The Political Machine

When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine.

— From George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”

According to sources, Laura Ingraham, the conservative media personality and vocal Trump ally, is now being floated as a leading contender to replace Sean Spicer as White House Press Secretary. (See how easy it is to fall into the kind of hokum Orwell decried?)

That is to say, Politico reports that Republican Party apologist Laura Ingraham, a pathetic Trump sycophant who, like seemingly every blond Republican woman with a microphone, has spent the past year and a half begging for the attention of Trump’s fan base, has been interviewed for the most thankless job on the planet, official mouthpiece and rough-edge-smoother for the most jaggedly inconsistent and uninformed man on the planet.

What self-respecting person in his or her right mind would want to be a presidential press secretary, even under the best conditions? You might as well be a defense lawyer, for Pete’s sake — truth is not only irrelevant to doing the job well, but will often be a positive encumbrance. Any job which, in order to be done well, requires one to say, “It’s better if I don’t know,” is a job for a mindless slave or, ideally, for a machine, as Orwell indicates. 

Surely the Japanese are well on their way to developing a humanoid doll that might do quite well in this role. A few tweaks to one of their sex dolls or old folks companion dolls, and I imagine it could be programmed to repeat whatever Trump was saying on a given day’s tweeting, followed by “The President has been firm on this”; and rather than arguing with it in futility, everyone in the White House press “corpse” (as Obama might say) would understand that the somewhat lifelike thing before them was merely saying the only words it could say.

In fact, speaking of somewhat lifelike things, the whole press “corpse” could easily be replaced with the same kind of humanoids, since everyone knows there is not a “reporter” in that room who is there to present the news as he or she finds it, but is rather there to carry out a pretense of “fact-gathering” before submitting the slant on the day’s events that he or she would have submitted anyway, according to the editorial conditions on which he or she was hired.

And since everyone watching on TV, listening on the radio, or reading about it the next day in the papers, knows perfectly well that the press secretary and the reporters alike are all there as spouters of various party lines from which they have neither the permission nor the inclination to swerve in the least, and yet they all willingly play along with this collective charade for the sake of keeping up democratic appearances, one might just as well replace all those “news-consumers” (voters) too, and have the entire apparatus of political news dissemination and consumption, from the press briefing room to the family living room, peopled by pre-programmed machines without souls, thoughts, or dignity of their own.

Oh, wait, we already have that. Who needs the Japanese? And even their best rubber humanoids still look a little less real than Laura Ingraham (though, to be fair, they may sound a little better).

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