Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Why Sean Spicer Epitomises Male Mediocrity

Why Sean Spicer Epitomises Male Mediocrity

The Debrief: Sean Spicer is incompetent, so why does he still have a job?

Imagine this: you finally land your dream job, the one you’ve worked towards throughout your entire career. You collect £200 and pass go because you’ve made it. Pretty great, right? Yes, until the fear sets in. The worry that you’re going to balls it up, the niggling doubts that you’re not actually qualified to do the job, the voice in your head that tells you you’re rubbish at everything and the imposter syndrome that has hung over you, grey-like fog, ever since you were old enough to have an independent thought. 

You catch yourself being engulfed by self-doubt, phone a friend, splash cold water on your face and give yourself a stern talking to: ‘you are good enough’ you repeat to yourself as you stare into the bathroom mirror. You pick yourself up, go to work and get on with it, diligently and rigorously doing the best job you can possibly do. Slowly, but surely, you realise that you are more than just competent, you’re good at what you do. 

Sound familiar? Not if you’re Sean Spicer. The current White House press secretary was the communications director for Donald Trump during his election campaign and prior to that, he was the communications director of the Republican National Committee for the best part of 7 years. There’s no doubt that he’s qualified for his job and he certainly seems to think he’s the man for it but, you see, he’s just not very good at it. 

When Spicer takes to the podium in the White House briefing room blunder follows blunder, false claims abound and controversial statements bounce off the walls and yet his confidence never fails him. 

His latest foot in mouth moment is perhaps his worst yet. Scratch that, it is the worst yet, and that’s saying something. The job of a Press Secretary is to deflect heat from the presidency, to spin stories in a positive way, to work alongside the press and, above all, to be a clear communicator. Even more important than these checkpoints on the job specification are these two simple points: firstly, never ever lie to the journalists you brief and, secondly, as Press Secretary you must never, no matter what happens, allow yourself to become the story. Spicer has managed to fail spectacularly at this.

Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, the Trump administration’s spokesperson now has a show reel of near-unforgivable gaffes which runneth over, most recently veering into the outright outrageous. 

Yesterday, whilst attempting to frame the atrocities committed in Syria by Bashar al-Assad in order to justify Trump’s decision to bomb an airfield in retaliation, Spicer decided to draw on history and bring Hitler into the mix. Yes, Hitler. Trump’s Press Secretary said that ‘even Hitler’ (the Nazi leader who gassed millions of Jews in concentration camps) ‘didn’t use chemical weapons’. Spicer then went on to say ‘we didn’t use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.’ 

When asked by a journalist in the room to clarify his remarks, he said: ‘I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing.’ 

Put your history books down and tune into Sean Spicer’s press briefings for fake news and alternative facts 101. The gas chamber, one of the defining instruments of Hitler’s reign of terror and inhumanity, into which innocent people were forced, was just a figment of your imagination. You thought more than 6 million Jews were murdered, along with large numbers of Gypsies, gay people, political dissidents and others, by Hitler during the Holocaust. You thought those innocent and persecuted people were killed by chemical gas agents such as cyanide-based Zyklon B? That was probably all invented by your snowflakey liberal history teacher as some sort of left-wing conspiracy. Forget what you’ve heard about anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, they’re mythical concepts. 

Spicer has since, quite rightly, been forced to apologise. He appeared on CNN and issues the following apology, ‘I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison,’ he said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. ‘And for that, I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.’

His apology is dismissive, implying that he suffered a small slip up by making a clumsy and historically inaccurate comparison. Perhaps I that was all he'd done he could be forgiven, but his blunder was far bigger than that. 

Imagine this: you’re the mouthpiece of the President of the United States, you make clumsy points, cause controversy and, when you speak, misstatements fly out of your mouth like barbed Frisbees which include, but are not limited to, minimising the actions of Hitler on none other than the second day of Passover.  What do you do? You apologise and brashly move on, full of as much confidence as you ever were, ready for your next colossal clanger. 

You have to wonder this: if Sean Spicer was a woman or a person of colour, would his boss tolerate his offences? Would they brush his inciting of controversy under the carpet? Would they accept his mediocrity, inaccuracy and incompetency? We think not but, then again, it's worth remembering who his boss is... 

The fact that someone who is so objectively bad at their job remains in his post on the global stage speaks only of white male privilege, entitlement and ignorance. 

As the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, said: ‘it’s time to fire Sean Spicer’. 


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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt 


Tags: Politics, USA