Gaslighting discussion (split from: Justin’s Miscellaneous Posts)

I’m ending my involvement in this thread and at this forum for now. I don’t know if or when I’ll return. I wanted to say that instead of silently departing. Best of luck to everyone.

Justin is still ambiguously hinting that he thinks ET did something wrong.

It was also ridiculous of him to ragequit 20 minutes after ET’s post went up. He could have taken a few days to calm down and then consider what to do. It looks like he may have wanted to lock in a decision (to leave) while he was still upset, before he changed his mind.

He also gave no explanation of which part of ET’s post offended him (and he actually didn’t even hit reply to ET’s post and left it unclear if the timing was a coincidence), while misleadingly talking about not silently departing.

“I consent to it” is misleading to say if you actually mean that you’ll ragequit over it, and maybe permanently leave a community you’ve been part of for 20 years.

I don’t really understand what happened here.

I can’t tell if you are blaming yourself, blaming Elliot, blaming me, or what. I can’t tell if you think you’ve been wronged in some way.

I’m not sure if you (Justin) are going to read this, but I’m writing to you anyway, since it is a response to you. I’m not really sure what else to do, and don’t know the best way to proceed in the thread, so I am just writing out some thoughts.

I initially said, in message 26 of this thread:

We never actually started going over any of the things that I thought were problematic, or why. Instead we got caught up in other things, like you arguing with my messages (and responding to me in further ways that I also thought were problematic, but didn’t have time to get into). The thread never made it back to discussing the topic that I tried to bring up in post 26, and then you finally quit in post 100.

I wrote 25 posts in this thread (according to the info at the top). I was trying to help, but I don’t think it worked out well. In the beginning, I wanted to give you a chance to respond, and to look at things yourself instead of just telling you everything I thought you did wrong. Maybe it would have been better to start with an analysis of the mistakes I saw, I don’t know. At the time, that seemed like it would come across as more aggressive or meaner than trying to have a discussion.

I’m not sure what I should do now.

My next suggestion was going to be that maybe instead of trying to understand “gaslighting”, it would be better to just go over the early messages in the thread and look for problematic behaviors, without having to name them anything or decide if they count as “gaslighting”.

My guess (at this point) is that you quit over Elliot’s message (post 99). But I don’t really understand why. It doesn’t seem to have new information that hasn’t already been said and acknowledged before (taking into account messages from here, discord, and FI). I think you yourself have said that you haven’t learned philosophy well. So I’m not sure which part was so triggering. I don’t know why it is worth quitting over.

Also, I thought that Anon5 had said similar things already, in posts 53 & 61, e.g.:


Maybe those bothered you less because they weren’t said by Elliot, so you took them less seriously? Or maybe you think what Elliot said is worse in some way I am not seeing.

It is problematic that people leave without ever saying why, or saying what bothered them. I don’t really understand what happens. And some people are really hostile to anyone trying to do any after-the-fact analysis about why people have quit. I’m not sure what to do about that either.

I would like this community to exist. I would like it to be a place where people could have discussions. But I’m not sure how to get that, or if it will even work. I thought part of the point of the “Unbounded” section was to make unbounded conversations opt-in, so that people could avoid them if they really didn’t want them. But I think maybe people feel pressured to try to have conversations in Unbounded even if that isn’t really what they want.

Part of the problem, generally speaking, is that it’s hard to get boundaries respected by others when you aren’t willing to say what they are.

The sort of boundaries that come up here are also often the sort of boundaries people don’t want to admit to wanting. They are often e.g. irrational, contrary to productive discussion, contrary to problem solving, contrary to truth-seeking.

I’ve run into it repeatedly where people seem to want certain things from me but are unwilling to request those things or otherwise put them into words. It’s problematic for me to try to give them those things from vague hints for multiple reasons.

The issue is not people who are bad at explaining what they want but try explaining it a few different ways and answer a few clarifying questions. It’s not like they are saying “I want something but it’s hard to explain” and then going from there. It’s not a communication problem.

One issue with unstated requests is that I don’t want to go out of my way for the benefit of people who are not my friends, colleagues or peers, with no appreciation, thanks, or acknowledgment that I did anything for them.

I also don’t want to guess what they want, do it for them, and be wrong. Maybe they didn’t want it at all, or maybe they only wanted it if I did some details a specific way that I was unable to guess.

I also don’t like to behave contrary to my initial preferences without a stated reason – like it’s misleading to readers if I do X and it looks like it’s my free choice when I’m actually doing it due to an implied request (similarly, if someone made a private request it’d be problematic for me to follow it publicly without them saying it publicly).

Also, I think a lot of what people want is dishonest in some way, and I don’t want to participate in dishonesty. They won’t ask for it because it’s bad, so they want me to do it without being asked, and help them pretend they don’t want it. They want me to sacrifice my integrity to help them fool others about how rational they are, how open to criticism, how able to participate in unbounded discussion, etc. When people want to fake reality in some way, they can’t just ask for what they want, because that would ruin it. E.g. if they say “Please limit your criticism” then they can’t pretend to be someone who faced unlimited criticism and handled it well. Both of us pretending no request was made is important to the charade.

A lot of what I do is treat people as I would want them to treat me, and charitably assume they might be super rational. But people want me to condescend to them, and assume they are beneath me, and not take them seriously – treat them like they are fragile, low skill, irrational, etc., but while pretending I’m treating them like they are skilled peers. They want me to limit my criticism while lying to the world that I’m using my best arguments. If I say that I’m limiting my arguments, or treating them like they aren’t a peer, they hate that. They don’t want me to do it in an open, honest way. They only want me to do it in a way that makes me look worse than I am and makes them look better than they are.

I have decided that I acted rashly and foolishly in leaving this thread and the forum. I was extremely emotional at the time and was not analyzing the situation in a clear and calm manner. My departure was not a reflection of my better judgment. I have spent the past week and a half or so introspecting, reading and privately writing about things related to philosophy, emotions, and my problems. I wrote a fair amount by my standards. I have calmed down a lot from doing these activities.

I’m not quite sure why I decided to say I was leaving instead of just taking a break for a week or two. If I’m really upset and having a hard time with something, taking a break from active participation seems like a reasonable thing to consider, but leaving entirely does not.

I have been reading the forum and have wanted to say things or ask questions or even just say “I like this.” I actually like and value the forum, and would prefer to participate in it (and do so in a reasonable and respectful manner, which is a standard I have not always achieved). Therefore, I think the upright and responsible thing to do given the circumstances is to apologize for my behavior. So I apologize to all discussion participants (especially Elliot and the anons I was talking to extensively) for suddenly, unnecessarily and dramatically quitting, especially after having moved the discussion to Unbounded. That was not reasonable of me.

I have tried to reflect on what I was thinking and feeling and engage with criticisms of those ideas and emotions. One example: I think that I felt attacked by having my character picked apart over some apparently tricky or subtle moral issue that I had great difficulty understanding. I had the good fortune to come across some philosophy which pretty directly addressed my attitude and caused me to reconsider. (Quotation from How to Think Like a Roman Emperor):

As we, in a sense, loves [sic] ourselves most of all, we are also most blind with regard to our own faults. The majority of us therefore struggle to attain the self-awareness required to improve our lives.

Galen’s solution to this problem is for us to find a suitable mentor in whose wisdom and experience we can genuinely trust. Anyone can tell when a singer is truly dreadful, but it takes an expert to notice very subtle flaws in a performance. Likewise, it takes a person of moral wisdom to discern slight defects in another person’s character. We all know that someone is angry when their face turns red and they start yelling, but a true expert on human nature would be able to tell when someone is just on the verge of getting angry, perhaps before they even realize it themselves.

I wrote some self-dialogue about this (I might post it somewhere). But one thing that I think is important is that there is a general attitude in the quote of appreciation for someone spotting moral/character problems that one doesn’t see oneself, and a belief that this is such a value that one should intentionally seek it out. That was not my attitude in the above discussion. So there is a big contrast there. I think my attitude was wrong.

I’m not yet sure how I should proceed in this thread in particular. I’m not sure how much of a priority it should be for me. I need to think about that more.


I think you should take a break from posting here for at least 6 months. Try meeting a variety of other people, socializing, making friends, pursuing other hobbies, developing new hobbies, journaling without feedback from other people’s opinions, studying/understanding CF articles yourself without talking to other people (if you want to; not reading any CF would also be OK), etc. It’s rationalistic of you to try to ignore your severe negative emotions and keep posting here like nothing major happened. Part of you wants other things and you should go give some other stuff a try, and see what it’s like more, instead of suppressing. You strongly wanted to quit, but then didn’t really give quitting a chance. You’re also a dangerous poster because you may rage again and then post while raging instead of refraining from posting until after you calm down. You need some distance and perspective, and to be less emotionally involved in this forum.

I also don’t think you’re taking the harassment campaign against me seriously. If you were in my shoes, it would have broken you. You would have given up. You couldn’t handle it. Just because I haven’t been broken doesn’t mean it isn’t really, really bad. I don’t think you acknowledge that.

You recently spoke with at least one CritRat after publicly quitting the CF forum. You used conflict with me to get attention from them. That’s a major betrayal.

It’s not OK to just chat with them about other stuff – ongoing rights violations shouldn’t be dismissed like that. Discussing complaints about me is worse. You gave them legitimacy and sanction, and sought value from them.

I knew previously that your attitude to the harassment was mediocre and that you weren’t helpful, but I was tolerant. Your recent actions crossed a breakpoint by actively doing harm. You’ve downplayed, justified and encouraged the harassment, and disrespected me and my rights.

I am fine with taking a break of at least 6 months. I would strongly prefer not to be permanently banned.

I just reread this post, and I want to make clear that I think the harassment you’ve suffered and are suffering is seriously screwed up, and the encouragement of it (or lack of response) from the CritRats is also screwed up. Even though I’ve read this stuff before, some of the details - all the sockpuppets, spamming, accusing you of violent threats with 0 basis - are totally nuts. The community leaders should denounce that kind of stuff. They don’t have to like you to stand for some minimal decency.

I keep trying to write something about the speaking with a CritRat thing but it’s all coming out crap. I would like to try to address the issue later on, with some perspective and distance that will hopefully translate into objectivity and wisdom. Thank you.

OK. Let’s discuss it after your break.


This claim upset me and I had a lot of trouble dealing with it/thinking about it. I don’t fully agree with it even now but I’ve changed my evaluation of it a lot. (I’m not consciously trying to attack or be disagreeable about the claim, btw - I’m just trying to be honest about my own current judgment/mental state).

I think part of my thinking (to the extent there was actual thought behind the mental process involved and not just some emotional reaction) was that my intent in contacting the CritRat was not (or at least not consciously) borne out of some desire to personally hurt you but instead born out of desire to “vent” my own frustration and get some external validation for my feelings or somesuch. But given the background context of the stalking you’ve dealt with and the CritRats’ encouragement (or at least indifference, which is bad enough) regarding that harassment, saying “well I wasn’t actively trying to hurt you” was basically using my own dropping of a bunch of context as a defense, which is a pretty bad defense. Also, venting about someone else pretty strongly implies that you’re venting about unreasonable behavior, which is a complaint about/attack on the other person.

Another thing is that by the time I had the conversation with the Crit Rat, I had calmed down enough that I pretty much found myself arguing with them and thinking they were wrong. But again, if initiating the contact in the first place was a bad decision that involved betrayal, that’s not much of a defense of innocence re: betrayal. It’s a bit like saying you’re not really a thief (in a moral sense, not a technical/legal sense) cuz you broke into a place and realized it had nothing worth stealing and so you just left. Instead of stuff to steal, I was looking for some kind of validation, but the basic principle is the same I think.

So I don’t actually think that the “major betrayal” is radiantly clear to me in an intuitive and automatic way. But I think I messed up and can see enough problems with my bullshit “defenses” to think it’s plausible you’re right about that.

Bottom line is I do think I made a big error and I wanted to apologize. If you decided to permanently ban me, I would not like that but would understand the decision.

If I were to not be banned, I would not post much for a while and would post in a pretty limited way. I don’t think avoiding certain topics is a sure fire preventive measure for avoiding problems (it clearly isn’t given how the gaslighting discussion started) but it can help. I’d also write fairly modest posts (small questions and points). I’ve been interested in the health/food topic and reading those posts and have wanted to say or ask things about that, which is part of my motivation for getting around to posting in this thread.

Here is an example to try to make it more clear:

Imagine you had someone in your life who had been majorly abusive to you. I also knew about this person’s abuse, and both you and I agreed that their behavior was abusive towards you.

Common examples where this happens would be that you had an abusive ex-romantic partner or parent. So imagine you had talked to me about this person a lot, and I knew a lot of details about the situation, and always said I agreed with you, and wanted to help you.

And imagine that this abusive person did not believe they were abusive, and instead believed that their behavior was just a reasonable response to your behavior. They blamed you for the abuse. If only you listened more, they wouldn’t have to yell and hit you. If only you prioritized them, they wouldn’t have to throw out your stuff. If only you answered the phone when they called, they wouldn’t have to come to your place of work, cause a scene, and get you fired.

Then imagine you and I got into some sort of unrelated disagreement, and I was upset and felt wronged in some way: I was really hurt, and just wanted to talk to someone about it.

So I called your abuser and told them you were a jerk to me, and that I wanted to talk about it. My goal here wasn’t to hurt you: it was to receive validation for my own feelings.

By the time I had a chance to have a conversation with your abuser, I had calmed down a bit, and spent most of the time defending you. I talked about how much your actions had hurt me, how you didn’t listen, you hadn’t been prioritizing me, you didn’t answer the phone when I called, etc. But I also tried to explain what I thought your side might be: maybe you just didn’t mean to be so thoughtless, maybe you were really busy that day, maybe you weren’t really trying to be so hurtful.

Do you see how that would be a betrayal? Do you see how contacting them at all was a betrayal, and trying to defend you in the end wasn’t actually helpful?

Contacting your ex who beat you and threatened your life and blamed you for it, to tell them about how you were also mean to me (in a way that the ex would think justified further violence) is a major betrayal, even if I calm down and try to defend you later. (And even if my defences of you were really good, which I think yours weren’t, given that you don’t understand the situation or what you did wrong very well.)

So I’m not sure what is going on here.

Do you disagree with me about the example I gave? Do you think that it would not be a major betrayal if I called your abuser to complain about you?

Do you not agree with Elliot that the CritRats are actually abusive in a serious way? (And if so, why have you never said that?)

Is there some relevant other way that what you did deviates from my example?

Thanks for writing that example. I think that and your questions helped clarify my issue/disagreement, at least a bit.

I agree that the example given depicts a major betrayal.

I think this must be the issue, or at least the major issue.

I think it’s straightforward that contacting someone like AndyB to vent would be a major betrayal. He’s used force, faked identities, etc., and so I have no problem saying he’s acted abusively/is an abuser. That’s a very easy case and I don’t think I have any disagreement or hesitance at all there.

I’m less sure about extending the term abusive to other people like the CritRats, despite the fact that I think they’ve acted immorally. I agree that things like friendly tweets with abusers, encouraging bad/hateful group dynamics, or refusing to help when contacted about an abuser are immoral and fucked up, but I’m reluctant to categorize that as abusive itself.

To check whether I was off base in my understanding of the term “abusive”, I looked in various dictionaries, and there are a few different definitions (ranging from mean statements to violence in a relationship). In my mind, in the context of the current discussion, the term “abusive” stands for certain interactions (like in messed up relationships) that involve force, criminal behavior, extended psychological abuse, that kind of thing. That clearly seems to apply to AndyB but I am less clear how it applies to the CritRats, including the one I spoke with. Sanctioning/fraternizing with/refusal help regarding an abusive person is, IMHO, very bad, but still seems morally different than being the prime mover abuser themselves.

I wasn’t aware this was a specific point of disagreement until now.

One thing that may be a source of bias is my having known the CritRat from before in a friendly way. That isn’t “relevant” in the sense of the moral analysis, I don’t think, but it is something that may be affecting my ability to see the situation clearly, so it seemed worth mentioning.

I’m trying hard to be honest and calm in my replies and to not write too much at a time. I hope this response was okay.

Your offer here seems to be, first, a partial apology: you are apologizing for what you did without actually fully understanding how it was wrong, and with no offer to try to understand how it was wrong. You seem to have some kind of disagreement with Elliot, but you haven’t stated it clearly and aren’t offering to state your disagreement or figure it out.

And then after that, you seem to be saying he can either take it or leave it: he can permanently ban you if he wants, or he can let you come back, at which point you still won’t discuss the things that led to this issue, still won’t try to learn how you were wrong, still don’t have any reasonable plan for not hurting him or betraying him again, and still won’t clearly state whatever your disagreement with him is.

If Elliot bans you, it superficially looks like you apologized in good faith, tried to make things right, learned something about how you were wrong and corrected that, but he just wouldn’t accept it because it wasn’t enough for him.

Are you Justin writing as an anon?

To be clear, I wasn’t trying to out a legitimate anon here - the anon was writing as if they were @JustinCEO from the conversation, so I thought maybe it was some kind of mistake. I didn’t want to reply to someone just pretending to be Justin, so that is why I asked. I figured if it was a mistake, Justin could confirm from his real account that it was him.

I never got a response though, so now I am not sure what was going on.

Yes, that was me. Sorry for causing confusion.

I agree with your characterization of what I said.

To be clear, I would be willing to try to understand more how what I did was wrong. I doubt I could make much headway on such a project without some help from others. As I understand it, I’m still under consideration for being banned from the forum, and that does not seem like an appropriate position from which to ask help for a learning project of any kind. I’m also not sure if it’d be necessary to fully understand the issue in order to engage with the forum in a positive, productive, limited way. But I might of course be wrong about that and Elliot might judge the issue differently.

I was trying to offer an (admittedly limited, in terms of the understanding behind it) apology so that I might be able to try engaging with the forum in a limited way. But I recognize that Elliot might think I’m too much of a risk for doing some other bad thing, or just not worth dealing with at this point in terms of the value offered.

Note that my replies will in general be slow.

Why do you write about AndyB like he isn’t a CritRat?

And are you saying that no CritRats other than AndyB did actions you consider clearly abusive?

Fair question. He definitely is an accepted part of their group, and should be considered a CritRat. I think I sort of put him in his own separate category/tier because his behavior seems so extreme.

My initial reaction to this was “yes”. I wanted to think about that response more, though. I looked back at a couple of Elliot’s posts to find an example of someone besides AndyB doing something really extreme and egregious in order to analyze whether I thought it was abusive.

I think one good example to consider in this regard is Dennis Hackethal lying about Elliot threatening violence. I thought that lie was egregious, irresponsible, immoral, and defamatory. I’m still reluctant to call it abusive.

I honestly don’t have a very clear idea of what I’d consider abusive. It’s pretty connected to particular concrete situations or to a notion of really extreme behavior. I can’t really state it in terms of a clear principle (so that makes me think that my intuition might well be wrong). I think some of the concretes are like: people being cruel or violent towards significant others, people engaging in extremely harsh/violent behavior towards children, people engaging in extended psychological manipulation or abuse. The only common thread I can pull out here is that there’s generally some position of trust or confidence or authority that’s being abused in some way.

I’ll cut it off here since I don’t want to bring up a million new issues and figure that that is enough to move the discussion forward.

Do you think that there is a severe harassment campaign involving many different people, all of whom are DD fans? And it would still be severe if we excluded all of AndyB’s actions? And DD is the leader and root cause of the campaign?

And do you think that DD had a position of trust, confidence or authority with ET?

Yes. Specifically, people have been friendly/encouraging to AndyB despite ET’s extensive documentation of his evil behavior. Also, Hackethal and Deutsch have both told serious lies about ET.

Hmm. I’m honestly not sure. I don’t know how to judge this issue.

As an attempt to get a handle on the issue visually, I crossed out all the directly AndyB related stuff from the graphic Elliot made on the harassment and it seemed to help a lot in terms of reducing the problems Elliot would face:

But I’m not actually convinced by this that it wouldn’t still be severe. I legitimately don’t know. (I do think it’s fucked up people would sanction that much awful stuff and still just chat someone up like they’re a friendly bro).

I think there is disagreement here because I wouldn’t quite put it like that. I got more uncertain as I thought about it.

My initial take: I think DD is a community leader in a position to at least greatly discourage the harassment campaign. The fact that he hasn’t is disgraceful, particularly in light of his professed values and past relationship with Elliot. So DD has moral responsibility for contributing to the harm ET has suffered. However, it seems plausible that AndyB would continue at least some harassment activities even if DD spoke up. AndyB gets encouragement/moral support from the CritRats and that makes things worse, but he might be enough of a hater to carry on some activities regardless. So I think AndyB is the main instigator and DD is a (condemnation-worthy) sanctioner.

I also doubt that someone could be a leader in some activity without having some conscious intent to do so. Being a leader involves some serious effort and energy and doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you could automate. AndyB clearly has conscious, malicious intent to harass and cause ET to suffer. But DD? I don’t know about that.

After thinking through the above, I wondered if maybe, contrary to what I just wrote, DD was the person most morally responsible for the harm in the situation. Maybe like Stadler, he’s the person who should know better and speak up but won’t. And then maybe AndyB is just like some random thug who’s not very important objectively. But IDK. AndyB seems important to the story here. If you took him away things would improve. He’s not like some random idiot looting a store. There’s a ton of active energy and thought and skill going into his harassment. So yeah, IDK.