@[email protected] Saturday, 28th August 2021
Gaslighters have only one thing in mind: distort reality through manipulation in order to force a certain outcome. Now, if you happen to have read something about social engineering, you'll notice that gaslighting is just another mental trick for hacking people's judgment and behavior. What's quite disturbing about gaslighting though, is that its perpetrators are manipulative psychopaths hiding behind their masks.
The term “gaslighter” is coined from the movie Gaslight, a psychological thriller released in 1944. The story tells of a husband who tries to drive his wife into madness by turning the gaslights off and on in their home. To make his wife look paranoid, the husband pretends that what she's going through is a mere product of her own imagination.
Make no mistake, gaslighting is an act of aggression, just like any other kind of hostile behavior, be it verbal or physical.
It goes without saying that manipulation is the most obvious personal trait of a gaslighter. Manipulation may involve, for example, handing over incomplete data during a meeting, or intentionally mixing up key facts to induce an incoherent result. The intention here is pretty straightforward: The gaslighters are trying to have something they can use against you.
Another type of gaslighting consists in making offending or malicious remarks, or trying to put you in an uncomfortable situation in the presence of others. Here too, the intention is fairly obvious: The perpetrators aim at destabilizing you in order to get what they want. The golden rule in such scenarios is to completely ignore the gaslighters. Don't waste your energy on pointless discussions.
Regardless of which strategy they pursue, what will help you identify gaslighters is one of the following signs:
- Pattern: Gaslighters' actions tend to follow a certain pattern. As a matter of fact, gaslighters will usually proceed based on whatever they think would upset you, or what they suspect you aren't even aware of.
- Network: Keep an eye on the gaslighter's circle of acquaintances. If it's packed with phony parvenus, chances are high you're dealing with a gaslighter.
- Behavior: Gaslighters are always more interested in gathering information about you rather than revealing information about themselves. The reason here is pretty obvious, since the gaslighters intend to reach their goal by blackmailing you.
Remember, identifying a gaslighter is more than half the job done. Once you know who you're dealing with, you can behave accordingly.
There are “situations” in life when you might find yourself in an unhealthy environment, surrounded by people who intend to harm you.
Situations like these have occurred and still occur in different parts of the world. The most prominent examples are those of Europeans fleeing the Old Continent because of political and religious turmoil in the past, or the influx of refugees from the Middle-East during the last years.
If you run into such situations, you should always gauge the balance of power. Nine times out of ten, you will find out that the gaslighter is exceedingly self-confident because the attacks originate from inside a network.
Over the course of history, many events wouldn't have materialised without institutional and social support.
At this point, you should explicitly be warned about the rise of right-wing extremism in some countries, with all the implications that this may entail, whether on an academic or a professional level.
If you're not yet aware of what happened over the recent years, you can check the following links and do some reading:
- Far-right suspect confesses to killing German politician
- Five German police officers suspended over neo-Nazi threat to lawyer
- New FinSpy iOS and Android implants revealed ITW (=In-The-Wild)
- Big Brother on a budget: How Internet surveillance got so cheap
- Stingrays / IMSI catchers / Cell-Site Simulators
Based on the provided information, it is up to you to draw your own conclusions. Please bear in mind that your options might be limited as an individual in certain circumstances. This is especially true if you are facing a coordinated attack involving a group of people. In such cases, you might eventually be forced to take your case to the media or get in touch with international civil rights organizations.
In my opinion, if you plan to study abroad, you should strongly consider countries with a “long liberal democratic tradition”. Don't forget that a few decades are nothing in the history of a nation. Keep in mind that the shift operated from Fascism and Nazi ideology to democracy in the Axis countries was neither an inner choice nor a natural evolution coming from within these societies, but rather a condition imposed by the Allied powers upon the outcome of World War II. Losing a war does not mean that a society will give up its etablished beliefs and “mis”-conceptions of the world all of a sudden. In this line of thinking, be warned that there are hidden connections between entities and associations out there, and that while some individuals may willingly or inadvertently get involved in intelligence activities, others might abuse their power to harm you for the reasons explained above.
It is also important to note that some of the locals can use their networks and their access to privileged information (cf. list provided above) to cause you damage as a competitor. There is no magic in that, since anybody with the right connections in their home country can do just the same if they choose to.
You may be wondering why I am telling you all this. Well, because I don't want you to spend years of your life studying just to end up in troubled waters. Always remember: “Your knowledge can change the world for better or for worse, and you should never allow people with dubious intentions to exploit it for unethical purposes.”
Over the last months, I've noticed an increase in spam and hate mails landing in my inbox, some even filled with subtle, racist connotations. By analyzing the mail's header and body, I could figure out that the messages were submitted by human beings rather than by spam bots.
Technically, there are multiple ways to prevent such toxic content from getting into your inbox. If you know a little bit about server-side filter scripts, you can add your own rules to block unwanted emails. Depending on your mail service provider, you may also apply GeoIP blocking rules to block entire IP ranges based on their location, since haters and spammers usually masquerade their identity behind proxies.
Despite the previous countermeasures, you will still have some spammers using throwaway email addresses or disposable email accounts to eventually reach your inbox. Since I prefer to tackle this issue in a proactive way, I came about the idea of creating a “Hall Of Shame” for my beloved spammers.
Basically, the idea is to create a spammer directory that includes, among other things, a hyperlink to the spammer's email address with the associated IP and country of origin. Besides recognizing themselves, the spammers will definitely have the opportunity to enjoy their 15 minutes of shame.
About the author:
Fayçal Alami-Hassani is a technical communicator and owner of GlobalTech Translations, a digital company offering multilingual solutions and technical documentation services. He enjoys tinkering with Linux systems and writing about FOSS projects in his spare time.
GlobalTech Translations © August 2021