Gaslighting is a psychological abuse tactic employed to manipulate people into questioning their own sanity. Now, as the president, elected officials and swarms of talking heads normalize deception, flooding the airwaves with falsehoods, engendering distrust and systematically undermining democracy with an increasingly casual air, the term is moving from domestic violence circles into the mainstream consciousness.
Dame Magazine launched Gaslit Nation, a bimonthly news podcast, on July 9. Co-hosts Andrea Chalupa and Sarah Kendzior — both journalists — are devoting the first season to a holistic assessment of the foreign and domestic conditions that laid the groundwork for the 2016 election and walking listeners through the campaign cycle knowing what we know now. Their aim is at least twofold: to empower voters before midterm elections and to record an accurate account for posterity’s sake.
They’re brilliant, and uniquely positioned to dissect the dizzying grind of 24-hour news cycles, prioritizing contextual analysis at the intersections of foreign policy, technology, history, culture and justice. Chalupa has been writing about Ukraine since 2011, and Kendzior’s academic research focuses on authoritarian states of the former Soviet Union and how digital media affects political mobilization, self-expression and social trust. Foreign Policy named her one of the “100 people you should be following on Twitter to make sense of global events” back in 2013.
Both sounded the alarms early and often, only to be called hysterical and alarmist, but they didn’t back down and they’re here to help the American public digest the likelihood that Trump is a Kremlin asset. That he, Paul Manafort and network of others are implicated in a vast, decades-long global scheme to subvert US democracy. This is a mainstream interpretation of the evidence, at this point; the president’s troubling associations with corrupt right-wing operatives, white supremacists and Kremlin agents are well-documented.
Chalupa and Kendzior submit a vital framework shift, rooted in close scrutiny of facts: That there is a new world order — an alliance of increasingly wealthy and powerful autocrats — invested in the destabilization of US democracy, and that our institutions aren’t the safeguards many thought they might be. It’s a disquieting wake-up call, even for those who’ve paid close attention. But as the hosts implore, “Don’t hide. Don’t be scared… We’ve survived a lot of harassment and death threats and we’re still here… So, come and join us. We’re going to get through this year together.”