Yikes, this is good. I never thought of it like this — and I should have (I had some experience being gaslit as a kid myself by people who were close to me.)
I was slightly older — 9/11 happened when I was in my last semester of college- so I mostly remember that time period as a time of intense fear, where you dared not point out the obvious lest someone call you unpatriotic. Late Gen x-er that I was, I was cynical enough to know that governments lie, but even then I got that there was a difference between “keeping the truth from citizens because of national security or politics,” and “blatantly stating the opposite of what’s plainly obvious if you think about it while waving a flag so we wouldn’t notice.” (i.e. the vast, vast difference between “I did not have sex with that woman,” and “We make our own reality!”)
The Soviet Union used to do the latter all the time, so Putin’s rise to power in Russia made sense: it’s easy to control a population that grew up in a world of lies and were mostly aware of what was really happening but went along with it anyway. No wonder Trump’s attempting to do the same thing, though I wonder how long it can hold. You can lie to people about weapons of mass destruction pretty easily, because, hey, how do I know, I’ve never been to Iraq, maybe he *was* buying uranium from Africa, etc. It’s a lot trickier to lie to people about the size of a protest vs. the size of your inauguration, for no other reason than the fact that a sizable chunk of the population was either present at these events or knew someone who was. And yet, his constant attacks on the press as “the biggest bunch of liars” scares the crap out of me. Again, it’s one thing to go after Buzzfeed for publishing salacious accusations about hookers in Moscow, but it’s quite another thing to outright dismiss Russian involvement in the election altogether and shout down a guy from CNN over it while (people who were likely) paid staffers cheered and clapped. And it frightens me that *anyone* in this country is willing to just go along with it-maybe the safest place in an abusive situation is to become the abuser’s assistant.