FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer

What will entertainers do in his absence? White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was more than grist to the mill of celluloid delights, becoming, by the admission of the US President, a “tv hit” smoking the ratings. When a press secretary’s conduct is valued, not for the substance of his material, but the entertainment he garners, the Republic is surely stuttering towards vacuity and ruin.

But journalists and the entertainment industry have also colluded with this complex, feeding off the critical host. Such establishment venues as the New York Times have walked in step with Trump, noting how “the White House briefing – once a Sisyphean burden for rumpled reporters – became the hottest reality show in town, a star-making showcase for journalists where heated exchanges went viral and drove big ratings.”

The Guardian similar intoned that the Spicer tenure had been one of turbulent propulsion, excitement and impossibilities. “In the space of six months, Spicer had become a reality TV celebrity doing what critics said was the toughest job in the world: defending the indefensible.”

As for Conor Duffy writing in The New Daily, Spicer “hasn’t just broken the first rule of being a spin doctor – becoming the story – he’s smashed it. Spectacularly.” Instead of being denigrated and mocked into oblivion, the press secretary began, over time, to cultivate an affection of the sadomasochistic sort.

Precisely because idiot box ratings are what matters as a measurement of value in Trumpland, such displays as the Spicer Show, launched from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, have been indispensable to the West Wing. He hectored, bullied, cajoled and stumbled, directing his fury at the fake news industry with monomanic desperation.

As one correspondent is reported to have said, Spicer “tore a strip off the media as wide as an Iowa farm”. But in time, he found himself a convict to the press brief lectern, the gargantuan incoherence of the Trump machine proving impossible to capture. If you can’t beat the show, transform into it.

In a fundamental sense, then, the Spicer show has been symbiotic to American cultural and media life. Spicer brought the shine to careers otherwise kept in miniature spotlight, such as April D. Ryan of American Urban Radio. He latched on to Ryan early, sniffing a journalist peddling an agenda.

“It seems like you’re hellbent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays.” What irritated Spicer, in an encounter that got a viral shot, was Ryan’s disapproving head movement. “You’re asking me a question and I’m going to answer it. I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again.”

This was gold dust for those obsessed with detecting gender or racial overtones. Ryan fit the casting, being a black female reporter. The social media feeding frenzy began. The hashtag #BlackWomenatWork made its inexorable march to “trending” status. Actors such as Whoopi Goldberg were outraged.

Naturally, Hillary Clinton had to add her bit to a script that was essentially writing itself. Ryan, respected, oozing integrity, “was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room, when she was patronized and cut off trying to answer a question.”

The Spicer promotion show has also been indispensable to such actors as Melissa McCarthy, whose Spicer impression earned an Emmy nomination. The Trump administration may not be making America great again (in truth, probably revealing its long anticipated fall from grace) but it is minting careers in media industries and alternate realities.

In recent weeks, the Spicer show has been gradually wound down, suggesting that the director and producer were not overly pleased. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who, with little surprise to anyone, has assumed the mantle of press secretary, started to feature more regularly. Under her strengthening hand, live audio and video coverage of the daily briefings has been banned. Transparency, hardly a word to feature in the Trump argot, has been kicked downstairs.

The new White House communications director seems to have been the catalyst for Spicer’s jump. Anthony (“the Mooch”) Scaramucci has stood in for Spicer at stages since May, suggesting that he was being warmed up as an addition to the show. Speculation abounds that Spicer’s resignation was prompted by his disapproval of Scaramucci’s rising star.

“I can say,” explained Sanders, “that he understood that the president wanted to bring in and add new people to the team, and Sean felt like it would be best for that team to be able to start with a totally clean slate.” Never muddy pools, even ones filled with impurities.

Scaramucci has shown himself in the past as a shape changer. He initially backed Hillary Clinton, deeming her “incredibly competent” and “the real deal”. Trump, in contrast, was “anti-American” and a mere “hack politician”. On Fox Business in August 2015, he ventured the view that his current employer would become the president of the “Queens County Bullies Association”.

The game, then, has been upped, and the communications director will face a similarly impossible task in crafting a “communications strategy”. In the temper of an atypical White House, the Mooch wished Spicer well, hoping he “goes on to make a tremendous about of money”. B-Grade directors, take note.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail