Gaslighting America, 2020's sad legacy

The year we all became insane

Good morning everyone. Welcome to the end of the tour. There will be no lifetime supply of chocolate.

GRANDPA JOE: I just wanted to ask about the chocolate. The lifetime supply of chocolate, for Charlie. When does he get it? 

WONKA: He doesn't.


WONKA: Because he broke the rules.

GRANDPA JOE: What rules? We didn't see any rules, did we, Charlie? 

WONKA: Wrong, sir, wrong! Under Section Thirty-Seven B of the contract it states quite clearly that all offers shall become null and void if--and you can read it for yourself in this photostatic copy: "I, the undersigned, shall forfeit all rights, privileges, and licenses herein and herein contained, et cetera, et cetera . . . fax mentis incendium gloria culpum, et cetera, et cetera . . . memo bis punitor delicatum!" It's all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir! 

GRANDPA JOE: You're a crook! You're a cheat and a swindler! That's what you are. How can you do a thing like this? Build up a little boy's hopes and then smash all his dreams to pieces. You're an inhuman monster! 

WONKA: I said Good Day! 

We have been swindled and gaslighted. We thought there was a Great America at the end of this, but we got cheated by every side of every issue. The media is not some Avatar of Truth, speaking boldly to Power. Jim Acosta is a grandstanding television hack pretending to be a statuesque Adonis. He’s spent the last four years building his resume for a position in the Biden administration (or the Obama puppet government, or the Harris administration, depending on your interpretation of political eschatology).

President Trump never became “so presidential that you people will be so bored.” At least we weren’t bored. That was the one truth that never wavered. The rest of everything he did was gaslighting for four years.

We were gaslighted that Trump was a Russian stooge and that he collaborated with the Russians to steal the 2016 election. We were gaslighted that President Obama didn’t pursue this investigation with the full knowledge that he was doing it for a political reason. Yes, Trump did things that made it appear he was willing to collaborate, but the FBI used a fabricated “intelligence” memo written by a political hack and funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign as evidence.

We were gaslighted that coronavirus was manageable, that the Chinese had low infection and death rates. They straight out lied and they’re still lying, and jailing anyone who dares expose the truth. We were gaslighted that masks could fully protect us from getting infected, and we were gaslighted that masks don’t do anything at all. We were gaslighted that church gatherings were super spreader events but protests were not, as if the virus had its own sense of an “arc tending toward justice.”

We were gaslighted by CNN that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was some hero in his handling of COVID-19, when he presided over the worst health disaster since Chernobyl. We were gaslighted that Gov. Brian Kemp was going to kill every resident of Georgia by opening up too soon when Colorado Gov. Jared Polis did the same thing and the media yawned.

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We were gaslighted that there’s no way a vaccine could be ready before the end of 2020. I remember the careful charts published by the New York Times (forgive me, but I don’t have the link handy and don’t feel like looking for it for two hours), showing that it will be the end of 2021 or even into 2022 before a vaccine is widely available.

We were gaslighted by the president when he tried to “calm” us by saying the virus would be gone by Easter (maybe he meant Easter 2021?). President Trump got up on the stage at the White House briefing room and said some whack stuff. Then a woman poisoned her husband with fish tank cleaner (it was investigated as a murder), but the media blamed it on Trump’s promotion of hydrochloroquine, the benefits of which in fighting the disease are still being debated, though largely dismissed as ineffective.

I have been waiting for someone to stand in the center of the Ivanpah Solar Plant while opening a vein, and fry themselves, to disinfect their body using concentrated sunlight. I bet The Washington Post has a stringer assigned to watch for it so they can blame it on Trump.

We were gaslighted by the Democrats who claimed that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was slowing the mail on purpose to “steal the election” for Donald Trump, because he acted on plans made by his predecessor, appointed by Obama’s Postal Board of Governors, to reallocate certain underutilized sorting equipment and mail collection boxes.

We were gaslighted by the president and Republicans that Democrats were going to (and in fact, did) “steal the election” because mail-in ballots are typically tabulated after in-person votes, therefore there was an election night Trump surge, followed by a day or two of erosion as the blue vote totals mounted. The fact that the media accurately reported this process made Trump’s gaslighting even more believable.

We, who ground ourselves in the real world, (and I try to humbly include myself) must be insane, because we don’t follow Lin Wood’s crazy conspiracies, or Stacey Abrams’ equally nutty contention that Georgia elections are rigged to the farthest jibboom by white people who stepped out of a time machine from 1865.

We are being gaslighted that Southern Man is the same racist, rednecked, Klan-loving guy Neil Young sang about in 1970. And in Sweet Home Alabama, legislators in Congress are going to object to the certified results of the 2020 election, because after 59, 60, or however many unsuccessful lawsuits, the Trump campaign has failed to prove the election was rife with massive fraud.

The year 2020 gave us a swindle. A cheat, in the form of gaslighting, telling us that we’re the insane ones, and the rest of the world, who believes in QAnon, “hands up, don’t shoot,” Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay, Epstein didn’t kill himself, Bill Gates is the antichrist, aliens are colluding with the Israeli government, and Donald Trump is going to declare martial law and become a dictator, is sane.

As we would say in Dungeons & Dragons, when a player disbelieved reality, “roll a saving throw.” If reality lost, that player just sort of disintegrated. When our society, in reality, succumbs to an entire year of concentrated gaslighting, it fails the saving throw and disintegrates. Those of us who are left, and sane, have to pick up the pieces.

If 2020 was the big parade, 2021 will be the sweepers cleaning up the streets behind it. There’s many more paraders than there are sweepers, but the sweepers get the reward because the parade was led over a very high cliff to very sharp rocks below.

I’m glad—and I’m sure you are too—that it’s ending tonight.

Finally, mercifully, 2020 will be over, and we start 2021 with all this flammable gas in the room, with little light, worried that someone will light a match.

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

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