‘Why I believe Trump is gaslighting America’

Post-fact world: A row has erupted over the number of people at Trump’s inauguration. © PA
by Lauren Duca

An award-winning New York-based writer and weekend editor for Teen Vogue. She has also written for Vice, The Nation and The New Yorker, among other titles.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying in an attempt to destabilise a target. Lauren Duca argues this is what Donald Trump is doing to us all.

Trump won the presidency by gaslight. His rise has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning hatred and also by normalising deception. We must regain control of the truth.

To gaslight is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity. That is what Trump is doing. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to hide the conflicts in his own sound bites.

Facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves.

Facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves

Trump’s list of lies is long: he said that he watched thousands of people cheering on 9/11 in Jersey City (police say there’s no evidence of this), that the Mexican government forces immigrants into the USA (no evidence), and too many other things to list because the whole tactic is to clog the drain with an indecipherable mass of toxic waste.

The gaslighting part comes in when the fictions are disputed by the media, and Trump doubles down on his lies, before painting himself as a victim of unfair coverage.

As a candidate, Trump’s gaslighting was manipulative, as president it is a deliberate attempt to destabilise journalism as a check on the power of government.

This matters to all of us, republicans and democrats. The president cannot be lying to the electorate with zero accountability. The threat of deception is not a partisan issue.

The good news about this boiling frog scenario is that we are not boiling yet.

Trump is not going to stop playing with the burner until the USA realises that the heat is too high. It is on every single one of us to stop pretending it has always been so hot in here.

First we must empower ourselves with information. Fact-check every Trump statement you read or every headline you share.

If you find inaccuracies in an article, send the editor an email. Find out which outlets are trustworthy. Refuse to accept information simply because it is fed to you, and do not be afraid to ask questions. This is now required of all Americans. If facts become a point of debate, the very definition of freedom will be called into question.

There are unprecedented amounts of ugliness to untangle, from deciding whether Trump is a sexual predator to figuring out how to stop him threatening the sovereignty of an entire religion.

It’s incredible that any of those things could seem like a distraction from a greater peril, or be only the cherry-picked issues in a seemingly unending list of gaffes, but the gaslights are flickering.

When defending each of the identities in danger of being further marginalized, we must remember the thing that binds this pig-headed hydra together.

As we spin our newfound rage into action, it is imperative to remember, across identities and across the aisle, as a country and as individuals, we have nothing without the truth.

This is an extract from an article published by Teen Vogue on December 10th. Follow the links under Become An Expert to read the full version.

You Decide

  1. Should politicians be prosecuted when they are proven to have lied?


  1. Find the transcript of a speech by Donald Trump and fact-check every claim he makes.

Word Watch

The term owes its origin to Gas Light, a 1938 play and 1944 film (Gaslight) where a husband tries to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken.
The Central Intelligence Agency, the foreign intelligence service of the United States tasked with gathering and analysing national security information from around the world.
Weapons of mass destruction
Evidence of the supposed existence of WMDs, which was later shown to be baseless, was a major factor in encouraging the USA and the UK go to war in Iraq.
Electoral College
The US system by which electors are selected and mandated by the states to elect the president and vice president. The number of electors depends on the population in each state and is equivalent to the number of representatives in congress. Nearly all electors vote according to the popular vote in their state, as they are ‘pledged’ to do. The president is thus determined by the number of states, rather than the total national popular vote.

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