Spicer’s Lies Mean More Than You Think

There is a post that’s been going around on social media explaining the purposes served by the blatantly dishonest press conference given by Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer.

Sean Spicer at Press Room Podium

Sean Spicer. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by user GrahamHughey

I’m worried that the significance of the crazy lies is greater than most people realize, and that the outrage over the new normal will fade.

For most of us (two thirds, according to the post), Spicer’s lie wasn’t meant to convince. It was meant to establish. It’s not like a guy with pockets full of jewelry telling the police that he had nothing to do with the jewelry store that just got robbed. It’s more like the same guy with a gun telling a witness, “You didn’t see a thing”.

With this new normal, Trump can tell us that the economy is booming even if it collapses. He can tell us that public schools are working even as public school students slip further behind their wealthier peers. He can tell us that he has actionable evidence of crimes committed by his political adversaries (“Lock her up!”), and it should go without saying that he can start wars on false pretenses for economic gain or to distract from domestic issues.

Trump and his team know that there has been and will continue to be a backlash against this new normal. They’re prepared for it. Which means that we have to give them more than what they’re prepared for. The resistance must be greater than what any of us have expected. Introverts and TV addicts have to start getting active. People who have never voted before have to start taking an interest in political activity, and it would be great if Sanders and Clinton supporters could come together.

Below is the post that I referred to. It was originally tweeted by Anna Rascou√ęt-Paz, but written by “someone who worked in a past administration”. I transcribed the text ( using Google Drive ) because the original was in a graphic format, so any grammatical errors might not be from the original.

If you are puzzled by the bizarre “press conference” put on by the White House press secretary this evening (angrily claiming that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience in history, accusing them of faking photos and lying about attendance), let me help explain it. This spectacle served three purposes:

1. Establishing a norm with the press: they will be told things that are obviously wrong and they will have no opportunity to ask questions. That way, they will be grateful if they get anything more at any press conference. This is the PR equivalent of “negging,” the odious pick-up practice of a particular kind of horrible person (e.g., Donald Trump).

2. Increasing the separation between Trump’s base (1/3 of the population) from everybody else (the remaining 2/3). By being told something that is obviously wrong – that there is no evidence for and all evidence against, that anybody with eyes can see is wrong – they are forced to pick whether they are going to believe Trump or their lying eyes. The gamble here likely to pay off is that they will believe Trump. This means that they will regard media outlets that report the truth as “fake news” (because otherwise they’d be forced to confront their cognitive dissonance.)

3. Creating a sense of uncertainty about whether facts are knowable, among a certain chunk of the population (which is a taking a page from the Kremlin, for whom this is their preferred disinformation tactic). A third of the population will say “clearly the White House is lying,” a third will say “if Trump says it, it must be true,” and the remaining third will say “gosh, I guess this is unknowable.” The idea isn’t to convince these people of untrue things, it’s to fatigue them, so that they will stay out of the political process entirely, regarding the truth as just too difficult to determine.

This is laying important groundwork for the months ahead. If Trump’s White House is willing to lie about something as obviously, unquestionably fake as this, just imagine what else they’ll lie about. In particular, things that the public cannot possibly verify the truth of. It’s gonna get real bad.