Truth? Who cares?

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

I’m sure this is one of those existential crises that everyone faces—or anyone who lives an examined life—and yet everyone feels they face alone.

I find it difficult to ascertain what the truth is anymore. Are you familiar with the Gaslight Syndrome or the Gaslight Effect? It gets its name from the 1938 play Gas Light (and its film adaptations), in which the antagonist attempts to make his wife question her sanity by turning down the lights in the house, and then saying, “Why no, it’s not dark in here. Must just be you.” Gaslighting is like that.

The public information response to the IHOP shootings, the Reno Air Races crash, and the Street Vibrations shooting was at the top of my mind when I sat down to write this column, but as is generally the case, when a human being begins to examine anything in detail, he or she realizes that the parts are also metaphors for the whole.

This societal gaslighting is sort of a real-world application of that Wittgensteinian law that says if an idea isn’t stated in intelligible words, then it is nonsense. For example, when school administrators or lawyers express things through jargon or legalese, their purpose is to prevent the reader from gaining understanding. Therefore, by definition, it is nonsense. But then, when an average person can’t understand it, the administrator and the reader question the reader’s intelligence.

Regular people like me can’t cut through the bullshit to the truth because the bullshit is designed to be impenetrable.

I feel like I’m doing it now, but I don’t intend to. Let me see if I can simplify: It’s when someone says they love and respect you, but their actions show they don’t. Step down yet again: It’s when people’s words and actions conflict. Step down once more: It’s when individuals doubt the evidence of their own senses.

Burghart’s corollary: If people treat the public or individuals with disrespect, it’s because they don’t respect the public or individuals.