The official dictionary definition of the term “gaslight” is to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”

I thought of this term the other day after I read two paragraphs in a CNN article, originally published on Tuesday, March 30, about how South Dakota governor Kristi Noem issued two executive orders stating that only girls can compete in female athletics in the state. The orders are in response to the growing push (endorsed by President Biden) to allow “transgender” athletes to compete in sports according to their “gender identity” rather than their biological sex.

CNN’s article originally “reported” the following:

Though the two executive orders signed by Noem do not explicitly mention transgender athletes, they ​reference the supposed harms of the participation of “males” in women’s athletics — an echo of the transphobic claim, cited in other similar legislative initiatives, that transgender women are not women. The orders also reference “biological sex,” a disputed term that refers to the sex as listed on students’ original birth certificates.

It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth. (Emphasis added)

CNN, because of backlash received on some of the original article’s language, has changed some wording in their new version of this article. You can see media comments on the change here, and read the original CNN article here.

I had to read those paragraphs several times just to make sure that I understood them correctly. I honestly could not believe that one of the world’s most powerful media companies was really saying what I thought they were saying. But they were.

The first paragraph asserts that it is “transphobic” to claim that “transgender women are not women.” To be clear, a transgender woman is not a woman. A transgender woman is a man, who claims to be a woman. In many cases a “transgender woman” will dress like a woman, or may have undergone chemical or surgical procedures to make himself look more or less convincingly like a woman. In other cases, he may have done none of this. All that is necessary to become a “transgender woman,” according to the people who believe in gender theory, is to claim to have the “gender identity” of a woman.

According to the dictionary, to have a “phobia” is to have an “irrational fear” of something. What CNN is stating, therefore, is that if you believe that men who claim to be women are not, in fact, women, then you have an “irrational fear” of transgender people. You are mentally ill.

This is, quite simply, gaslighting.

That same paragraph goes on to state that the term “biological sex” is a “disputed term.” CNN doesn’t clarify who is “disputing” the term “biological sex.” Certainly not biologists, who have extremely rigorous scientific criteria for determining the biological sex of various species, and whose science would utterly collapse without the term.

However, perhaps the most peculiar part of this incomprehensibly bizarre article, is the sentence that claims that there is “no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.”

As I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, human beings have assigned biological sex at birth using an extremely simple procedure for untold ages. It is true that in extraordinarily rare cases a child may be born with ambiguous genitalia, making it difficult to determine sex. This condition is called “intersex” and happens about 0.018% of the time. The rest of the time, however, a quick glance at the baby’s genitals is enough to assign biological sex with certitude. This is the “consensus criteria” that every doctor or midwife for thousands of years has used, and there is no compelling scientific reason to abandon it.

The most noteworthy thing about the article, however, other than the fact that the author is simply making things up, is that these fabrications are expressed in such a way as to suggest that they are completely uncontroversial. “Of course,” the writer’s tone suggests, “we all know that these things are true. These are just the indisputable facts. No sane person would possibly disagree.”

Manufacturing Consent: A Deliberate (and Diabolical) Strategy

I will repeat this, because it can’t be over-emphasized: Gender ideologues are gaslighting us.

Even as they promote the most radical and revolutionary viewpoints, turning common sense on its head, they are accusing those of us who believe what every human in history has believed, and what most people still believe (despite the best efforts of the revolutionaries), of being either mentally ill, or evil.

I also want to emphasize: This is not an accident. This is not unintentional. It is a deliberate strategy.

What the gender ideologues in the media and our universities know is that human beings are herd animals, and tend to believe what other people believe. One consequence of this is that if you want to change society, one powerful way to do so is to create the impression that society has already changed. In other words, if there is no consensus, then simply manufacture a consensus. Create the impression that everybody already believes what you want somebody to believe. If people start to think that everybody else believes something, and that their own opinions are unpopular or even fringe, it is likely that many of them will start to drift towards what they think the popular position is.

This is one reason for why progressives have focused so much of their energy on the courts. They know that one way of creating the impression that public opinion has already changed is to change the law. After all, people tend to think that if something is the law of the land, everybody else must want it to be the law.

The problem, of course, is that changing the law in radical ways through the legislature is difficult. Legislators are elected by the people, and hence their political positions tend to reflect public opinion. However, if you instead focus your energies on the courts, it’s just possible that you might find a judge, or a group of judges, who believes what you believe, and who is willing to legislate from the bench.

So, for instance, if you want most people to support abortion or same-sex “marriage,” instead of focusing on changing people’s opinions, simply get a court to legalize abortion or same-sex “marriage.” Once these things are legal, the gravitational pull of the manufactured consensus represented by the law will cause people’s opinions to drift towards supporting them.

The Orwellianism of Transgenderism

In addition to changing the law, another way of manufacturing consensus is by controlling language: by immersing people in words that reflect the desired opinion and banning words that do not.

In 1984, the totalitarian leaders of the dystopian “Oceania” create a new language, called Newspeak. As Wikipedia explains, Newspeak “is a controlled language of simplified grammar and restricted vocabulary designed to limit the individual’s ability to think and articulate ‘subversive’ concepts such as personal identity, self-expression and free will.”

Progressive ideologues are masters of the art of Newspeak. They are constantly coining new terms, and then getting their friends in the media to use them constantly. A quick search on Google Trends, which measures the frequency of certain search terms, shows, for instance, that the number of searches for the term “transphobia” has exploded in just the last two years. The term barely existed a few years ago, and now it’s everywhere. The same is true of numerous other terms, such as “queer,” “homophobia,” “LGBT,” and so on and so forth.

This is not an accident.

A few days ago, the New York Times ran an article with the headline: “Why Transgender Girls Are Suddenly the G.O.P.’s Culture-War Focus.” This headline is a brilliant example of Newspeak in action.

The first thing to note about this headline is the term “transgender girls,” which, of course, means “boys who claim to be girls.” Newspeak. The second thing to note is that New York Times has turned reality on its head. The reality is that transgender ideologues are the ones who opened a “new front” in the culture war. They are the ones who are suddenly pushing for a cultural revolution, demanding that we unleash an untested experiment on our children and culture, and abandon common sense views about sex and gender as “hateful.”

In the subheading for the article, the Times notes that, “Lawmakers in a growing number of Republican-led states are advancing and passing bills to bar transgender athletes in girls’ sports, a culture clash that seems to have come out of nowhere.” Of course, the reason this “culture clash” has seemed to “come out of nowhere,” is that one of President Biden’s first acts in office was to issue an executive order unilaterally requiring schools to allow boys to compete in girls’ sports. The truth is that the Republican legislators are reacting to a radical executive order from the president that came “out of nowhere.”

It is as if one country should, completely unprovoked, bomb another country, and then, when that country defends itself, turn around and accuse the defenders of “starting a war.”

The purpose of the New York Times headline is the same as those bizarre paragraphs in CNN’s article: to manufacture the impression of a consensus. It is designed to convey the impression that everyone believes that “Of course transgender girls should compete in girls’ sports. As everyone knows, that’s just common sense.”

One last example: In the process of writing this article, I searched the term “biological sex” on Google. I was expecting any number of articles (of which there are many) explaining the biology of sexual differentiation. Instead, the very first result was a link to a Planned Parenthood page about “sex and gender identity.” The next link was to an article in Forbes entitled, “The Myth of Biological Sex.” In fact, every single search result from the first was pushing some version of radical “gender identity” theory.

This, too, is not accidental.

We are being gaslit by the media giants and tech overlords, who are overwhelmingly owned and run by progressives. They want us to believe that we are literally crazy for trusting the evidence of our own eyes, and for following the science of sex and gender. They must not be allowed to get away with this.

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing hli@hli.org.

8 Comments

  1. Evangeline on April 5, 2021 at 3:09 PM

    Thank you so much for being a culture warrior, Fr. Boquet. If only we had more priests such as yourself.
    You have made great points here. People certainly are herd animals, and life is so demanding, you can see many people would rather let others do the thinking for them, it’s so much less work. But to do that means to let go of logic and reason, and turn your opinion over to others. It is very hard for people to stand up to family and friends, and the culture. There is hope for Christians, because clearly this is against God and against His plan for humanity. All is lost if Christians cannot at least see that. Why would God send us down a biological dead-end. He would not.
    I want to warn your readers that while they may think this does not impact them directly, it does. If your child is in public school, this ideology is there. The culture endorses it strongly, social media targets your child. Many teenage girls are now identifying as transgender, and I know young Christian girls in high school who are asked out by other girls constantly. It is all coming for younger and younger children, God help them, and God help us, to protect them. On a practical level, the group Massresistance is a resource for anyone who wants to take this on. They will provide help and support. It is not as hard as people may believe. A small group or even an individual, can do a lot. Even if people do not have children in school, as a taxpayer they are a “stakeholder” in education. Come on now, get in there.

  2. Katherine on April 5, 2021 at 3:16 PM

    Fr. Boquet,

    This is the clearest, simplest, and most compelling summary of the crazy parade storming down our daily streets.

    If all the world is a play, then you are the bemused child who from the midst of the crowd of foolish adults, steps forward to call out, “Look! The emperor has no clothes!!!”

    Thank you for your clarity, honesty, and voice.

    Gaslights used to bring light to our communities in the evenings. Now gaslighting is a verb. A dark and ugly verb, for a dark and ugly action.

    The theater of the absurd is being presented as truth. Only the Truth and our collective “Stop!” “Are you kidding me?!” and “Enough!” can stop the masquerade and restore dignity of the human person.

    Will be forwarding your post far and wide.

    God bless your words and your ongoing prolife work and ministry. Praying for all the troubled souls of persons who seek, promote, or our have been harmed by this transgender ideology.

  3. Adrian on April 5, 2021 at 3:21 PM

    Good insightful and more importantly truthful commentary – I am convinced the errors of Russia are permitted by God to increase until the proper consecration is done. Blessedly it’s St Joseph time and He who will ‘save the day’ as St Jacinta prophesied on 13th October 1917. Gaslighting from the Father of lies is increasing because his time is running short.

  4. Liz Berger on April 5, 2021 at 4:32 PM

    Recently I watched a Korean film that covered the impact on society of the mathematical manipulations of search words on the internet. It explored the manipulation of the masses by controlling and directing what the user reads in reply to their search. It is worth watching as it reveals the power of media moguls to change the opinions and beliefs of the population to create a particular outcome eg voting, court decisions etc.
    It may be that the Asian culture provides us with the only moral compass that still visibly exists. In the West the church appears to have lost its mother image. She was the protector of our values and moral code. We have lost more than we know in the cleaning process maybe we have literally “thrown the baby out with the bath water”?

  5. Peter on April 5, 2021 at 4:38 PM

    Lunatics are calling sane people lunatics. Unfortunately, the lunatics have taken control of our government and mainstream media. Our government is nuts.

  6. Margaret on April 5, 2021 at 7:41 PM

    This is somewhat off-topic but I’m trying to understand what my observation might mean. I agree with Fr. Bouquet about the media/leftists change in language being used to gaslight the majority of us into acceptance of absurdities. Here is my question: I notice sometime ago that “problems” have now become “issues” and the the “earth” is now referred to almost exclusively as the “planet”. Ever since I noticed this I’ve been trying to figure out what the purpose of that shift in language is. Any ideas?

  7. Pietro Marchitelli on April 6, 2021 at 11:05 AM

    All springs from the main pipe, human sexuality.
    At the center of all redefinitions is the redefinition of human sexuality according to what have become the “correct” norms that has come to define it. Seems that the “modern” definition of human sexuality is the new norm, such as man with man, woman with woman, men having sex with men and women, women having sex with men and women, promiscuity among heterosexuals, pre-marital sex, and juvenile sex. The redefinition of human sexuality leads to the redefinition of marriage and gender. Unprincipled human sexuality is the platform through which those new definitions are advanced. There is a reason why in the Scriptures soon after the “story of the creation, mention the story of the Garden of Eden. God is trying to instruct us that pre-mature sex between the first man and the first woman has impeded the formation of the spiritual characteristics God has inscribed in the original human essence.
    The original intend was and is form men and women to experience sex after having reached an adequate spiritual, physical, psychological and intellectual growth and live it within the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.
    The Devil knows that. The intention of the Devil is to degrade human sexuality keeping it away from its original expression. He is a liar and a destroyer and knows that as far as humans practice unprincipled sexuality he rules on the human soul. Unprincipled sexuality destroys families, and destroyed families will cause the collapse of nations. The key is to feed the heterosexual community with clear understanding of the message behind the story of the Garden of Eden, form the conscience of children with the adequate information and let the Holy Spirit unleash its powerful energy through the truth.
    As I have already mentioned it, I have created a PowerPoint presentation in which I do explain in details the meaning of the symbolism behind the story of the Garden of Eden.
    Slideshare.net/pietromarchitelli1/presentation.
    Let together change the culture of death into a culture of life by changing this “modern” sexualized culture into a family one.
    God bless

  8. Richard Byrns on May 2, 2021 at 5:49 PM

    I wholeheartedly agree with this article and would also point out that women have XX chromosomes and men have XY chromosomes. No matter what physical or chemical mutilations a “transgendered” person submits to, the chromosomes God gave them remain unchanged.

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