There’s spin, and then there’s unabashed lying.
Spin is a reality in every industry. It’s a skill you have to possess to get beyond the lowest ranks of private or public endeavors. I don’t care if you’re an orderly in a county hospital. If you are too transparent or matter-of-fact, you’re likely to remain on medical waste sorting duty until you quit (or die from MRSA).
If you’ve read some of my stuff, you might use spin to say that I have an uncanny ability to connect disparate topics together in a delicious gumbo, each ingredient intensifying the flavors of the rest of the mélange.
Some might be more direct and transparent and say that I’m harder to follow than a white girl cutting through the crowd at a Jack Johnson concert.
But it’s expected for people in public-facing roles to put the activities of their organizations in the best possible light. Honesty, a.k.a. “full transparency,” is NOT always the best policy, and the press is adept at extrapolating missing details when necessary.
Examples might help. Or they might not. But you’re getting examples.
Full Transparency: Our CEO got caught placing his “overnight male” in his 23-year-old secretary’s “box,” his wife caught them, now she’s divorcing him and taking everything, and we had to hold him down to keep him from drinking bleach from the janitor’s closet yesterday.
Spin: Our CEO is going to be taking a well-earned sabbatical. He plans on streamlining and downsizing his life, spending some time alone in quiet reflection, and he intends to do a full-body cleanse as well.
Neither is wrong, per se. The only difference is detail. Intrepid reporters have to dig to get the full story when you’re spinning.
Why take a sabbatical now? What has prompted his desire to streamline and downsize? Has he been a man known to quietly reflect in the past? Is his cleanse being supervised by doctors? Did he, by chance, give the ol’ “dictation” to that hot secretary? Is there a video? What? No, of course not for me. For my readers. God, no, I’m not into that sort of stuff. But seriously, is there a video?
Full transparency: I wrote the examples solely for the purpose of using the “male” and “box” joke. I’m sorry.
The election of Donald Trump has ushered in a new level among the PR set. No longer is “casting negative information in the most positive light possible” going to be enough. Cable news, the internet, a president with less self-control than Anthony Weiner, and the fact that no one in the administration watched Schoolhouse Rock when they were kids, all add up to mean something very different than before:
The spinners now have to spin while we’re all looking at “full transparency” happening all around them.
It’s so different, that they’re not really spinners anymore. They’re Professional Liars.
[SCENE: YUGE COKED-UP BENGAL TIGER PACES BACK AND FORTH BEHIND PRESS SECRETARY’S PODIUM. PRESS CORPS IS IN ATTENDANCE, AWAITING DAILY BRIEFING. SEAN SPICER ENTERS BUT MAKES SURE TO AVOID LOOKING AT THE TIGER AS HE WALKS TO THE PODIUM.]
SPICEY: Hello everyone, thank you for being here, we’ll start with any questions you might have. Yes, Glenn?
GLENN: Hey Sean, Glenn Thrush, New York Times. There’s a huge fucking tiger walking around behind you.
SPICEY: Glenn, first off, it’s pronounced “yuge,” and there’s no need for hysteria here. Put on your big boy pants and quit making everything so dramatic.
GLENN: Yeah, um…no. There’s actually a super-sized cat walking around. Megafauna has entered the briefing room. Irrespective of the fact that you’re a Professional Liar and I don’t respect you as a man, I fear for your safety, Sean. Surely you can hear it, it’s snarling about 6 feet away from you.
SPICEY: Look, the President has made it clear that there are NO yuge coked up Bengal tigers in the White House. PERIOD. Next question.
[SEAN LOOKS AROUND THE ROOM, HOPING TO CHOOSE SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT ASK HIM ABOUT THE TIGER. THE TIGER, SPOOKED BY THE CHAOS OF EVERYONE YELLING OUT QUESTIONS, JUMPS ON SEAN’S BACK AND MAULS HIM, DRAGGING HIS UNCONSCIOUS, MANGLED CARCASS OFF STAGE LEFT.]
[ENTER SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, STAGE RIGHT]
SARAH: Hi everyone, Sean had an emergency he had to attend to, I’ll be taking the remainder of the questions. Yes, Tamara?
TAMARA: Hi Sarah, Tamara Keith, NPR. Did the emergency have to do with the 500 pound Bengal fucking tiger that just dragged Sean’s lifeless body through the side door?
SARAH: Look, the President has been clear about this, there was no tiger. Tigers are fictional creatures, and there has never been conclusive scientific proof of the existence of tigers.
TAMARA: What in the hell are you talking about, tigers are obviously real, that doesn’t even make sense. We all just saw it happen. And, there’s blood everywhere. You are actually standing in a puddle of Sean’s blood. Someone needs to call Sean’s family, Sarah.
SARAH: Oh yeah? Show me the video, then.
TAMARA: There is no video. You know that. Sean doesn’t let us do televised briefings anymore.
SARAH [condescendingly, using air quotes] I know this doesn’t fit your “narrative,” Tamara, but contrary to what the President’s liberal enemies would have you believe, there are no “tigers.” He has tweeted about this extensively, and his tweets speak for themselves. And I’m not sure who this “Sean” character is you keep referencing. I’ve been the Press Secretary since the Truman administration.
Now, I’d like to read you a letter heaping praise upon our dear President, written by a child named Pickle.
To be fair, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, The Mooch (July 25, 2017 – July 31, 2017), or the ghost of alleged Bengal tiger mauling victim Sean Spicer, lie to our faces. They are employed by the administration. We listen to their lies with skepticism because we know it’s their job to lie.
It’s a lot like men and women of the clergy. I may not agree with them, but their job is to tout the accomplishments and theology of [enter name of chosen deity]. I listen with skepticism while I play Candy Crush waiting for them to leave because I know it’s their job to tell me whatever they’re saying. Some of them even believe it, apparently. Neat!
The extent to which these folks lie (the political folks, not the clergy…just in case God reads this) shocks the conscience, especially the conscience of a writer who notoriously makes up 87.2% of what he writes.
I see it nightly as I watch the news. The host will ask something and the Trumpanzee-du-jour will do just about anything rather than just answer the direct question.
The host will often try to get them to establish their membership in the living, breathing, eye-and-ear-having human race with a yes-or-no question that should be easy.
ANDERSON COOPER: Jeffrey, can you at least admit that the President has used Twitter much, much more than his predecessor did?
JEFFREY LORD: Anderson, what I can say is that no one in the history of the human or any other race has been more incredible at communicating his message than Donald Trump.
COOPER: That’s a bold and likely untrue statement, but that wasn’t my question – does he, or does he not, use Twitter more than President Obama did?
LORD: [crescendo] Anderson, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals here, but what I can say is that Donald Trump is a kind, gentle person. I once saw him lull a bear to sleep by reciting Hiawatha in his dulcet, New York accent. He once subbed in for Anthony Mason when he got into foul trouble in the 2nd half. Pulled off his topcoat and had a Knicks uni on under it. Unreal! He single-handedly rid the New World of the scourge of the dreaded Bengal tiger. This man is a born winner!
COOPER: Wow, you got louder and louder as you spoke.
LORD: I know, that’s what “crescendo” means, Andy.
COOPER: [rolls eyes, sighs deeply] First, don’t call me Andy. Second, that wasn’t a hypothetical. Pretty sure you don’t know what that word means. Third, you still didn’t answer my question. But I want to put it on the record for our viewers that not a single one of those things you just said is true. Two of them are easily disproven. And I can’t imagine that Mr. Trump quieted an angry bear with poetry.
LORD: [frothing at the mouth] Of course you can’t, Anderson, because it doesn’t fit CNN’s liberal agenda. FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS, I TELL YOU!
[LORD IS DRAGGED FROM THE SET BY CNN SECURITY, SCREAMING “FAKE NEWS” OVER AND OVER UNTIL HE IS TAZED INTO SUBMISSION BY ANA NAVARRO.]
There’s an army of these Professional Liars working the media outlets on behalf of the president.
Each day, the President does things that can’t be justified by anyone who loves America, has read the Constitution, or enjoys apple pie and baseball. Years ago, in days of old when magic ruled the air, spin doctors would justify the President’s nonsense by prettying up the story and weaving a narrative that makes sense. If they didn’t, Gollum and the evil one would creep up and slip away with your girl so fair.
Professional Liars hop past those misty mountains, and just tell you that you didn’t see what you just saw. They refuse to admit even the most basic truths in order to keep the conversation lopsided in their direction. They lie so much that they honestly start to believe the stream of objectively false crap they are spewing.
Professional Liars operate in a world full of people that have been conditioned to believe whoever (a) says what they want to believe and (b) says it as loud and as often as humanly possible. Professional liars understand that once the public trusts a speaker, they’ll take that speaker’s identity as proof of veracity.
And Professional Liars understand that if you say a patently false statement often enough, and ideally say it through enough mouthpieces, the conditioned public will accept it as gospel truth.
The public will accept it even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
They’ll accept it as if their very identity is tied up in its veracity.
They’ll accept it even when it makes absolutely no fucking sense.
They’ll accept it because they identify with and trust the person saying it.
They’ll accept it for fear of being labeled a heretic among their peers.
The professional liars know all of this and leverage the hell out of it. They model after the man who is a once-in-a-generation talent at deceit. They aspire to be as rich and powerful as the Narcissist-in-Chief who is completely untethered by the reigns of objective fact.
And not unlike the Gospel, the Professional Liars use the power of the people’s faith in the Big (Orange) Guy to the advantage of a very select few.
* mic drop, bitches.
* lightning strikes author through the roof.