By Medicine Hat News Opinion on February 6, 2021.
Gaslighting – A psychological tactic leading you to question your own reality through misinformation, misdirection, contradiction and outright denial from someone else. The purpose is to confuse and diminish your beliefs to the point you become completely dependent on that person for what you think or feel.
The term comes from an old film adapted from an old play where a husband attempts to make his wife go insane, but these days it gets thrown around an awful lot in the political sphere.
For as many times as I could have, I don’t like to use it in this column. To be honest, I find the term overused and all too often confused with lying.
Gaslighting requires one to lie, but it’s the in-your-face manipulation or denial of reality, often in an abusive manner, that turns a lie into gaslighting. And it takes time to develop.
Enter Jason Kenney.
The premier came out this week in defence of the rescinded 1976 Coal Policy, which opened up an area of the Rockies the size of Switzerland to mostly Australian companies looking to ship coal to Asia, and he said something so boldly untrue, I wondered if this might be the pinnacle of Alberta’s unhealthy relationship with this man.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, he suggested city dwellers were pushing an unwanted agenda on rural Albertans, and these coal-affected communities were actually grateful for all the so-called jobs on the way.
“There’s thousands of Alberta families who put food on the table because of the mining industry,” Kenney said. “I don’t think those of us who live in the city should look down on those folks.”
That story was published one day after Canmore joined a growing list of rural communities to officially ask the UCP to reinstate the policy. And as the premier was speaking, that list was already seven rural municipalities and a Lethbridge long, with the likes of Turner Valley, High River, Nanton and Longview all voicing opposition.
Even the Blood Tribe, whose leaders are currently ignoring pleas from their community to oppose an open-pit mine expansion in their own backyard, has asked for the 1976 Coal Policy, which protected land and water further east, to be returned.
And so, while affected rural communities are clearly, and publicly voicing displeasure, Kenney is simultaneously telling us the exact opposite is true. Imagine someone adamantly saying it’s not raining while you’re both outside getting wet – for you to believe in a clear sky, you would have to be entirely dependent on that person for your every thought and feeling.
On the flip side, the person manipulating you would need indescribable confidence in your dependence on them in order to believe they can control you.
And that, my friends, is where Jason Kenney is at. At this stage in his time here, he is so positive of his ability to manipulate our reality, he now thinks he can tell us the sun is shining during a downpour.
He believes this because he’s spent a long time laying the gas-lit foundation. He started with easy lies – those Albertans were keen to believe – such as, “We’re broke,” or, “Ottawa hates pipelines,” or “Nothing is happening to doctors,” or, “More police will prevent rural crime.”
No matter what comes, Kenney tells us it’s for our own good, and early on it actually made sense when Albertans believed it – so many of us thought we needed him.
But what I realized this week as he pushed false realities about coal mining juxtaposed with daily media coverage contradicting his every word, is he clearly believes we’re still dependent enough on him that he can create our reality. The truth is however, what worked for him in 2019 is having the opposite effect in 2021. People aren’t actually buying what he’s selling anymore.
We know we’re not broke, we know Ottawa bought us a pipeline, we know doctors have left, we know the added police is coming in the form of $200 million in added municipal cost, and, we know the loudest opposition to coal expansion is coming from the very rural communities Kenney says want the incoming jobs.
Albertans everywhere are clearly against it. I don’t even need to give details on why they should oppose it because the vast majority of us are fully aware that poison is bad.
In the aforementioned film, the husband commits to his gaslighting tactics until the bitter end, never realizing his victim has regained her sanity. His belief in that control remains even as he’s carted off to jail.
In real life, we’ve reached the part where we know what Kenney’s doing, yet he still stands there assuming we’re insane.
Whether it’s snake oil or selenium, we know he’s selling a farce. We’re onto you, Mr. Premier, and we’re done with the lies.
All that’s left is finding out what your penalty will be.
Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at email@example.com