Today in gaslighting...
...and salutations from a word salad championship contestant.
I’d like you to keep this quote in mind.
“That is what MEN do… We pursue women and women dress to be pursued, wear perfume to be pursued, and in Silicon Valley there are MANY WOMEN who dress to be pursued.”
- One Chris Champion on one Dave McClure.
We’ll walk through this in three parts.
Part 1: A Word Salad.
To be completely transparent, I wish I came up with the delightful evolution of that phrase, “a word salad”, but that claim goes to Lizzie, made popular by Dan Aceda.
What is a word salad in this context, you ask? My simple understanding of it is this: When a situation is plain as day, requiring a very simple explanation/statement/apology/clarification, but the party involved chooses to hide behind kizungu nyingi to deflect blame and obfuscate the actual issue.
With that, presenting a word salad, thanks to Wapi Pay and the Ndichu twins, Eddie and Paul.
Setting aside (for the moment) the fact that half this statement is essentially just an ad with copy that barely qualifies as compelling, I want to focus on a simple concept: Gaslighting.
Part 2: An Attempt at Rewriting History.
In case you missed it, here’s the context, and you may start to see where I’m going with this in a moment. (A written version via HapaKenya here.)
The elaborate exercise that is gaslighting requires a special type of human being. Some very reasonable people may even point to such as a reliable indicator of narcissistic tendencies, especially because such a human is so invested in protecting their own perception as a saviour and/or victim that reality itself is a thing to be rewritten to shield this image of themselves - both to themselves, and others.
That statement? It checks off classic signs of gaslighting with exceptional ease. Let’s explore how the brilliant folks at Wapi Pay chose to complete this little checklist, shall we?
“We found the story distasteful and troubling and want to firmly state that any type of behaviour involving violence against women does not reflect our values nor does it reflect those of Eddie and Paul.”
They started off strong. So what’s their next move, we wonder…
“Our understanding is that the allegations and video currently being shared on social media albeit horrific and regrettable, do not depict the true events of what transpired that night.”
Ah. The narrative revision begins. We certainly didn’t see anyone put their back into breaking a side-mirror, calmly walking back into the premises, and quite consciously and deliberately choosing to strike another human. Whatever it was we saw on that 480p video definitely, absolutely do not show what happened. Not even in the slightest.
And this sentence was simply laying the groundwork.
“To be clear Paul and Eddie got involved in an attempt to neutralize a confrontation between two women and to defend themselves from certain aggressors.”
Hey Google. Please play “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias.
“Pending this, we request restrain be exercised in potentially unfairly spreading misinformation that has no factual basis.”
Yes, ignore the video. In its entirety. There are no facts there. All those actions that may look like a grown human throwing a tantrum? All documented on video? No facts there, folks.
Pretty much everything else that follows. A word salad in all its shameless glory.
What we all saw on that video was physical abuse.
There was wilful destruction of property for extra effect.
The statement that followed is a very overt attempt to rewrite something that was very plain to see, an endeavour typically taken up by people in a position of power and willing to abuse that power.
Part 3: See No Evil.
“The power dynamics are ridiculous… The men involved are so entitled. They’ve got wealth, they’ve often got charisma. It’s not just women kissing their ass, everyone is kissing their ass.”
- Sarah Nadav, speaking to The Guardian.
Although this quote is from a story centred on Silicon Valley investors, it would be false-hearted to pretend that the parallels don’t exist. And that’s a very disturbing thing: The fact that even with reality staring right back at us, we continue to pretend that the emperor is indeed clothed.
And even then, there are many that still speak of “the other side of the story”…
…which speaks to a pervasive culture that pretends that certain actions can be overlooked on two sometimes overlapping fronts: When there’s a person of relative privilege involved, and when it’s in the service of a perceived or imagined greater good.
There are people, in the same rooms as they are, who barely 3 months ago were making grand and sweeping statements in the run-up to the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, completely silent when reality knocks, made even worse by the “boys will be boys” mentality that seems to permeate the tech space - and beyond. After all, “that is what men do.”
The stench of hypocrisy overwhelmeth the senses.
Part 3.1: Tell me if I’m picking nits here.
Let’s go one step further: How are some outlets framing the story?
Listen. Language is a powerful tool. Words aren’t just words - how they are woven together can completely alter how a situation is perceived.
Give it a moment’s thought. Feel free to tell me if I’m being finicky here. I likely won’t believe you, but I remain open to the fact that I could be wrong.
Wrapping it up…
This is a point of particular personal perspective: Certain things can be inferred based on specific contexts. For instance, it could be taken as rather telling that a full adult human can destroy another person’s property, calmly walk to another location, and physically assault another human, seemingly completely unperturbed over the fact that there’s a whole other human recording their actions.
Such inferences may be entirely supported by voluntary admission of self-willed silence by people that share spaces with such humans.
Which likely explains why such announcements are met with loud cheers.
There is no “greater good” to be preserved by endorsing acts of abuse. Power and privilege are things to be wielded to empower, not bring harm.
And anyone that chooses silence in the face of such abuse is completely and unquestionably complicit.
Brilliant, thank you for taking the time to conduct such an insightful and interesting analysis. To be a woman in this country!!!