There’s a fierce battle going on in the United Statesm and it’s more crucial than the rivalry between rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, and Democrats and Republicans.

It’s the struggle to preserve the truth.

Michiko Kakutani writes in “The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump” (Tim Duggan Books) that the struggle to protect truth and facts has hit a crucial point. The conflict has been building for more than a half-century — and has grown more severe with the splintering of news media and the dramatic increase in outside influences, including Russia, the divisive effects of the internet and the ease of manipulating opinion through social media.

Kakutani, a literary critic who is a former chief book critic for The New York Times, looked at the historical influences on truth telling in the United States, the gradual weakening of trust in institutions and the rapid growth in public confusion during President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump’s frequent assault on mainstream news media as “fake news” and “enemies of the people,” she writes, has led some leaders in authoritarian countries to take up the rallying cry of “fake news” whenever local reporting doesn’t suit them. The result, she says, is a growing level of “truth decay.”

Kakutani says often-misleading statements by Trump, the divisive effects of social media and the onslaught from Russia have exposed “the vulnerabilities in our institutions and our digital communications.”

She does a good job of summarizing trends that have been developing for years and writing about the influence of the Russian misinformation campaign. She says the disregard for truth telling “hardly started with Trump” and that he represents the culmination of developments that were identified years ago by forward-looking writers.

Kakutani also writes that a steady stream of deception will exhaust and overwhelm the public, so that people cease to resist and give in to “outrage fatigue.”