How to Gaslight the Public

Gaslight poster

The movie from which the term “gaslighting” originated.

August 13, 2017 ~ What is gaslighting? The word comes from a 1944 movie where a husband who was trying to drive his wife insane would (among other tactics) slowly and steadily dim the flame on gas lamps in the house while denying that there had been any change. The disoriented wife ended up becoming dependent on him to tell her what was real and what was not, believing him despite clear evidence he was lying.

Psychologists call it a form of mental abuse. Gaslighting is a pattern of willful and sophisticated manipulation used by individuals and organizations to gain control over people by creating doubt in their minds. Because the actions of gaslighters do not match their words, and because they will not admit that they are the problem, their intent is to keep people off-balance. When you question their actions or object to their tactics, gaslighters will twist, reframe, deny or change the subject, tell blatant lies, minimize your concerns, or discredit you and try to make you question your own sanity. You end up feeling ignored, crushed, alienated, insulted, and irrational. Gaslighters know confusion and disorientation weakens people, including their own followers, who end up overlooking severe flaws, refusing to question distortions, and showing irrational loyalty.

It is worth noting that mentally stable people have no desire to control or manipulate others. Thinking, reasoning and questioning are not a threat to them; they do not have to lie or deceive, because there is no reason to.

gaslighting definition

After nearly 3 years of informed, rational, and evidence-based objections by the public in the form of thousands upon thousands of comment letters, petitions, questions at public meetings, and urgent pleas to elected officials and public health, safety and environmental agencies, we witnessed the Forest Service granting the US Navy a permit to conduct electronic warfare testing and training over our communities, using EA-18G Growlers, the loudest fighter jets on the planets, flying over mobile emitters using (and closing) roads in the Olympic National Forest. This permit cemented a cornerstone of the Navy’s acquisition of skies, public and private lands, and the seas around Washington’s Olympic Peninsula as their own military combat training zone. How did this happen over so much widespread and informed public opposition? Have we been gaslighted?

Let us present six selected pieces of evidence so you can decide for yourself.

  1. The Forest Service’s August 2017 press release announcing this permit says, “Approval of this special use permit would not increase the number of training flights by more than 10 percent, or one additional flight per day, from what the Navy is currently conducting.” But wait, the Navy’s October 2016 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) says electronic warfare operations are increasing by 72 percent, and that the number of flights out of Whidbey Island will increase by 47 percent, to 130,000. Of these, 79,000 are Growler flights. The purpose of a Growler is electronic warfare. The purpose of all this training is for aircrews to learn to conduct electronic attack. So, to say they’re adding only ONE flight per day to current levels is disingenuous and sounds ridiculous… unless they’ve already raised the numbers of flights illegally before the public process was completed, or perhaps changed the definition of the word “flight” (they still won’t define terms we’ve asked for.) But when it comes to massive recent increases in duration, frequency and loudness of Growler noise, our ears don’t lie.

being lied to

  1. After admitting at a videotaped November 2014 public meeting that the Navy never put notifications in local papers so people could learn about and comment on its Environmental Assessment (EA) for establishing an Electronic Warfare Range over our communities, Navy representative John Mosher said he hoped the discussion would “…answer and address concerns and help alleviate some of the misunderstanding, clear the air, and let us [Navy] move forward…” However, they didn’t really answer questions, they mostly batted them away. And neither the Navy nor the Forest Service accepted any comments from the 3 meetings as part of the official record, because they were not officially “hearings.” No official hearings that recorded or accepted written public testimony were ever held in these affected communities, and in fact the 2 agencies refused to take written comments when offered them; therefore, none of the public’s comments counted in the Navy’s EA, and nobody gained the necessary legal standing to take them to court.
  1. A source document referenced in the Navy’s 2014 EA said, in bold text, “Friendly electronic attack could potentially deny essential services to a local population that, in turn, could result in loss of life and/or political ramifications.” (Section 2h, “Unintended Consequences, page III-5) When questioned by a 911 dispatcher who was concerned about the potential of the fixed emitter at Pacific Beach to interfere with local emergency communications, the Navy’s John Mosher answered, “There was an opportunity for comment, there were no comments, received, it was advertised in local papers.” (This was videotaped.) “Which papers?” the dispatcher pressed. “Obviously it was not in the North Coast News, which serves Pacific Beach, so how can you receive comments if we do not have the information?”  Mosher: “We do the best to get the information to you.” Citizen: “How can we get you to address our issues?” Mosher: “You can talk to your representatives. We have completed the comment period.” Citizen (angered): “You have extended the comment period right here.” Mosher: “I’m not going to debate this.” Another concerned person asked about effects of such intense military activity, including unknown electromagnetic impacts, on property values, and Mosher replied, “Well I don’t think those fears are real.”

The Forest Service’s August 2017 press release announcing the permit said, “Public input received during the designated scoping, comment, and objection periods was considered in making the decision.”

Neither Senators Maria Cantwell nor Patty Murray have ever responded, beyond form letters urging us to “work with” the Navy, to concerns about this from thousands of constituents who voted for them.

On August 10, Congressman Derek Kilmer was quoted at a town meeting as saying, “…the establishment of the jet warfare range targeting area was vital for the nation’s security and the safety of the Growler jet pilots who will engage in the training exercises,” but he later clarified it by saying he “has not taken a position on the Navy’s electronic warfare range” and the page 1 story “erroneously gave the impression” that he personally supported the plan, while he was merely “outlining the Navy’s point of view.” This happened just after he voted for the largest military budget in history. It’s no secret that back in 2012, Cantwell, Murray and Kilmer all signed a pact (explained here) to benefit the Navy and the defense industry. Got that?


  1. The Forest Service’s press release says, “Training would not typically occur on weekends…” Operative word here is “typically.” Weekend flying was never mentioned in the Navy’s 2014 environmental assessment, nor in any Forest Service materials. The first time the public heard about weekend flying was when the Forest Service put it in their draft permit in early 2017. It said Growlers will be allowed to fly on weekends so long as they don’t interfere with opening day and opening weekend for big game hunting season with rifles. Why big game hunters and no other stakeholder exceptions? Why no discussion of weekend flying in the EA, or in agency outreach materials? Why no chance for tourism and other economic stakeholders to ask for exemptions, too? These questions were never answered because we were never allowed to ask them, and now the door is open for the Navy to conduct electronic warfare over our communities and Olympic National Park on weekends, without the public ever being allowed to comment on it.
  1. It is illegal to erase important features like rivers, National Park boundaries, or even entire lakes, from maps in an EA in order to make it look like they’re going to be operating in the middle of nowhere, but that’s exactly what the Navy did. Federal law, 18 U.S. Code § 1515 to be specific, defines “misleading conduct” in part, as: “(D) with intent to mislead, knowingly submitting or inviting reliance on a sample, specimen, map, photograph, boundary mark, or other object that is misleading in a material respect.” A federal agency also can’t legally break up what should be a larger EIS with a more thorough public process into multiple small EAs, to avoid a broader public discussion, or to avoid examining the full cumulative or overall impacts. It cannot pre-decide what it is going to do and commit federal funding in advance, before presenting the proposal to the public as a retrofit that’s mere wind-dressing. But that’s what they did, and continue to do. For a rather shocking comparison of spoken and written statements by the Navy and Forest Service based on official documents compared with transcripts of video recordings from public meetings, go here.manipulation
  1. The Navy uses a process called Joint Land Use Studies (JLUS) when looking for ways to reduce potential conflicts between military installations and surrounding areas. Their guidance manual states, “The JLUS program relies on strong community planning … The JLUS program is community controlled and community directed.” The problem is, as pointed out in this editorial, if the community is never informed of the Navy’s intentions, or of existing or potential land use conflicts, then the community cannot be involved in the process, can they? Very little is known about munitions stored at Indian Island just across the bay from Port Townsend, but a document obtained from a whistleblower indicates the Navy is building three new storage magazines there for Tomahawk missiles, which can carry nuclear as well as non-nuclear warheads. Most people are unaware of this. At the submarine base in Bangor, which will soon be handling explosives equal to 7.44 million pounds of TNT in the form of rocket motor propellant and whose newly expanded blast zone now extends far into residential areas (but not to naval housing areas), the Navy has called citizens’ concerns “fears” and “urban myths” while at the same time spending over $32 million to beef up its own buildings against possible blasts. It also falsely asserted that the explosives are being handled “in accordance with requirements” set by the Navy. The latter is patently false, because the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board refused to approve the siting of these 2 new explosives handling wharves in Hood Canal, due to its concerns about blast zones extending into residential areas. They asked the Navy to prove that one accidentally exploding missile at Bangor would not “promptly propagate” to the other 23 missiles on each submarine, coalescing the blast waves into a single explosive source. The Navy answered them by saying that satisfying public concerns was not feasible. Sadly, that’s probably one of the most accurate things they’ve ever said.


So make up your own mind. In our opinion, “gaslighting” may not be a strong enough word to describe how the Navy and its supporters have managed to bully the public into this massive expansion. “Imperil” sounds more accurate.


A marbled murrelet egg in its old-growth nest. We include this as a symbol of not giving up hope. Stay engaged. The more people who do, the sooner we stop the Navy’s gaslighting and other irresponsible behaviors.

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