The Corner

Politics & Policy

I’ll Take ‘Runaway Paranoia’ for 500

Jeopardy contestant Kelly Donohue (Screengrab via CBS Boston/YouTube)

There’s never a shortage of, “wow, some people’s political obsessions drive them to see the bogeyman everywhere they look” anecdotes, but Kyle is rightBen Smith’s column in the New York Times today is a doozy, spotlighting the hundreds of former “Jeopardy” contestants who were absolutely convinced that a recent winner’s holding up three fingers was a white supremacist hand gesture. But there’s one eye-popping detail that deserves particular focus:

Then, two weeks later, the group finally heard back from the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish civil rights group that is usually quick to call out anything with the faintest smell of bigotry.

“Thank you for reaching out regarding your concern over a Jeapardy [sic] contestant flashing what you believed to be a white power hand signal,” wrote Aaron Ahlquist, of the A.D.L., according to text posted to the group by the contestant who had emailed the group. “We have reviewed the tape and it looks like he is simply holding up three fingers when they say he is a three-time champion. We do not interpret his hand signal to be indicative of any ideology. However, we are grateful to you for raising your concern, and please do not hesitate to contact us in the future should the need arise.”

The A.D.L.’s response provoked fury among former contestants who had signed the letter.

“Is anyone else feeling gaslit?” asked one two-time champion, according to the screenshots. “We saw it. We know we did. But a lot of people (including the god***ed ADL) are telling us we didn’t. That’s some classic gaslighting.”

Do these guys really think the Anti-Defamation League is in the business of denying and covering up white supremacy? How on earth could anyone believe that the ADL watched the tape, recognized a white supremacist gesture, and then chose to “gaslight” those complaining about it? What, the ADL’s been turned? They’ve been a deep, deep, deep cover double agent the whole time, just waiting for the right moment to help a racist get away with a hand gesture on a television game show?

This is the classic “anyone who denies the existence of the conspiracy must be part of the conspiracy” thinking.

This anecdote also illustrates how the term “gaslight” really doesn’t mean anything any more. Yes, sometimes malevolent and shamelessly dishonest people will lie to you, and then if you question their lies, they will deny them and try to make you feel like you’re going crazy. But if you’re crazy, and you say things that are crazy, lots of people will tell you that what you are saying is crazy. That’s not “gaslighting,” that’s just a reassertion of reality.

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