An Introduction to the Delusion of “Gang-Stalking”
If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, then you’re probably familiar with “compilation videos.” These videos range in subject matter from normal things like popular songs, movies and sports clips to compilations of extreme events such as natural disasters, fights and public “freakouts.”
The motivation for this blog post came after viewing one of the latter types of compilations. It was made up of short cell phone video clips taken of people “freaking out” in public and several of these people appeared to be suffering from some kind of mental disorder.
A topic was highlighted in one of these compilation videos that I’d never come across before. At the end of the video, “Public Freakout Compilation #104,” a woman is recording some drugged-out young adults who are stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire; the woman claims that they are “gang-stalking” her.
It’s obvious that the woman recording the video is unwell and has misinterpreted this group of burn-outs, and their shoddy Kia Sportage, as willing actors in a malevolent plot against her.
Any denial on their part only strengthens her conviction that they are gang-stalking her. The end of the video is anti-climatic as nothing is actually happening and a lot of it is taking place inside of this woman’s head:
What is the delusion of “gang-stalking”?
Gang-stalking can be summarized as an imaginary affliction among “targeted individuals” who suffer under the delusion that mobs of stalkers, actors have been planted to watch them, follow them and even whisper sweet nothings into their ears with the intention of driving them crazy and ruining their lives.
This “harassment” is done in person but can also be digital in nature and is not limited by anything other than the imagination of the person making up the claims.
Screenshot of the “definition of Gang Stalking” from a “victim”:
“Gang-stalking victims describe ‘complex systems’ financed by the US government, employing ‘civilian volunteers, government agents, contractors, and often dangerous ex-convict felons‘ to harass people. Gang-stalking functions as a nexus for further conspiracy” (Kiberd 2016).
People who already have a propensity for believing in conspiracy theories often make up the most detailed gang-stalking stories; internet comment sections and forums are filled with their rambling diatribes.
Another noteworthy pull-quote from Kiberd’s piece in Motherboard is about how, “Gang-stalking fears act as a trap: The believer behaves warily in public, and people respond to this by treating them as unusual” (Kiberd 2016).
This is something that can be seen at work in the “Public Freakout Compilation #104” video in the form of the strangers’ reactions to being accused of gang-stalking and the woman’s subsequent response of, “Thanks for gang-stalking that was really cool, you guys are making people commit suicide; I hope you know that.”
Roisin Kiberd interviewed Dr. David Crepaz-Keay, who explained:
“This behaviour reinforces the anxiety and sparks paranoia, which increases the physical and verbal reaction which in turn increase the intensity of public response. So although there is not a concerted stalking activity, it is very easy to interpret real-world behaviour as if it is co-ordinated” (Kiberd 2016).
Everyday interactions are full of coincidences and an unhealthy mind will look for patterns, connections in places where none exist; when this happens nonsensical explanations are invented for mundane things, anecdotes take the place of actual evidence for their claims and any criticism is met with excuses.
Roisin Kiberd spoke with Dr. Lorraine Sheridan, one of the authors of the paper, “Complaints of group-stalking (‘gang-stalking’): an exploratory study of their nature and impact on complainants,” and came away with this overview:
“The study’s results were not surprising: Among the gang-stalked, all were found to likely be suffering from delusions and rated more highly for symptoms of depression, trauma, and adverse impact on social functioning. They reported feelings of going mad, depression, fear, distrust, and suicidal ideation. Their relationships broke down, they had lost jobs, and some had decided to carry a weapon” (Kiberd 2016).
The last part of this previous passage outlines the dreary timeline for those who suffer under the delusion that they are being gang-stalked which can end with the possibility of perpetuating violence against others.
- A June 2016 report in The New York Times conservatively estimated a “gang-stalking community” of 10,000 members across various social media platforms.
- Delusions of gang-stalking thrive in an online world where many “victims” suffer from “confirmation bias” and “accept and support each other.”
- “The internet creates a sort of ‘closed ideology echo chamber’ wherein people who share unusual beliefs reinforce each other’s thinking” (Kiberd 2016).
Gang-stalking symptoms and delusions are made worse when these “targeted individuals” wall themselves off inside of “online communities” which further isolate them from family and friends.
Normalcy is replaced with conspiracy and soon anything can become the next disjointed piece of “proof” that fuels their delusions.
In the article, “United States of Paranoia: They See Gangs of Stalkers,” author Mike McPhate wrote in The New York Times that, “Mental health professionals say the narrative has taken hold among a group of people experiencing psychotic symptoms that have troubled the human mind since time immemorial” (McPhate 2016).
McPhate goes on to catalogue the activities of the “gang-stalked”:
“They raise money, hold awareness campaigns, host international conferences and fight for their causes in courts and legislatures…The tribe cuts across all classes and professions, and includes lawyers, soldiers, artists and engineers…They have self-published dozens of e-books…In hundreds of YouTube videos they offer testimonials and try to document evidence of their stalking, even confronting unsuspecting strangers” (McPhate 2016).
In short, “gang-stalking” is delusional, flawed thinking that tends to affect someone who rates “more highly for symptoms of depression, trauma, and adverse impact on social functioning” (Kiberd 2016). Victims of purported gang-stalking are prone to believing in conspiracy theories and often have their beliefs reinforced in dubious “online communities” creating a “closed ideology echo chamber” that they have a hard time escaping from.
This blog post served to introduce two concepts: the delusion of “gang-stalking” and the idea that certain corners of the internet act as an “echo chamber,” which will be a reoccurring theme going forward.
Gang Stalking World. “FAQ.” Gangstalking.wordpress.com: May 25, 2017. Website: https://gangstalking.wordpress.com/faq/
Kiberd, Roisin. “The Nightmarish Online World of ‘Gang-Stalking.’” Motherboard: July 22, 2016. Website: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/the-nightmarish-online-world-of-gang-stalking
McPhate, Mike. “United States of Paranoia: They See Gangs of Stalkers.” The New York Times: June 10, 2016. Website: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/11/health/gang-stalking-targeted-individuals.html
Online Fails. “Public Freakout Compilation #104.” YouTube: May 1, 2017. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BubnsAXcn2I