According to psychologists, “Gaslighting” is loosely defined as a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own reality or judgment, maintaining power through invalidation and marginalization.
In politics, this insidious form of domination and control is often facilitated by repeatedly presenting a skewed narrative, demanding fealty to their authority, then attacking the character and reputation of those who speak the truth and demonstrate the courage to throw off the traces and trappings and think for themselves.
Gaslighting bullies use tactics such as distorting reality, telling us different things at different times, pitting likeminded people against each other, deflecting, distracting, and refocusing our attention, scapegoating, and projecting their own failures and negative qualities on others.
Sound familiar? It should.
I call it the “Yuck Factor” – the ugly side of politics and governance that most people find detestable.
Earlier this month, the Volusia County Council meeting erupted into an embarrassing and counterproductive donnybrook when Councilman Ben Johnson – the elder sage of the stodgy Old Guard – attacked Chairman Jeff Brower in a clearly preplanned ambush, labeling him a “liar” who “politicized” a planned Florida Wildlife Conservation Corridor workshop, among other contrived violations of the lockstep conformity that protects the stagnant status quo.
In addition, Councilman Johnson accused Chairman Brower of fearmongering and lying to area residents about the “toilet to tap” potable reuse concept that is gaining popularity among local governments across the state as they work to destigmatize drinking processed wastewater as a means of accommodating even more growth and development.
Hell, Ben Johnson would have us believe he had never even heard the term “Toilet to Tap” mentioned in Volusia County. . .
As always, Councilman Johnson was supported by the remainder of the arrogant Gang of Four – Councilman Danny Robins, the lame duck Billie Wheeler, and The Very Rev. “Dr.” Fred Lowry – who pompously harrumphed and preened for their political benefactors in the real estate development community as Johnson viciously dismantled Chairman Brower.
In 2017, Central Florida residents became concerned about the future of our water quality and quantity when it was announced that the City of Daytona Beach had entered a partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District to study treating reclaimed water flushed from toilets, tubs and washing machines to the purity of potable water.
Not everyone liked the idea of this Soylent Green-style approach with many repulsed by another “yuck factor” – consuming our own recycled sewage. . .
By October 2018, Daytona Beach had begun a two-year “proof of concept” research study called the “Demonstration Testing System.” According to reports, “The purpose of the study was to determine if the City’s reuse water could be treated to national and state drinking water standards.”
At the time, everyone was aware that the small capacity testing process would not introduce the treated toilet water into the city’s potable water distribution system. The local research was completed in October 2021, and a final report on the results of the study is currently being prepared by a consultant.
The fear was (and remains) that in the future, as malignant development continues its spread across Volusia County, a larger “T2T” plant will be constructed to accommodate more growth by postponing the coming water crisis when consumption outpaces our natural supply.
The fact is, under a similar project also funded by the SJRWMD, the City of Altamonte Springs’ “PureALTA” plant has already demonstrated that wastewater can be treated to drinking water standards – and the practice is already being used internationally and in several communities around the American west as drought conditions worsen.
According to the International Water Association, the WateReuse Association has now secured $1 billion for water recycling as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 – and Florida’s Potable Reuse Commission (which was organized to develop a framework for advancing the implementation of potable reuse in Florida) has generated a report that found “…Potable reuse treatment processes are proven, safe, and protective of public health and the environment.”
Last year, One Water Florida – a glossy marketing shim-sham of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – began desensitizing residents to the fact we will soon be consuming our own treated waste, touting “The evolution to a One Water perspective.”
According to the Potable Reuse Commission’s January 2020 report:
“Clean water is vital for a healthy life and successful community. Here in Florida, we use nearly 6.4 billion gallons of water per day. And that number is growing. An estimated 1,000 people move to the state each day and are projected to use an additional one billion gallons per day by 2040. Our supply is not endless, expanding the use of recycled water is one way we can help ensure there is plenty of water to meet this demand.”
Don’t take my word for it, read the report for yourself here: https://tinyurl.com/33v7z6dw
Trust me. Despite Councilman Johnson’s strategic ignorance – “Toilet to Tap” is in the Sunshine State’s future.
Later this week, the City of Daytona Beach will vote to surplus equipment associated with the demonstration testing system. The move to scrap the material was announced in a weird agenda report clearly written to assuage citizen concerns.
Last week, Ben Johnson’s dutiful sock puppet, Councilman Danny Robins, piled on by releasing the Daytona Beach City Commission’s agenda report on social media to the strains of “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead.”
“Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Just more of Brower’s fearmongering and hype.“
Under the misleading header, “TOILET TO TAP can finally be put to bed,” Councilman Robins cherrypicked nuggets that fit his narrative from the Daytona Beach agenda report, then branded anyone who expressed concern about direct potable reuse as liars, “The list of lies carefully crafted to create fear to the citizens of Volusia County is despicable and the exact reason why people don’t trust government.”
Sure. That’s why people no longer trust Volusia County government, Danny. . .
Is it possible that the bulk of incumbents on the Volusia County Council are totally unaware of the state’s push for direct potable reuse?
Or, with the primary quickly approaching, are they merely gaslighting voters – claiming “toilet to tap” doesn’t exit – twisting our real fears of overdevelopment as a means of marginalizing Chairman Brower and those “Volusia Values” candidates he supports, who, if elected, have vowed to pass an ordinance banning the process here – something that could naturally limit growth and development?
I’m asking. Because those beholden to the development community seem awfully frightened of the prospect of losing their grip on power. . .
While Florida water experts agree that conservation is the best means of protecting our finite water supply, the grim reality is that many of our sitting elected marionettes who have been compromised by the massive campaign contributions of speculative developers lack the political and moral courage to enact commonsense low-impact development and environmental protection regulations.
Instead, they engage in gutter-wallowing and character assassination – while accusing their opponents of “fearmongering” – hoping that an apathetic electorate won’t recognize this political gaslighting for what it is.
This election cycle, those practitioners of the Politics of Personal Destruction on all sides have seized their weird version of the narrative – demonizing anyone who disagrees with their goals – using fear, bullying, and personal embarrassment as a weapon in a win at all cost strategy that many believe is fundamentally destructive to our democratic principles.
However, there remains one fundamental mechanism which will allow We, The Little People to prevail over the influential insiders and well-heeled donor class that seem intent on trading our lifestyle and heritage to outside speculators:
It is the ultimate power of the ballot box.
With early voting underway in Volusia County this week, I believe that if enough like-minded citizens hold firm to the basic belief that we can control our destiny by electing strong, ethical, and visionary members of our community to high public office, we can once again balance political power and restore transparency, fairness, and the spirit of democracy in Volusia County government.
Vote like your quality of life depends upon it.
Because it does.