Monday, January 23, 2017

Alternative facts

Once upon a time there was a man named Nixon who was President of the United States.  He was much given to deception, paranoia and outright criminality, and he recorded himself discussing his crimes with his co-conspirators so there was no doubt of them.  Eventually he had to resign because he was about to be impeached.  In the meantime, his press secretary, whose name was Ron Ziegler, had to face reporters every day and tell them that the President was honest and incorruptible and knew nothing about the activities of burglars and bagmen who were, in some cases, already in prison.   The reporters, smelling fear, were racing around talking to informers and developing stories which demonstrated that Ziegler was full of shit.  Confronted with these facts, Ziegler would inform them that whatever he said yesterday was "no longer operative," which meant it was no longer convincing to most sane people.  Then he would tell another lie.  This went on until August of 1974, at which point Nixon quit and his successor informed us that "Our long national nightmare is over."  Nixon returned to California and Ziegler returned to obscurity.

Our new national nightmare was only two days old when a man named Sean Spicer informed us that the Trump inauguration was the greatest event since the Big Bang, witnessed by crowds too huge to count.  People who had seen acres of empty chairs and reviewing stands that recalled a New York Mets day game circa 1981 were confused and incredulous.  Then a woman named Kellyanne Conway explained that this was an example of "alternative facts" which only seemed to contradict reality, and that we could expect a great deal more of the same.  Those who attempted to reconcile official administration pronouncements with the physical world were accused of trying to "demoralize" the new President.  Then the Spicer person repeated the same lie, louder,

This is clearly a more aggressive tactic than Ziegler's in that era which now seems so innocent.  Why not just say "It was raining on Friday" and move on?  Why does the audience have to be bigliest, and the sad little concert the most spectacular, and the balls the most dazzling?  Because something is wrong with the septuagenarian man-baby.  Fluffing his ego is the first job of everyone around him.  Facts are whatever they say (insert Orwell reference here). 

I couldn't put it better than Philip Roth, who pronounced Trump "ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English."  Let the tweeting begin.  


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