On day 2 they began building their own fact-free narratives while sowing the seeds of distrust. Repeat after us: THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
Every administration attempts to put their own spin on the news that hits the wires and subsequently, the digisphere. The Obama administration had a very contemptuous relationship with the media. He came into office preaching openness and transparency but ended up running one of the most secretive and closed-off administrations in modern times. They aggressively punished whistleblowers, kept everything close to the vest and did little to hide their contempt for the media and its motivations. Some of this was a reaction to the rapidly changing media landscape and its insatiable appetite, and some of it was basic governmental confidentiality run amok.
The relationship between presidential administrations and the media is quite often adversarial, but the way the Trump administration has begun is unlike anything we’ve seen. Other administrations have tried to limit access, stop leaks, punish leakers and mold narratives, but this one is already attempting to dismantle the entire system.
In his first time addressing the media as white house press secretary, Sean Spicer, instead of reporting on presidential business ― instead of speaking about executive orders the president has signed, instead of informing the press of the administration’s plans moving forward ― berated the media for being “reckless,” called their coverage “shameful and wrong” and spent the remaining minutes spewing wildly inaccurate “facts,” and making excuses about turnout for the inauguration and Trump’s speech to the CIA.
Vanity Fair wrote about seven outright lies and/or mischaracterizations in Spicer’s short yet pointed barrage. He spoke about new floor coverings (they were used in the last inauguration) and magnetometers (according to the Secret Service, they weren’t used) and how pictures were framed in dishonest ways (they weren’t). He then went on to speak about how no one could possibly have official attendance numbers because the numbers would come from the Parks Dept. and they didn’t release the data. But right after he said it was “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration.” He also said 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro on inauguration day “which compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural.” Again the secretary is creating his own facts. The Washington Post reported the Metro told them the 2009 inauguration had 1.1 million trips, and 2013 has 782,000 trips.
Lies. Petty, ridiculous lies. This man kept the press pool waiting an hour so he could berate them and haphazardly spew fabrications and falsehoods.
THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
Starting things off this way, by muddling the definition of truth and essentially declaring war on the press is not an accident. It’s a warning shot to dissenters. It’s a way of saying to the press, “If your version of the story does not align with ours, we will regard your version as a fallacy.” It’s clear that this administration will serve an extension of Trump’s brash, combative and thin-skinned nature, and that they will lie as cavalierly as he does. As president, Trump may not continue to tweet like he used to, but he’s going to use Spicer as his mouthpiece, which in a way is even worse.
On Meet the Press this morning, Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer’s lies by labeling them, AND THIS IS NOT A JOKE, “alternative facts.” Alternative facts. That statement in itself is an oxymoron. There are no alternative facts, there are only objective facts. But this administration is operating in a post-truth atmosphere and attempting to paint a malaise of subjectivity over everything.
This is just the beginning; this is what we are in store for. We have to be ready for this; we have to be vigilant. This administration is going to try to aggressively delegitimize all news that isn’t good news. This is how regimes take over, by turning the public against the press. Once we lose sight of the truth, Trump can begin to peddle his own narratives through Breitbart and other outlets creating pure, informational chaos. We, the media and the consumers of the media cannot shirk in the face of conflict, we have to rise up and fight this. It’s the only way we’ll get through this.
THIS IS NOT NORMAL. THIS IS PROPAGANDA IN ITS TRUEST FORM.
Any report that is unkind to Trump will likely be refuted with lies. The administration will attempt to gaslight us, they will try to take away our ability to be discerning, free-thinking citizens. They will try to get us to view the media as an evil, untrustworthy force. If the press cannot do its job and is unable hold the government accountable, we will cease to be a functioning democracy. This may seem hyperbolic, but it’s true. This administration planted the seeds for this months and months ago. They have peddled this divisive narrative since Trump first slowly descended the escalator in Trump Tower.
We cannot let this happen.
Facts exist. Truth exists.
We cannot normalize this behavior. We cannot let ourselves be lulled into a sense of complacency.
One more time, with feeling, THIS IS NOT NORMAL.