Although there is a certain elegance in just denying wrongdoing — It never happened! (aka gaslighting) — the more pernicious mindfuckery is blameshifting — Okay, it happened, but the real crime is that you’re upset about it.
Switch-o-change-o! The focus pivots from Bad Thing to the Pollyannas taking offense about it.
Why is this worse?
If you deny a Bad Thing, it’s still bad. I did NOT drown those kittens! still leaves room for the concept that drowning kittens is monstrous.
Compared to: Sure, I drown kittens. Everyone does it! You got a problem with that?
Now everything you thought you knew about hurting vulnerable, indefensible kittens is called into question. The entire underpinnings of our shared moral code are suspect.
But, but…! I thought there was a larger understanding that drowning kittens was Bad.
No. You’re just very sensitive.
We have a surplus kitten population. Are kittens really that special? Good people drown kittens all the time.
Who among us hasn’t recreationally drowned a kitten?
Don’t be a Pollyanna. This is the way the world works. Fluffy and Snowball are expendable.
It’s not drowning, it’s feline alluvial submersion.
You think you’re better than me, because you haven’t drown a kitten?
The sack was there, I had an urge, it meant nothing. It was just kitten drowning, it didn’t mean more than that. I didn’t even enjoy it.
The whole time I was drowning kittens, I was thinking of you.
Sometimes you just get stressed and need to drown some kittens.
Drowning kittens didn’t take that much time.
I work hard. Don’t I deserve to drown some kittens?
Joe drowns kittens and his wife is cool with it.
How about you drown kittens and let me watch?
Anyway, you get the idea. Fuckwits will blunder ahead and do their darnedest to convince everyone that Bad is Good and Good is Misunderstood and Nothing Really Matters Anyway. (Shhh! Except maintaining power and entitlement — oh hey, look! SQUIRREL!)
This mindfuck is deeply insidious. Because if values cannot be agreed upon, they cannot be defended. If we get fuzzy about drowning Fuzzy, then we’re unclear on the rules of engagement and consequences for Bad Things. That’s true for cheating on your partner, cheating on your taxes, cheating in an election, enriching yourself from ill-gotten gains, or throwing kittens in a sack and watching them sink to the bottom of a lake.
To call someone a “Pollyanna” is to say they’re too unsophisticated to understand the rules of engagement. It’s to call into question moral distinctions altogether. Only rubes get hung up these details. Do I really have to explain it to you? If you have to ask how the game is played, you’re not a player.
What to do if you’re on the receiving end of this mindfuck?
You disarm the Pollyanna blameshift by realizing its essential absurdity — if everyone does it, and it’s so totally okay, why was it a secret? Why go to great lengths to conceal this thing that is no big deal?
To spare you Pollyannas your sensitive snowflake feelings.
Yeah, but if we’re such a tiny minority, and that’s just the way it is, uh, why isn’t your right to drown kittens enshrined in law? Why isn’t everyone just openly flinging kittens into wells whenever they feel like it? Can I drown anything? Can I put you in a sack and drown you recreationally?
NO. THAT WOULD BE WRONG!
Oh. So you wouldn’t like this done to you?
HOW DARE YOU!
Step into this sack.