World America 29 Jan 2017 True lies: Bending t ...
Ajit Saldanha has a finger in the pie, and another on the political pulse. And when he writes, he cooks up a storm.

True lies: Bending truth

Published Jan 29, 2017, 12:42 am IST
Updated Jan 29, 2017, 7:18 am IST
‘Alternative facts’ is a dangerous term. It allows a government to dismiss a lie and even let it survive.
US President Donald Trump. (Photo: AP)
 US President Donald Trump. (Photo: AP)

On January 21, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first-ever briefing was sort of violent. He tore into the media for deliberately underestimating President Trump’s size. Mercifully, he didn’t actually scream, “He’s yuuge, dude,” but his manner seemed to imply it. For those unfamiliar with Agent Orange, as the President is not so fondly known, he was referring to the size of the crowd at the inaugural. Spicer then made the fantastic claim that the ceremony had drawn the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe”. He was lying... with all available data leading to the indisputable conclusion that Spicer was talking through his sombrero. Aerial images proved that Barack had kicked Trump’s executive behind in terms of turnout both times and while the Washington Post may occasionally embellish the truth, the Washington Metro goes by ticket count.

A total of 1,93,000 commuters rode the Metro on the day of Trump’s inauguration while 5,13,000 rocked Barack’s party in 2009. Ironically, the next day, 1,00,000 women protesters carrying “Dump Trump” posters marched down Washington Avenue — trying to pass off your opposition as loyalists shows the chutzpah of this administration. Arthur Andersen, the accounting company who told financial fibs on behalf of Enron, might have turned green with envy at Spicer’s creative accounting but then Andersen is history and so is Enron. This story though, gets better. Spicer came up with a baffling explanation saying white ground covers, used for the first time, had created an illusion that made the audience look smaller.

 

First, it was not the first time the covers were being deployed. Obama’s crowd had them too and nobody was complaining of size troubles back then. And if the President’s cabinet had been taking advantage of the new marijuana laws, it certainly showed. Trump strategist Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer’s statements, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that Spicer had simply provided “alternative facts” since Trump’s crowd numbers could not be proven nor quantified. Eat your heart out, Donald Rumsfeld: there’s damage, there’s collateral damage and then we have alternative facts… life is dull without choices and a few nuts make a big difference to a hot chocolate sundae. Who needs the boring truth when you have Agent Orange in power? False statistics were added to whitehouse.gov which quoted figures showing crime rates had increased despite an actual decline since 2008.

 

This might have been amusing were it not so scary when one realises that the tiny, gnarled fingers sending out those misspelled tweets are the same ones poised over the nuclear football. Folks wondering why the phrase “alternative facts” sounded familiar may have come across the term “truthful hyperbole” sprinkled liberally throughout Trump’s magnum opus, The Art of the Deal. In that lethal cocktail of hype and snake oil, this odious term was described as “an innocent form of exaggeration-and a very effective form of promotion”. The book claimed that “people want to believe that something is the biggest, the greatest and the most spectacular”. Incidentally, Tony Schwartz, the book’s ghostwriter who coined the phrase, said Trump “loved it” on a Melania mania scale. I made that last bit up but what can I say? This lying business is becoming truly contagious.

 

How many of you remember the Comedy Central show, Crank Callers, where Stephen Colbert would randomly pick names to prank call? In one scenario, he pretended to be a supervillain finding Batman’s number through directory assistance, “Sir, it’s not a condo, it’s a lair and his partner’s name is Robin.” Next time around, he would launch into a searing falsetto while claiming to be a blind stripper who would sue Hooter’s if she wasn’t allowed to come down and perform with her Seeing Eye Alsatian. Most of the unsuspecting victims were ever so patient and polite, which is a lot more than can be said for Donald and gang; God Save America from their new messiah.

 

The writer is a gourmet chef, travel writer and actor

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