The Challenge of the Political Earworm
The Trump administration has surprised everyone with its ability to undermine its own message. This is exemplified no better than the birth of the phrase that may prove to be the political earworm of Trumps’ tenure in the White House.
In spite of an abundance of clear photographic evidence, and on his first day in the press briefing room, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer decided to question statements about the inauguration crowd size from the podium.
President Trump’s Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway went on to appear on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ the next day. Challenged on the White House’s willingness to spread untruths, Conway’s rebuttal was that Spicer was in fact just “offering alternative facts”.
#SpicerFacts was born. Most political memes stay within ‘the bubble’, but the Spicer jokes and memes made it into the mainstream consciousness, not only in the US but around the world.
Talk shows led the way, but even the world of professional sports got in on the act. A sign of real cut-through. That weekend saw the NHL’s Dallas Stars mocking the Trump administration on their Jumbotron mid-game, claiming that the paid attendance was “1.5 million.” Steve Kerr, the coach of California basketball team Golden State Warriors joked about alternative facts when being interviewed. The Warriors’ media game notes went even further with an entire “alternative facts,” feature. Even amongst typically Republican crowds, the #AlternativeFacts line was greeted with laughter.
Stars Jumbotron with a topical joke. pic.twitter.com/9vsmTG1Agj
— Kate Morrison (@unlikelyfanatic) January 22, 2017
It looks like the phrase may be setting the early tone for the new administration which instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove the climate change page from its website and imposed a ban on staff publishing social media posts, press releases or blog posts and from publicising publicly-funded research.
While this has since been reversed, it is reported that any studies or data must undergo a review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. Scientists across the US are greatly concerned by Trump’s apparent disregard of scientific fact, with marches planned and unofficial social media accounts being set up to get round gagging orders.
But the resistance to facts is not just restricted to the field of science. POTUS 45 has also announced the launch of an investigation into the 3-5 million instances of voting fraud that cost him the popular vote suggests this White House might just be warming up.
Trump’s election campaign succeeded in many parts due to the simplicity and cut-through of his ‘Make America Great Again’ (#MAGA) message but it’ll be hard for him to shake off the perception that his administration is living in an #AlternativeFacts universe.
Sean Spicer and the rest of the Trump team have an uphill task to regain their credibility. You only get one chance to make a first impression.