The Dominance of Mendacity

Blink, and you’ll miss it. If anyone’s optimism needed a final nail in its coffin that White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ relationship with the press – and with the truth – could represent a break with that of the virtually self-parodying PressSec Sean Spicer himself, let this be it.

Having laid into the mainstream media at large, yesterday, for their supposed hypocrisy in taking the Trump Administration to task over its constant and seemingly pathological stream of lies, yet seeing fit to publish articles and reports with “unnamed sources, sometimes…no sources at all”, Huckabee Sanders provoked the ire of one very intrepid journalist.

SHS

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Attribution: BBC)

Brian Karem, a local newspaper editor based in the Washington metropolitan area, butted in, pointing out that the Deputy Press Secretary, and by extension, the Administration, were dealing in some fairly egregiously bare-faced double standards. That’s when Huckabee Sanders revealed herself to be every inch the virtuoso at obfuscatory legerdemain as Sean Spicer. (Not that she hadn’t already done so in the past, but I digress.)

Did you see what she did there? In a retort straight out of the Kellyanne Conway playbook of “weave and deflect” (also referred to as “right back atcha”), Huckabee Sanders seizes on a term used against her (in this case, “inflammatory”), and uses it to reassert or rephrase her original and deliberately sweeping indictment of the “fake media”.

You can’t actually argue against something like that, because it isn’t an argument. It’s a rhetorical technique that’s effective when reinforcing an illogical stance to an unthinking support base, and the only way of handling it is to call it out for what it is, highlighting the underlying, fundamental dishonesty. Brian Karem was brave, but what would truly have been exceptional is if he (or another journalist present) had done precisely that.

Edit: not truly exceptional, really. Getting to the truth, whether through a paucity of information or an overabundance of disinformation, should be part of every journalist’s job. The fact that, again and again, they find themselves stymied by this Administration’s mendacity merely goes to show how depressingly efficient the technique is, in shutting down thought and debate.

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