DON'T LOSE ACCESS:
Your IP access to ForeignPolicy.com will expire on June 15.
To ensure uninterrupted reading, please contact Rachel Mines, sales director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sean Spicer Trolls the Press, Internet Trolls Sean Spicer
When facts are said to be ‘alternative’, social media senses a meme.
If White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is going to lie to the people, the people are going to turn it into a hashtag. Or, better yet, a meme. Or, better still, a virtual thorn in the very real president’s side.
This particular social media story begins on Saturday, when President Donald Trump’s press secretary — a person whose job it is to foster transparency between the administration and the public, through the White House press corps — chose to make his briefing room debut by lying to them, and telling them what they should be writing about.
In response to reports that turnout for the inauguration had been lackluster, Spicer said, “Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.” They were not.
“We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural,” he added. They did not, and it does not.
On Sunday, the Trump administration doubled down on Spicer’s lies. Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway took to the Sunday shows to claim Spicer was not lying, but merely offering up “alternative facts.”
And then the hashtags came.
The Twitter account @SeanSpicerFacts, which, happily, already existed, did what it was created to do.
Then things got personal.
Soon, other people on Twitter followed (oversized) suit, tweeting lies — under the guise of Sean-Spicer-truths — about movies, history, sports, and even folklore.
#alternativefacts also rose to the occasion.
More amazingly, the Spicer meme escaped from the Internet and into real life, making a laughingstock out of the White House’s credibility in its very first week.
At a Dallas Stars hockey game, the Jumbotron purported to have 1.5 million people in attendance, poking fun at Trump’s earlier claim at the CIA that that many people had come to his inauguration.
Former basketball player and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr made fun of Spicer on Sunday, saying, “Sean Spicer will be talking about my Magic career any second now. 14,000 points. Greatest player in Magic history.” Kerr’s famously short stint playing for the Orlando basketball team yielded an average of 2.6 points in 9.4 minutes per game.
Sean Spicer is no stranger to trolling people (or Dippin’ Dots, or Daft Punk, or Kim Kardashian) on Twitter, and the Trump administration has always operated under the assumption that you’re nobody until you’re tweeted about. So, too, has it long used the excuse that anything is fair game in political parlance as long as you’re just joking.
It is still to be seen if that logic holds once the Twitter joke is on them.
Photo credit: ALEX WONG/Getty Images