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

I wrote a post in the JustinCEO thread about interpreting Lillian Rearden as a victim. My main point was that it is possible to interpret her in that way, and I think that is important.

I think there is a problem with the book teaching and encouraging you to look at someone who could be interpreted as a victim, and to instead interpret them as evil and malevolent, in an infallibilist way. You interpreted her that way to the point that you actually excused mistreatment of her because you thought she deserved it for being so bad. You thought she deserved it even though Hank didn’t know at the time he was mistreating her that she was evil (assuming she actually even was evil). I think that this is the type of reading that was intended – the reader is not supposed to sympathize with Lillian, and is not supposed to see Hank’s mistreatment of her as bad or even as mistreatment – and I think it is really problematic.

My point here is that I think that you, and other people, do something similar to Elliot. Even when he is a victim, like in the CritRat harassment campaign, people still interpret him as being mean when he just does things like clearly write about the ways in which he is being harassed. And you have repeatedly interpreted him as being mean and unreasonable when he was actually being extremely generous and tolerant with you, and trying to allow you the ability to stay on the forum, even after you betrayed him in a very serious way.

I think that you have some kind of serious bias there, that you are being defensive of and not exploring. This is similar to the bias you had about Lillian Rearden. Your bias against her initially made you unable to see things that happened to her as wrong. You were unable to see things that can reasonably be read as rape or coerced sex, because you were so biased against her, so sure she was evil. (And even if she was evil, it still wouldn’t be OK to rape her.) You also doubted she could have been raped, after you saw how the text could be interpreted that way, because of common rape myths. The fact that your bias against someone could cause you to be unable to see a rape is problematic. This is not unique to you. This is common. But it’s not OK. You need to take seriously the idea that you can be that biased, and that it can cause you to miss “obvious” things and to judge people very negatively. It is similar to the issue with people only being able to see the calls that are in favor of their chosen sports team, not the other one. People don’t just apply these ideas to unimportant things like sports. They apply them to all the areas of their lives.

I have some ideas about what your biases against Elliot may be. I don’t think they are things that you actually want me to name and talk about publicly, and I am leaving them out of this message. But I think that they are a problem, and I think that you are not interpreting him clearly or fairly because of them.

I will say that one of the biases that people have against Elliot is that they think he is really smart, so they think that if they feel bad based on what he said, that must mean that he was intentionally trying to make them feel bad. (Which is unreasonable for several reasons. He is not a mind reader, and people’s emotional triggers are very personal and idiosyncratic.) That is a mistake that you might be making. But I don’t think it is your primary issue.