Gaslighting 101 or General Allyship 101

As a purveyor of patterns all over the web and life in general, I see this whole discussion of a particular issue. In this case, it was racism as a trope to indicate a “bad guy” sans any other marker or indicator.

The tweet heard round the world.

As we see here, we have a clearly stated point: racist-just-because-I’m-racist-guy equals bad guy is lazy writing. Racism need not be a story requirement.

What ensues is a bunch of nonsense that, quite honestly, is exhausting in how common it is; the patterns are just so painfully predictable. I don’t even need the names I’m leaving in because I could swap in so many.

Since sass is my brand (no idea why, really…) we’re going to have a small powerpoint presentation wherein there are pictures and then commentary.

Alright, let’s begin.

Here we experience our first step in the descent into nonsense

Ah, the classic hit of “OK, but how should we approach this?” followed by the other billboard hit “I’m not being disingenuous!” The issue here is that, when you enter into a conversation of any kind wherein the people who are the target of or affected by the behavior discussed, it is often seen as disingenuous to then go “Tell me how to fix it, then…” only to then go “But I’m just saying….” as you ignore every suggestion given.

Additionally, you stepped into the comment thread here just to argue. Particularly, “I agree with you, but I have conditions….” but let’s continue:

You know what they say about making assumptions: don’t.


I see this pattern often and recognize it, but cannot understand the idea of I agree, but I don’t. If you grasp the point presented, then why are you over in my lane instead of being in your own?

When Twstd enters the fray, you know the tea is hot.
Our favorite variation of the “gotcha moment”: notcha!

Here we have further exposition on the point above: there are tons of stories, books, movies, and other media in which characters experience varying types of conflict and none of it need involve things that traumatize people in the telling of it.

Unable to grasp this, we go from “Well, you’re not OK with racism, but what about classism?” Apparently with this nonsense panini, I’ve gotten a side order of moving the goalpost. As if to emphasize my ancestral foresight, I say there won’t be a gotcha moment.

As if on cue, what do I get? A screenshot of something I previously said. My chicken is significantly less crisp as of this moment.

Why would you attempt this gotcha moment that isn’t even there; conflict doesn’t need to be a function of oppression.

Any PoC ever, 2019

I can say that with authority because as I’ve expressed in the tweets here: I am a dungeon master. I have a whole game that I’ve run. There’s been plenty of conflict, but there’s been no classism, racism, or any other -ism needed for my characters to feel all manner of things.

Seriously: you can read all my OHAH session sum-ups on this subject. Let’s get back to this.

And the block…

Let me point out a particular thing: I do not grasp the social capital of, nor the interest, in agitating someone so much that you get blocked on someone’s social media account.

However, if you come to me in bad faith and being disrespectful on the subject of bringing real world oppression with no redemptive purpose into a fantasy game because you needed an easy plot device, you can go ahead and block me; I’m coming for you and your neighbor’s edges. Period.

Then to block as if they were denying me something of value by their absence. As if I haven’t seen this conversation a dozen lives ago. As if I didn’t know they would block me before the second tweet here.

You think that would be the end of it, but no. By this point others were in the rafters watching as you saw earlier. Here’s the rest of that interaction:

Now where is the gaslighting? That was the title of this piece after all. I’m certainly not one to leave you without the proper tea, so here you go:

I don’t have proper captions for these images, but let’s discuss this because this whole thing came after blocking. Me, being the wise and internet savvy sasser that I am, went and took screenshots of the whole dialog upon seeing myself blocked before parts of the dialog were deleted.

As I’ve said a few times now, this is a pattern. A foregone conclusion. That means you keep receipts on hand because the gaslighting starts where receipts end.

I’ll make my points with bullets here for easy reading:

  • This person sees themseleves as agreeing with me. This point alone may be the most concerning. They agree with me, but in that attempted “agreeing”, they insist on being right over understanding. If you want to express solidarity, you empathize, then act. Not argue. There is something to be said about the need for men to express questions as challenges rather than an actual question, but that’s another entry.
  • They report that this happens with any American they talk to. This is probably dramatic, but I note this because they also add that American social issues are very different and again, decide that their need to make their point should take precedence here while talking to an American. They are from the UK. Sometimes, it is best to just let the experience do the talking.
  • Tone-policing. Listen, I’m a person who always opts for the kind, soft means to express things. That said, if you are talking about how I made a point, that means you understood my point. Don’t do this.
  • Omission. Additionally, no one knows what point I made because he opted to leave that half of the dialog out. This is gaslighting insofar as they are intentionally framing this as “I was only trying to make a small point and I got attacked” rather than expressing the root cause and lead up to this supposed attack. Don’t do this, either.
  • “Racist abuse”. Now, we have the concept of prejudice based on ethnicity and/or nationality vs. oppression through systems of power that favor one ethnicity or nationality over another, but none of what happened in this dialog is racist. The only thing that happened was that someone was less tolerant of pedantic nonsense than he wanted. End of. Get this garbage out of here.
  • “But I have mental health issues”. This has gone from “Americans are mean to me when I try to talk to them” to “they are being racist and bullying me” to “I have mental health issues which make expressing myself hard”. Are these things valid? Normally, yes. Here, also yes. Does any of that give you a pass to not do better? No. Do you get exempted from what you post on social media? No. Are you immune to accountability? No. Will I snatch your disrespectful edges from their follicles when you try me like this? Yes.
  • Framing. Let’s take the last two tweets of this nonsense panini and look at the “sexually charged abuse” here. It was mentioned, as you can see in the screenshots, that I am referenced as a queer, black DM and that this person is trying to steamroll their opinion about racism over me. Is this what actually sexism looks like? No. Is this what attacks on someone’s sexuality looks like? No. Does their audience know that? No and since I am blocked, they never will.

All of the above points are how this type of gaslighting and such thrive. You express something, but then leave things out and present them to people unfamiliar with the preceding context aside from your framing of it.

I need to emphasize here that this person considers themselves an ally to marginalized people. I’m sure we are all ready to talk about how he’s not a real ally to the cause and should be considered an outlier, but let’s be honest here: this whole interaction is a lot less of an exception than it should be and most marginalized people run aground people who prioritize their feelings over the people they claim to stand with.

This happens for me whenever a social issue of any kind is mentioned. Is this a bad thing? Painful for sure, but the truth is that being an ally requires the humility to admit that you need to be educated about the people you’re trying to support and that, quite frankly, means you need to shut up more often.

And when you don’t do this, when the work of being a true ally becomes too hard, what we get is gaslighting.

Every person of color, every woman of color, every otherwise and everyway marginalized person I know sees this pattern and I want you to know that when we do, we’ve already sent the word around that you aren’t safe.

That you too have a knife in your hand, a bullet in your gun, a finger on the trigger because when the blood hits the floor, it’s this nonsense that will be the cause of it.

Let me repeat: people are dying or dead because of this gaslighting nonsense. By suicide, by people marching in the streets chanting they won’t be replaced, and by people passively watching this happen and not calling it out for their friends who don’t have the reach or voice to speak for themselves.

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