“Gaslighting” is a topic often cited in politics but recently found its way into the mainstream with two high-profile scandals. This got Frank and Ian wondering, just what the hell is “gaslighting” and how pernicious is this problem?
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What Does “Gaslighting” Mean?
I’m going to teach you about gaslighting. I’m excited to learn about it but all of our half-ass internet research has taught us, “Enough about gaslighting. Do share with our audience.” Gaslighting has been in the press quite a bit. It made me look it up and search it. I am getting older but I’m not old enough to have gone to the theater in 1944 to have seen the original movie of Gaslighting but this has come out.
Two very high-profile things have gone down. One of which is the Las Vegas Raiders’ Head Coach Jon Gruden resigned. He resigned based on a series of emails that came out that he sent decades ago that were racist, misogynistic and homophobic. There were lots that came out but it started with one email. John Gruden commented on the Head of the NFL Players Union, DeMaurice Smith.
The reason why I’m getting his name wrong is that Jon Gruden called him Dumboris Smith. D Smith is an African American that represents the player’s union. He went out and said he has lips that size of Michelin Tires, which to anyone who hears that knows that’s an incredibly racist thing to say around a very sensitive topic. Instead, Jon Gruden, when it came out, tried to convince the world that, “I always say people have rubber lips when I don’t think they are being truthful to me.” This intern is gaslighting.
I’m going to explain why in a second but I’m going to use one other example. Urban Meyer, the Head Coach of Jacksonville Jaguars is in hot water with his owner, team and wife. He was in Ohio for a game. He stuck around. He did not come back with his team and went to his bar. Urban Meyer was the Head Coach in Columbus for the Ohio State Buckeyes before he was with Jacksonville. A video came out of Urban Meyer sitting on a stool with a much younger girl dancing in front of him.
Urban Meyer had a big press release that came out. He tried to convince everyone that what they saw was not what was happening. He said something to the effect of, “I was at my restaurant. A group of people started dancing and they tried to get me out on the dance floor. I shouldn’t have been there. Not I did anything wrong but I shouldn’t have been there.” What urban is saying is, “What you think you saw, which was a girl dancing on your lap in a bar is not really what happened.”
A day later, another video came out that showed Urban Meyer was handling over the same girl’s butt with Jon Gruden, a couple of days later, more emails came out that were equally horrific and maybe opposed the different groups, and he went out. They were both accused of lying and gaslighting. The term gaslighting comes from the movie with the same name.Instead of trying to convince people that something didn't really happen, own up to doing it. Click To Tweet
In this movie, an Italian opera singer moved to Italy. She’s not a singer. She meets a guy. They get married and throughout the movie, weird things start happening in the house. She keeps bringing them up to him like, “Things that were in different orders are now missing. They are moving.” He’s saying, “You are mistaken. You must be wrong.”.
The gaslights, back when there weren’t real lights were gaslights, keep dimming. It’s weird and happens at night. The lights go way down and he convinces her that she’s making it all up in her head, to the point where it gets so elaborate that he convinces her that she’s losing her mind. The whole point of him doing this, he believes that she’s rich and that her aunt had bequeathed her a bunch of diamonds and jewels.
He has been up in the attic, looking for the jewels the whole movie. That’s why the gaslights keep going down because he’s walking around up there, moving the gaslights are going down. When she says, “This is happening.” He tries to convince her she’s crazy. Gaslighting became a term when you try to convince someone in a manipulative fashion that something that did happen didn’t happen and they are making it up in their mind.
Urban tried to convince us that he was just a bystander in a bar and what we saw in the videos wasn’t what happened. Jon Gruden tried to convince us that he didn’t make a racist, terrible comment about an African American that, in fact, he was talking about people of all colors being liars if they have rubber lips. In both cases, they were trying to convince us of something that didn’t happen instead of owning up to doing something stupid.
If you are curious as to why we always beg for likes, thumbs up, shares, and subscribes is because of four things very topical. Movies from 1944 opera and two asshole coaches in the NFL are both making $10 million a year. This is why our show is such an internet smash.
It is an international sensation. We care about the Italian viewers and we think this is going to blow up in Italy by talking about this movie.
We were building out this outline. One of the things we talked about was gaslighting is negative. When we tried to find examples of people who owned it, most people who came out and own it was usually cheating on their wives. We thought of Bezos, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Hart. These were some examples. I think we can elaborate forever on the negative and turn it into something.
When Ian and I talked about this off the cuff, on the phone, one of the things that I brought up was ego. In addition to the gaslighting story from the ‘40s that I know everyone is going to check outside on Amazon, Netflix or whichever your service of choices, the other piece of this is the ego piece. Jon Gruden said some awful stuff. He said these things when he was employed with ESPN who physically is owned by Disney who sells wonderment and not racism.
The other one is Urban Meyer going back to a bar. Both of these guys are egomaniacs and not only the egomaniacs. We talked about how Urban Meyer’s ego got in the way of his hiring decisions when he first moved into the Jacksonville Jaguars. You are sitting in a bar with your name on it in a state where you are highly beloved. At the same time, you did some bad stuff. It came out that he was abusing his wife and Urban Meyer hit it.
This is coming from the Wall Street Journal. A very reputable source was someone who used to be a fanboy of Urban Meyer with thoughts poorly of him during this thing with his assistant coach that he no longer was a fan. He thought there was some comeuppance for him that was due because he treated this other situation poorly. Jon Gruden came out and he was egregious with things that he said that he pissed enough people off with 680,000 emails sent to the Washington, formerly Redskins now football team during a sexual scandal.
All of which had been confiscated. The only thing leaked so far is the group. The only person in another terrible situation to be fired with someone who was outside the organization and Head Coach of a different organization, which leads you to believe that there’s enough bad stuff from both of these two guys that people were pissed off enough that they came out.
There are a lot of things that I look at here. Everyone’s mind is messed up in some way. Everyone has thoughts that should not be shared with anybody, including their wife. There are some things you keep your own thoughts to yourself. In general, I believe that anyone in business should have to go through some classes explaining how email works.
It is fascinating to me how many people I fired over a many-year period because of dumb-ass things they wrote in emails. They wrote terribly stupid things in emails, stupid jokes they made that were insulting to people, relationships they had that were inappropriate. It’s unbelievable. What most people don’t understand is when you send an email, receive one, delete it in your deleted folder, it doesn’t go away.Everyone in business should go through some kind of class explaining how email works. Stupid emails can get you fired. Click To Tweet
It is sitting on a server. It is incredibly cheap to keep thousands of emails in these companies, sitting on servers, usually by AWS Amazon’s services that sit on their servers. Those emails sit there forever. If you send it there, it’s near-permanent that people can go through and get there. I’m blown away by it. I used to talk about it with our new employees.
I would literally be bringing it up and telling people, “This is not your email. I can go print your last three months anytime I want and have him put on my desk by someone in IT.” That’s what I would do when something comes up. When there would be accusations of a manager being abusive or bullying their employee, we would go pull their emails. We would sit and read them because they were our emails.
They were borrowing it. Just because your name is on it with our company name, it’s mine. I can go look at it whenever I want. It’s legal. You are working for my company. It blows my mind how many people are so frivolous about the things that they will put in an email. That’s not to say that you should be a racist or have these thoughts at all. If you are, why are you putting it in writing in the first place? To me, the kind of hubris or ignorance that goes into that is mind-blowing for someone who makes $10 million a year on a ten-year contract.
There’s a movie that I have seen. It’s called The Social Network. It’s about Facebook and the launch. There’s a book called Accidental Billionaires that spawned the movie. In The Social Network, in one of the first scenes, the character playing Mark Zuckerberg says an insult to the woman he was dating. He was pissed at him. She goes, “Mark, you put this on the internet. The internet is written in pen, not in pencil.” What we are talking about here is email, not the internet but it’s the same thing. If you have an Instagram or Facebook account and you do all kinds of crazy stuff, I have people that run my hiring department that always look up what’s happening behind the scenes on your Facebook page, especially if you make it public. These things follow you. You have a brand.
I was having breakfast with an old guard guy and investor in my market. He’s a home builder. He had a relationship with someone who wanted a bunch of money. It turned out very poorly for the investor. The guy ended up fleeing town. He has since been sued, a bunch of bad things happen to him. I will leave his name and company name out of it. The point is he picked up and moved to South Carolina and Georgia.
He moved to South Carolina then he moved to Georgia. In both instances, he went to an interview and did a google search. He found out who he was and they didn’t hire him or even call him back because he had a load of shit behind. It’s important reputation and not only is it important but it’s also important, to be honest, with it and to control it. What are you talking about with thoughts? What you put in writing and post, you should think about this because it lasts and it lives.
It can be used against you. The word discoverable is something every college student should learn, “What do I put in writing? What do I share? What is electronically saved?” It can be used against you 4, 5 or 6 employers later. It is all permanent. It is all fair game and you can lose your job over any of it. You have to be smart about it. If you are going to do something incredibly stupid, own it with your team, “I made a mistake. This is on me.” If you try to gaslight people, they are not going to buy it.
If you try to lie around it, all it makes them do is want to dig more to go find out it makes people want to search more. If you come clean with what happened, people have nothing left to dig on. It goes away much faster. If you don’t, it will go on and on, and you will delay the problem and take more of a reputational risk than you would if you have had just admitted it.
I want to give you an example, something that happened to me. I was away at a wedding for my cousin and drank a bunch of wine. I drank and had a couple of cigars on Friday night at the wedding. I woke up Saturday. I was groggy and I didn’t deserve to. I treated my body like crap. I get up and do a 3-mile run. I’m on the back end of my run and just about the finish. If you don’t know me, I’m about 6’1 or 6’2. On a good day, 235. I’m a big dude.
I can’t stand it when people are walking on a sidewalk, taking up the whole sidewalk and not looking ahead. I have done this move more than once in my life. I’m not proud of it. I said, “They weren’t looking up. I lowered my shoulder. I cold cock this son of a bitch.” I ran. Throw up. I should have stopped. I should have said something.
How old was this person?
In the 30s, 5’6 dudes. I plow right through them.
Was he looking at his phone?
They were all talking around. Nobody was looking. I’ve got pissed but it gets better.
You went a full Oklahoma drill in some neighborhood up in Boston.The internet is written in pen, not pencil. Click To Tweet
On a bridge into the nicest building on an incredible island but it gets better. I see a police car literally pass me 30 seconds after I smashed into this guy. Instead of going to the hotel making a right, I decided to make a left and I’m going to run over to where my uncle’s boat is and go talk to him. I’m running. The police officer stops. I run past his car and he yells at me, “Hey.”
I’m like, “Yes?” He goes, “What was that?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “I was behind you. I saw the whole thing. What was that?” I’m like, “They didn’t move.” He goes, “You lowered your shoulder. Smashed into it.” I’m like, “They took up the whole sidewalk.” He goes, “You lowered your shoulder and you smash right into them.” I was about to go into the third round of bullshitting him. I looked at him I go, “You are right. That was a dumb fuck thing to do. I’m sorry. It was stupid. Thank you for the warning. I appreciate it.” I ran off.
Didn’t he say anything else after that?
He didn’t chase me. I admitted it. He was right. There were no charges pressed and nothing happened. It was a good reminder. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “I fucked up. I was dumb. I’m not proud of it.” I have told this to my trainer and he goes, “They are not going to jump you. You are too big but if you do that to the wrong person, they will shoot you.” He’s right. It was a dumb thing to do. What happened immediately was I realized it was stupid. I didn’t gaslight. I tried twice to someone. I tried to bullshit a bullshitter. I realized quickly, “I’m going to lose this argument,” and instead, I just owned it, then I went into sales mode and said, “Thank you for the warning.” I ran off.
You were gaslighting. You were trying to make it seem like, “They are in the middle of the sidewalk. It was an accident.” The guy is like, “I was watching.” You plastic guy as hard as you could. You gaslight it. It didn’t work out well for you. If you kept gaslight, you’ve got out of the freaking car with some cuffs and bit a dick. At some point, you’ve got to just cut it out, come clean. I cannot think of a better way to wrap this short-term episode of Frank’s Gaslighting. Now you know. For all of the 1940s film fanatics who like to read, please give us a ten for this amazing episode if we have taught you anything.