point that a group called “The Center for Countering Digital Hate” created a term called the “Disinformation Dozen” to publicly discredit some of the most outspoken individuals on the topic. On May 4th, 2021, number 1 on this list, Dr. Joseph Mercola released a statement that he would be “removing all articles related to vitamins D, C, zinc, and COVID-19,” due to a myriad of threats and harassment he has been receiving in the wake of the pandemic. He emphasized that the threats “have intensified to the point…[that they] are not legal in nature, and I have limited ability to defend myself against them.” From this statement, he seems to be implying that alternative voices in the pandemic are being threatened to the point that they are concerned for not only their livelihoods but potentially even for their actual lives. 

To link this back to gaslighting, one of the main objectives of gaslighting is to compromise the victim’s ability to distinguish truth from falsehood. If any of the people listed on the “Disinformation Dozen” have some credible information to provide, all this public shaming, and even more serious threats to their person, all seem to create a scenario in which the public is less likely to trust their credibility, or in the case of Dr. Mercola, even be able to access their information.

Without these alternative sources, the main place to receive information is from large-scale actors such as the CDC, WHO, and governments. If the information from these sources were 100% correct all of the time, then perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem. However, information is changing all the time and the CDC and the WHO have changed their stance on things such as PCR testing and cycle thresholds regularly. Not to mention the whirlwind of changing opinions on which vaccines are safe to take and who should take them. In all likelihood, these large organizations have changed their perspectives because doctors and other experts have investigated these matters and shared their findings and eventually the CDC and WHO came around to updating their information.

If alternative voices aren’t allowed to share their knowledge, it seems likely that society will progress on a much slower scale. It also creates a reality in which people aren’t allowed to think for themselves unless their beliefs line up with the narratives being spun by these large organizations. One of the take-aways from the Asch Line Study according to Practical Psychology was that “it’s important to speak out whenever you feel that you may be thinking differently than the people around you.” What a difficult task in such a climate. 

To continue looking at the concept of gaslighting within the Asch Line Study, it seems pretty easy to make the leap that on a small-scale the study demonstrates an experience that “gradually undermine[d] the [participants] confidence in [their] ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance.” If 75% of individuals will answer incorrectly at some point simply to fit in, what might be actually occurring in the minds of the masses today? Is everyone in agreement? Or is a large majority simply following the herd because they don’t feel they can rely on their own perspective? Perhaps many people feel that they are uneducated in matters related to the pandemic and are simultaneously being encouraged to follow government guidelines rather than seek to independently educate themselves. 

To further investigate the concept proposed by Practical Psychology on how it is unlikely that we would see the same results today in a society that “encourages free-thinking” and “rejects ideas of conformity,” let’s bring in some more specific examples of encouraging (or discouraging) free-thinking in today’s world. 

REAL WORLD PARALLELS / EXAMPLES

One of the most obvious ways in which it seems as though governments and large-scale actors, such as the WHO, may be implementing coerced reliance and confusion is through their messaging around where to get information and what type of information is accurate. Mainstream media and social media further support this messaging through their implementation of mass-censorship and “fact-checking” of any alternative viewpoints.

To show a few examples, on March 20th, 2021 CBC News released this video titled “COVID-19 misinformation could be a ‘huge danger’ to Canadiansin which they inform the public of how to find “correct” information. One of the things that they highlight is that information is changing daily and “what’s true yesterday may not be true today.” Although they don’t directly state that people should only get their evidence from the CDC and other large organizations, they do seem to be pushing a narrative that only certain doctors and certain information is true, and that anything that is dated is no longer relevant. Using this rhetoric of ‘anything that is dated, is no longer relevant’ cuts off access to an almost limitless supply of peer-reviewed research on previous viruses and medical interventions, etc. Not to mention, it is an easy way to invalidate the surplus of research that has come out around measures such as masks and lockdowns not working to combat COVID-19; as soon as a study is a couple months old, using this logic it can be considered dated, and thus we must wait until a new study has come out and gone through the process of peer review, which could take months. Without access to this type of research, the only thing left to rely on is the most ‘up to date’ statistics from places like the CDC and WHO and their predictive modelling of what is to come – which has also proved to be inaccurate. 

Additionally, social media corporations have publicly come out saying they are combatting COVID “misinformation” to the point that Instagram is trying to prevent users from looking at pages with COVID in the title (see included graphic) and Facebook has a COVID-19 and vaccine policy that includes a myriad of things that they will censor posts for, including censoring posts that discuss any serious harms of the COVID-19 vaccine or claiming that there are alternate medical or herbal remedies to increase your natural immunity. To add to the insanity, “new internal docs leaked to Project Veritas show [that] Facebook is secretly censoring COVID vaccine information that goes against its ideology, even if the facts are true.” The whistleblower who leaked these documents was then suspended from the company and decided to publicly come forward, stating that Facebook is “afraid of what people might conclude if they see that other people are having negative side effects. They think that this is going to drive up vaccine hesitancy among the population and they see that as something that they have to combat.” Not only are companies like Facebook intentionally censoring accurate information, but other media organizations like Vox have been caught editing old articles on the origins of COVID-19 without disclosing these changes to readers. These deceptive and manipulative actions by media organizations do not seem to be necessarily combating misinformation, but instead coercing readers / consumers into relying on these organizations for specific information, whether or not they know that as consumers, they are not receiving a full-picture of reality. 

We also have public figures telling people not to do their own research (in other words, to rely on the government to tell them what to do). In the included tweet, Rachel Notley, current leader of Alberta’s NDP, links a Forbes article titled “You Must Not ‘Do your own Research’ When It Comes To Science.”*

What we are seeing from all of this messaging is that the average person should not educate themselves because “experts know better” AND that only some experts and organizations are acceptable –  while other experts, such as molecular biologist and immunologist, Professor Dolores Cahill, and epidemiologist, Professor Sunetra Gupta, along with hundreds of other experts and medical professionals, are deemed untrustworthy sources for being both educated and holding a differing opinion from the dominant narrative. 

*As a side note, Forbes chose a very ironic topic to justify the rationale of “trusting the science.” The bulk of the article uses the example of fluoridating drinking water, highlighting that some places are concerned that it’s “not natural” and therefore have higher cavity rates. When in reality, what most people are concerned about when it comes to fluoride is that fluoride toxicity is associated with a multitude of serious medical harms, potentially most important of which is that it has been linked in numerous studies to associated lower IQ. So, although the people of Portland may have slightly higher cavity rates than their New York City counterparts, they also likely have higher average IQs, which may be why they have the intellect to challenge the narrative around adding toxic chemicals to their water sources. Here are two additional links [1], [2], to other various articles exploring the harms of fluoride toxicity. 

Again, all these references seem to circle back to this idea that the individual cannot trust themselves and cannot trust information presented to them, unless it comes from specific sources. To re-highlight part of the definition of gaslighting, “[it] is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter.” We now live in a society that does not seem to be encouraging people to empower and educate themselves. Instead, it pushes specific narratives and reprimands any dialogue or critical questioning of those narratives.  

We’ll wrap up Part 1 of this article here, at this broader-scale perspective. In Part 2 we will continue with more specific examples of gaslighting in the context of COVID, and especially in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine. If there are any takeaways from this article, we hope that this provides you with an opportunity to be empowered to think critically and always choose to make up your own mind about your reality. This is your life. You get to choose how you live it and whether you live in fear or in love, light, and in your own truth. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article which will be published soon. For now, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what you just read. What stood out the most for you? Leave a comment below. 

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