In searching for the key word in this headline, I reached for one I’ve never liked.
But it’s so appropriate, so on the nose, so absolutely bang on what I want to say that there really was no other word I could choose.
I could have said “emotionally blackmailing”, and that would have been close to the mark, but this is something else.
This is a raw show of force. It’s about power.
For those unfamiliar with the expression, this is how one of the texts lays it down;
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories.”
The text I got the above description from was a website called Medical News Today.
It lists a number of techniques used in gaslighting, and I want to produce these for you to look at.
Everything you’re about to read in italics and in bold is from their definitions.
My own comments will be below them, to give you examples of where these tactics are used on us.
Countering: This describes a person questioning someone’s memories. They may say things such as, “you never remember things accurately,” or “are you sure? You have a bad memory.”
We get this one all the time, with the club trying to tell us that things are much better than they really are, and that we’re not quite seeing things correctly. They want us to believe this season was going well up to a point. We know it wasn’t. They want us to believe that things aren’t as bad as they seem. We know that they are. They want us to believe that the collapse of this season is all about bad luck. We know that it’s bad management.
Withholding: When someone withholds, they refuse to engage in a conversation. A person using this technique may pretend not to understand someone so that they do not have to respond to them. For example, they might say, “I do not know what you are talking about,” or “you are just trying to confuse me.”
Need I even bother with an example of this one?
Our board treats the vast majority of us as if we aren’t even there. Their silence is profoundly insulting and a psychological ploy which says “your views are not in the least bit important to us.”
Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards the other person’s feelings. They may accuse them of being too sensitive or of overreacting when they have valid concerns and feelings.
Or calling us entitled, as the board has done.
Or hysterical, as the manager has done.
I could continue in this vein, but you get the drift.
Denial: Denial involves a person pretending to forget events or how they occurred. They may deny having said or done something or accuse someone of making things up.
All we ever get from Lennon is denial.
Especially when it comes to his own culpability.
He has blamed the players. He has blamed the anger of the fans. He’s blamed the absence of the fans. He’s blamed injuries. He’s blamed the global health crisis.
The board is not better.
They’d have you believe that things would be running more smoothly if we all just shut up.
Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion and questions the other person’s credibility instead. For example, they might say, “that is just another crazy idea you got from your friends.”
Another one Lennon does all the time, and so do the directors.
What do we know about running a club?
As if we’re supposed to answer that, and as if our lack of knowledge in how to do so makes it okay that they’ve mismanaged it.
Stereotyping: An article in the American Sociological Review states that a person using gaslighting techniques may intentionally use negative stereotypes of a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to manipulate them. For example, they may tell a female that people will think she is irrational or crazy if she seeks help for abuse.
Or they could just say that you are of a different generation, one that has no patience, one that rushes to judgement, one that is entitled (that word again) and too demanding and unrealistic and prone to rashness and short-term thinking.
And that all social media users are loonies and all fan media are self-promoters and too stupid to take seriously.
Failing that, they can call you enemies of the club, or say you’re “doing the media’s job for them” or tell you that you belong at Ibrox.
There are some symptoms of gaslighting which appear in a lot of our supporters right now; let me give you some of those.
The first I want to mention is this one; frequently question if they are too sensitive.
How many of our fans are constantly second-guessing themselves on this one? Are they too hard on the club? Too intolerant of bad results? Are they becoming abusive towards the manager? Bear in mind we’re the ones who pay for everything at Celtic Park, we’re the ones having the piss taken out of us … but how many of us aren’t sure if we’re the problem?
People who have been gaslighted often constantly apologize to the abusive person.
See above. That’s something else a lot of our fans find themselves doing; they’ll go only so far and then they’ll roll back the criticism as if they are the ones who’ve done something wrong.
And the third is one you can see all over social media; defend the abusive person’s behaviour.
How many times have you seen variations on that theme? Lawwell and Lennon; men with the club’s best interests at heart. These are people “trying their best” and that they are all “Celtic men” or that Lawwell is a genius and Lennon is the Second Coming.
I don’t mean to be flippant, or glib here … you know what I’m getting at.
Why am I bringing this up now?
Because there’s one last symptom I want to run by you, which is listed at the very end, and it’s the relevant one because of what I think the club is going to do at some point in the next seven days.
Last night, the Celtic Fans TV guys got a wee letter from Ian Bankier confirming that when the six monthly financial statement is published – pencilled in according to some sources for next week – that the results of the management review will be produced as well.
Is it possible that they’re going to use the review to screw with our heads, and in particular the heads of the season ticket holders?
Those numbers are going to be awful, and the board that has led us to this disaster might just tell us something we aren’t going to want to hear – Lennon has a job for life maybe, or that the board will evaluate his position at the end of the season, (which opens the door wide to him getting another year at the very least), and that at best we’re looking at a scenario where the new manager has to come in and rebuild a team in a matter of weeks.
Is it possible that they are then going to say that the stability of the club is at stake and that they need every fan to renew … and if they don’t renew then the club’s future is in jeopardy?
In short, are these people going to tell you that things are bad and that if the fans don’t get out their wallets that things are going to get a whole lot worse?
If they do this, this is how you’ll know they are gaslighting us; it’ll be if that announcement makes it clear that they are not going to commit to taking the kind of action that would otherwise inspire us to spend our money.
You’ll recognise it if they are giving us nothing concrete.
No evidence of a plan.
If that’s the announcement, we’re going to be fed a line of pure bullshit about the club taking our feelings into account even as they are being ignored, and all the while there’s a going to be a hand in our pockets.
Here’s the final symptom.
Gaslighting can cause you to feel hopeless, joyless, worthless, or incompetent.
How many of us have felt a combination of those emotions already this season?
How would you feel handing your £600 over to these people for the next campaign, knowing it might be Lennon in the dugout or a guy thrown in at the deep end to sink or swim, and that if you don’t do it then you might be responsible for an even greater disaster?
If they do this, it will be an act so brazenly cynical that I think it will be the breaking point for a lot of people, who may decide never to give the club another penny whilst a single member of the present board still sits around that table.
What concerns me is that Celtic could announce the results of the review right now.
Do they think doing it alongside those numbers will paint a picture of the nightmare scenario?
Do they think that it will pressure the fans who don’t like what they hear and might rebel against the absence of a plan to park those reservations and stump up for “the greater good of the club” as part of the ultimate guilt-trip?
Because, folks, if that’s not gaslighting, I don’t know what it is.