The Trump administration is not shy about its mission to annihilate truth. The President of the United States does not understand or respect the notion of truth. Ms Kellyanne Conway does understand it, but she flouts it brutally. When people talk about ‘spin’ they are engaging in euphemism. Spin is deception wrought by evasion, equivocation, and deliberate untruth. Ms Conway favours the last. When the new Press Secretary harangued the press, he told a lie. Ms Conway defended him. She said that he had merely offered ‘alternative facts.’
You can have alternative versions, or allegations, or arguments, but how do you have alternative facts? If I say that there are three people in this room, and you say that that there are five in the next room, that may I suppose be called ‘an alternative fact’. But if you say that there are five people in this room, there is no basis for that curious label – you have directly contradicted me. We both can’t be right – there are either three or five people in the room.
As it happens, shortly after I read of Ms Conway’s contribution to modern languages, I was reading The Moro Affair by Leonard Sciascia. The writer introducing the book said that the Italian political system was ‘drenched in a rhetoric that gave Italian political prose a horrible, ornate quality of dishonesty and meaningless incantation.’ That looks to be a fair description of what Trump intends for politics in the U S. Later on Sciascia introduces us to the notion of a real true fact.
The White House Press Secretary was not content with polemics and lies. He was out to murder our language. ‘This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong’. The first statement was false. The second was nonsense – an inauguration consists of a series of events – how can they have an ‘enthusiasm’?
Ms Conway then went on TV with other whoppers. The President had promised to hand over his tax returns – as is the custom there. ‘We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care.’ Each of those statements is false, and neither affords a foundation for Trump to welch on his promise.
It is sad to see real Republicans not blush at all this raw insolence. One stupid Congressman said that Trump was ‘having a good time.’
The commentary in The Australian was alarming. Janet Albrechtsen gushed over the jingoism of the speech and the roars of the crowd. Rush Limbaugh laughs. ‘So do I. What a four years it’s going to be.’ Chris Kenny is the most petulant man in our press and he denounced the protests as ‘mass petulance.’ Greg Sheridan showed how little there is between inanity and insanity. He compared Trump to the Pope in their capacity to unsettle their staff by shooting their mouths off. I don’t think you have be Catholic to be unsettled by this. Trump made a rank ‘stump speech’ (Sheridan’s words) before a CIA memorial in which he lied and boasted in full. He infuriated and offended many in the intelligence community, and when one of them responded, Sheridan took offence.
That Trump style is not uplifting, but nor is it a moral offence in itself. Trump has said plenty of offensive things, but for senior and responsible people to take offence where none is intended is absurd.
Brennan’s public attack on Trump, calling his speech ‘despicable self-aggrandizement’, will do more to damage the faith of ordinary Americans, and people round the world, in the CIA’s impartiality than anything Trump has said.
All that is so wrong it takes your breath away. Of course Trump’s behaviour before the memorial was morally offensive and despicable self-promotion. That’s how he got the gig.
The failure of this nation to develop a decent conservative newspaper is so depressing. The Wall Street Journal is a quality conservative paper. It ran a piece by Peggy Noonan, who knows something about speeches by real Republicans.
He [Trump] presented himself not as Republican or a conservative, but as a populist independent. The essential message: remember those things I said in the campaign ? I meant them……
The Trump Wars of the past eighteen months do not now go away. Now it becomes the Trump Civil War, every day with democrats trying to get rid of him and half the country pushing back. To reduce it to the essentials: as long as Trump’s party hold the house, it will be stand-off. If the Democrats take the house they will move to oust him.
The last point depends on Trump holding the Republicans – which will be hard when the subject of money comes up. But how sane does Peggy Noonan look compared to Greg Sheridan?
A lot of the criticism of his inaugural address was wildly overblown. There are two paths to unity – the soothing platitude or prosecuting the case and winning the argument. Trump’s brand is always the latter.
There is a fearfully false dilemma there, a text-book case, but where the Australian sees a path to unity, the American sees Civil War.
Poet of the month: Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Experience was only
what you lose every day,
huge, blown-away clouds
which memory may
think to have drawn back
live to you
but those images
are all untrue
The only trick
is to write them out,
replacing moribund life
with phrases about
what verdantly might
have sprouted again
till amber clouds float up
from your table again