Nothing to read here folks
Move along now
My favourite quote of the week comes from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who said Sunday that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer was “a big nothing burger.” To me, it seems a full meal. It’s kind of like a police officer announcing “nothing to see here folks — move along,” which immediately alerts people to “Stop! There’s something to see here!”
Or a promise of a “24/7 help line,” which, when called, inevitably answers with the familiar “our offices are now closed” recording.
Or the ubiquitous “easy to assemble” guarantee, which sends most of us into a justifiable panic before cancelling all appointments, acquiring the tool box and putting on a large pot of coffee.
It all depends on your perspective, I guess. And how we interpret the language.
Call it what you will: spin, point of view, misinformation, interpretation, manipulation, obfuscation ...
It has always been a challenge to see through the statements of promoters, marketers, advertisers, publicists, politicians, and yes, even some journalists, but we are entering an era when every statement seems to mean the exact opposite of what is said.
And so it is with fake news, apparently.
If U.S. President Donald Trump calls it fake news, it’s probably real. If he says something is real, it’s probably fake. But you may feel differently. You may think the Trump Jr. email is indeed a big nothing burger. You may believe some media outlets who say it’s part of a leftwing conspiracy. You may think Trump Jr. is not as dumb as he appears to be, and that his father is a nice guy who saw the biggest crowds in history at his inauguration.
The fact is the Trumps appear to believe everything they say, which makes it all the more believable. Full disclosure: In a column this spring, I questioned the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia connection. I said Trump “looks too stupid for a coverup” and “doesn’t seem adult enough for collusion.”
Turns out I was wrong. His team is beyond dumb — they staggered into a meeting with Russians about collusion apparently without knowing it.
Or that was the story. And then later: Besides, it’s no big deal.
Trumps know what marketers everywhere know: we’ll believe anything if we’re told often enough. Just look at the apparent effectiveness of ubiquitous “sale” signs in malls.
Up can be down, back can be forward, difficult can be easy, left can be right, and dumb can be smart, if someone says it often enough.
Developers market new subdivisions as “Forest Valley” when the average observer sees only a muddy field and a drainage ditch. Sewage ponds are “blue lagoons.” Traffic noise becomes “dulcet tones.”
Restaurants promise hot crispy French fries and ice cold beer while routinely serving cold, limp French fries and lukewarm beer. When service is advertised as “always friendly,” you can count on it being often surly.
“Ye olde” means brand new. Perfectly safe means possibly dangerous.
The “best” is probably the worst; the “top” likely the bottom.
“Virtually invisible” means clearly noticeable. “Fresh picked” or chemically preserved? “Homemade” or factory produced ...