January 24, 2017
Desperate man says crazy things; everyone listens just because he’s standing in the White House press room
by Ian Dreiblatt
“It’s on, motherfuckers.”
This was basically the message delivered to the White House press corps on Saturday as, in a flailing attempt to siphon attention away from the largest mass protest in American history, a terrible little shit called Sean Spicer held his first press briefing as White House Press Secretary. Speaking on behalf of his abominable Papa Turd, Spicer delivered some of the most preposterous lines yet spoken in the ongoing drunken West Wing fan fiction that is American politics in 2017.
Where to begin. Spicer pretended that Trump had enjoyed, wait for it, “the largest audience ever to witness a presidential inauguration — period.” His detested animatronic counterpart, Kellyanne Conway, later tried to add truthiness through the time-honored method of pretending to disagree but just a little. But math—which works on principles so universal that we use it when we try to communicate with aliens—disagrees: not too many people came out, which is just what you’d expect for the most unpopular president-elect in our history.
Spicer also pretended that the guffawing crowd Trump had addressed at the CIA earlier that day had been all CIA employees. This seemed intensely unlikely—for one thing, the CIA, like most people, detests Donald Trump—and, sure enough, stee-rike two: turns out that (highly disturbed) laughter was the work of paid hype-persons!
Spicer then went on to tell the press “what you guys should be writing and covering, instead of sowing division about tweets and false narratives.” But of course, the government assigning talking points to the press is exactly how you know there is no free press in a country. And ferreting out false narratives is exactly what the press is supposed to do.
Later still, and most ominously, Spicer said, “There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable, too.” And let’s be absolutely, crystal clear about this: This is as brazen an articulation of fascist ideology as has ever been uttered in the United States government. Spicer has immediately set a new low, brandishing an open contempt for the rights and expectations of free people that should absolutely fucking terrify us. The exact purpose of the First Amendment is to clarify that the press is never accountable to the government. This is one of the parameters by which the American republic is defined: We may do any number of horrible things, but we don’t speak power to truth.
To be sure, Sean Spicer is a goose-stepping little cretin, a daub of Sponsored Content on legs that should by no means be mistaken for a real boy. (He also fears ice cream innovation and has shitty taste in music.) But now that he works in the White House, there are real ramifications to the shitty, phantasmal things he says.
First of all, by the sheer magnitude of his bullshittery, he made such a spectacle of himself that he inevitably succeeded in creating a distraction from the millions and millions—oh, and millions—of folks who were, at that very moment, filling streets the world over to declare his boss an enemy of the people. He also did his damnedest to create an environment in which all facts are relative — even though they, y’know, aren’t. Trumpists, having just voted to turn America into a reality TV program, received a message from him that was essentially, “We’ve got a great show for you tonight!” He showed that he was beneath shame and contempt, and thus invulnerable to them. And he tried to make the rest of us—the ones who consider ourselves basically accountable to external reality—feel crazy.
In short, he begged you to be confused. Don’t. The media has actually been doing a pretty decent job on this one, which should help, but there’s no two ways about it: we’re in for a bumpy ride. Buckle up, keep your eyes open, and stay angry. Shit’s about to get weird.
Also, don’t forget to celebrate the fact that you—yes, you!—are not Sean “I am so unhappy” Spicer. May I suggest a dance party?
Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.