Gaslighting 2: Revenge of the Reality-Based Community

Thigh-High Politics is an op-ed column by Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca that breaks down the news, provides resources for the resistance, and just generally refuses to accept toxic nonsense.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election. Perhaps the most concise summary of the way those 12 months have felt thus far comes from the old lady in Titanic: “It’s been 84 years.” The daily stream of atrocities makes it feel that way, at least.

Following the national news cycle is brutally exhausting and endlessly painful — and yet, there is hope.

In December 2016, I wrote “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America” for Teen Vogue. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which the victim is made to doubt their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump was doing to this country. Nothing has changed, except that now deception is the formal posture of the White House. Since his inauguration, Trump has continued his war on the truth, disseminating a constant stream of disinformation while aggressively degrading the press, and, at an interview last month, the First Amendment itself. His behavior is profoundly dangerous.

In the months surrounding Trump’s win, “post-truth” became a kind of conceptual Band-Aid, as he rejected the very existence of unfavorable stories. “Post-truth” refers to the idea that feelings outweigh facts in the marketplace of ideas; it is the true tragedy of the spread of “fake news.” The threat isn’t so much that your weird uncle believes some cockamamie hoax about pizza pedophiles from HillaryClintonDidBenghazi.com — it’s that the idea of “fake news” allows people to reject certain facts simply because they feel like it.

The public discussion of “fake news” tends to be less about concretely false stories, but more so a judgement of “bias” from individual news outlets and the media in general. Trump’s attack on the truth — which started long before he became president and continues…

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