If there’s one thing I hate about the media, it’s the voracious rapidity with which one thing becomes a story across every, single outlet and eclipses everything else. So last night, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer made an appearance at the 2017 Emmys, everyone was (rightfully) pissed-off and weirded-out and annoyed at Hollywood. And while it’s important for everyone to express their outrage and disgust, it’s also super-important to keep an eye on everything else going on, like the new ACA repeal – the Graham-Cassidy Measure.
First, the Graham-Cassidy measure. Put together by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the measure would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It would be a “last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare before the GOP’s power to pass heath care legislation through a party-line vote in the Senate expires on Sept. 30,” according to Politico.
Apparently Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seriously considering putting the bill to a vote, if he can be assured of the support of 50 Republicans in the Senate (the GOP has a majority of 52). Currently they do not have the support of 50 votes, but Graham has publicly begged Trump to support the cause and private rallying has gone on. If passed by the Senate, it would require being approved by the House with no changes – a steep ask.
I’ve been avoiding going on Snapchat. And when I do go on, I avoid the Stories of my friends and peers, preferring to stick to innocuous celebrities and “influencers.” I’m avoiding Snapchat because I’m jealous, and if I see one more “I’m employed” snap, I might crack my iPhone over my knee and use the shard to slit a jugular.
So staying off Snapchat is a way to protect me from me, and more specifically, my jealousy. It’s hard not to be jealous around this time. People are broadcasting their successes on social media—suddenly we’ve turned into our parents and narrate every goings-on digitally: “Insert Name is so pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a job at Such&Such! Message me if you’re also moving to (this place)!”—and those that aren’t are silently stewing or, in my case, broadcasting their feelings on their blog.
But jealousy is a complex emotion—particularly right now—because it’s hardly ever just jealousy. It’s jealousy mixed with pride for your friends and their accomplishments, soured by a seething monster named “Why Not Me” and reddened by anger at yourself for not just being blindly and simply happy. So you’re jealous and happy and resentful and self-admonishing and stressed and depressed and can’t stop eating French fries.
I realized I was becoming jealous but I wasn’t able to really verbalize why. Why was I gritting my teeth so hard bone shards were popping out of my mouth? Why were there half-moon crescents on my palms from my nails? For me, the most lingering of the emotions was shame—embarrassment that I have not gotten a job but the more pressing shame of being so jealous. No one wants to believe that they can get jealous, particularly over others’ success, but I think—at least for me, and I’m hoping others—naming it and saying it out loud can help process through it.
A friend of mine—someone who has made regular appearances on this blog, Nina—said something that’s stuck with me since I vented about it Saturday night.
“Do you want to switch places with them?” she asked as I took a sharp staccato breath after ranting until all air had been squeezed from my lungs. “Do you want their lives?”
I thought about it for a second. Everyone I was jealous of…I wasn’t particularly jealous of what they had achieved, only that they had achieved something. And the accomplishments I’ve made seemed paltry and invisible in the face of a tactile job offer, a definite plan.
“No,” I admitted. “I don’t want their lives.”
“So,” she shrugged and leaned back in her chair, “if you don’t want their lives, wouldn’t want to switch, then you don’t need to be jealous.” And just like that, the stoppered green bottle in my chest loosened and exhaled a little bit. It didn’t empty completely, but I felt some pressure alleviated.
I’m happy for them and in the same breath I’m anxious for myself. It’s not weird or bad or good—it just is. And if I can separate my own emotions and name them and recognize them, I can begin the process of staying in my lane. There is not a finite amount of success, especially not across industries. One person succeeding in this moment does not mean that my moment has spluttered out on the floor. Stay in your lane, and focus on your end-point.
On Friday, I found out that I’m graduating magna cum laude for my journalism degree and cum laude for my English (English, wtf, I’ve been speaking you forever). In the moment, I diminished it because I thought, “Hey, that didn’t get me any jobs, so what does it even matter?” But after telling a few people and having them be excited, I reconsidered. If you know me in real life, I’m constantly cutting emotion with humor and I have a chronic disability to receive a compliment.
But these Latin honors are more than just Latin honors. During college I started to grow (started—haven’t finished yet). I came to terms with my own depression and anxiety and went on medication. I went to London and interned. I started my blog, this very weird, wonderful blog, as a method for self-expression and honing of my own voice. I got two degrees in four years. I had an on-campus job and worked as a fashion writer and city editor and a radio DJ and a copywriter and blogger and did plays and organized events and gave tours. I started going to the gym and coming to terms with my own body issues. I made friends. I lost friends. I made new ones. I came into my queerness. I traveled to six countries and countless cities. I wrote pages and pages of articles, blogs, essays. Hundreds of Instagrams, thousands of Tweets. Walks in chilly night air and in hot summer heat. I was sad, I was happy.
These might seem small or big or extreme or obvious—but that’s kind of the point, no? I’ve had millions of experiences, kaleidoscopic and varied and sharp. And I’m here. I fought the good fight. We all did. I cried and laughed my way to the top (some moments had more of one or the other).
And the point is that these things shouldn’t be erased because I don’t have a job lined up right away after graduation. In fact, I refuse to them be erased. I became a more full and depthful and wide and colorful person. Every moment, good or bad or heartbreaking or joyful—these things don’t lose their meaning because I don’t know where my foot will land next.
I’m looking forward to the future, but this past has been great. Horribly, wonderfully, weirdly great.
It’s Valentine’s Day! This isn’t me reminding you because it’s impossible that you went almost the entire day before realizing this fact. As was pointed out to me this morning, Valentine’s Day is not recognized with any sort of bank holiday—ergo it basically doesn’t exist. Actually it for sure doesn’t exist. However, I still kind of enjoy it—it reminds me of cheap little candies taped to paper cards given out in grade school. Also I dig the color pink.
Things that have happened to me today precisely because it is Valentine’s Day.
1). Kissed my friend to get a free meal at Qdoba.
2). Read the OUT100 “Most Eligible Bachelors” 2017 list.
3). Was stuck walking behind a “cute” couple who had linked arms and blocked me in.
4). Listened to someone in my Columns class read a piece about power-eating pasta carbonara on a Valentine’s date and got misty-eyed.
Things that have happened to me today in addition to its being Valentine’s Day.
1). Stress-ate a burrito from Qdoba after having a particularly gruesome career advisement meeting.
2). Watched last night’s episode of The Bachelor.
3). Went to Trader Joe’s.
4). Made a grilled cheese (that hasn’t happened yet but I have a good feeling).
Things that I hope will happen to me on a future Valentine’s Day.
1). Someone buys me a burrito and I don’t have to go back in the closet for it.
2). Get on the OUT100 Most Eligible Bachelors list.
3). Horse-kick linked-arm couples in the back of the knees.
4). My husband makes me a grilled cheese with at least “eight dollars of Jarlsberg” in it.
Today is pretty and cutesy and annoying because greeting card companies told us that it should be. But that also doesn’t mean that we can’t make it pretty and cutesy and annoying. Millennials have the power to make anything annoying. I like the idea, despite its obvious commercial overtones, that there’s a day to be romantic and icky and loving. A day to wear pink and buy yourself chocolate and pretend to be in love with your platonic female friend to get a free burrito bowl.
Anyway, I’ve got to go finish The Bachelor and make myself grilled cheese. AND I bought myself Ben & Jerry’s yesterday and I didn’t sad-eat all of that last night so mama’s got a treat for later. What’s the saddest thing about this post? Is it that last sentence or are there too many things to pick just one?
As a journalist, you spend a lot of your time writing about the news. You spend a lot of time thinking about it, dissecting it, following it. And some people have iron heads and they can handle that constant rotation of news. Others—like me—are too pretty to have iron heads (so unflattering) and are not capable of being news robots.
A lot of what I’ve been writing about—for class, for this blog, for the Odyssey—have been centered around politics. It’s impossible to avoid, and as it became incorporated to my brand, it became more and more important for me to cover. That had negative results—after the election, I was so desperately brain-dead that I went completely off the grid and couldn’t even think about anything. Because as much as we cover it, we are consumed with it and we let it ingrain inside of us.
So maybe in a few weeks/days/hours I’ll decide to boycott politics for a while and just write about my NEW CAMEL COAT (ugh so chic) but there’s still things to be said and things to cover, and, y’all, I’m soldiering on.
“You sent the Press Secretary out there to utter falsehoods on the smallest, pettiest thing,” said an exasperated Chuck Todd.
Kellyanne, twirling those ribbons that rhythmic gymnasts in Russia use, flailed around the questions, whipped the curls of fabric in Todd’s face until they coiled around his neck.
“Our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts,” she said as Todd’s face turned purple from disbelief and lack of oxygen. And when he had slumped out of frame, Conway unfurled the ribbons from around his neck, wrapped them up tightly and put them back into her holsters.
Wiping the sweat of her hands off on her blue dress, the eyeshadow smudging darkly around her eyes, Kellyanne caught a glimpse of herself in the window’s reflection as she left the green screen behind. Her face was hollow, mouth tightly set. She pulled out the tiny list crumpled in her pocket and sliced a line through Chuck Todd’s name with the precision of a French Revolution executioner. Squaring her shoulders and applying more eyeshadow to her lids—obscuring them and hiding the windows to her soul—she slinked off to her next target. And so on. And so on. Forever.
Okay, so that didn’t happen—but didn’t it sound like it could’ve?
In the article, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen proposed on the Recode Media podcast with Peter Kafka that news outlets should no longer have Kellyanne on.
And the implications of that—what they say about where we are as journalists—are staggering.
To disavow and cut off contact with the White House—willingly—seems unbelievable. And if this were a normal world—and not season three of Black Mirror—it would be unbelievable. But Rosen laid out probably the saddest and more logical argument for it.
“It’s not just lying or spin or somebody who is skilled in the political arts of putting the best case on things or not answering a question, which is a pretty basic method of doing politis. It’s that when you are done listening to Kellyanne Conway, you probably understand less. That’s the problem.”
If I’ve learned anything from Scandal (I’ve learned a bunch, thank you Shonda Rimes), it’s that the press secretary is often put in a difficult position. They have to balance the president, the truth and the press. But Abby was able to do it. Sometimes it involves a version of the truth; sometimes it involves moving on to the next question. But the press secretary always does their job.
So what made Chuck Todd, and I and a lot of people, so incredulous was the fact that this was such minutiae. Spicer was lying about the size of the crowds at the inauguration. He said this was the most attended and most watched inauguration of all time. That’s, like, so not true. And there’s photographic evidence to prove it (side by side evidence of Obama’s first inauguration and Trump’s inauguration). It’s so easily provable that it’s ridiculous.
Spicer could’ve walked in, fielded questions and addressed the attendance. He could’ve said, “President Trump (ugh, gag) has more important things to worry about than the size of attendance at his inauguration. He has a country to run.” THAT WOULD’VE BEEN BETTER. Dickish, but better. But to lie proves that it bothers Trump so much that people aren’t falling down at his feet. It kills him that nobody showed up for his inauguration but the NEXT DAY we had the largest march in modern history.
Rosen’s comment was at the end of a conversation about the typical journalistic efforts for impartiality—impartiality relies on reaching out for comment to both sides. But when one side consists of Trump, Conway and Spicer—three people who will give you radically different answers (all wrong) to the same question, actually not even answering the question in the process—it becomes infinitely more muddled. Why are we doing this? We’re not getting any more information. We’re not getting things any clearer.
And journalists are doing backbends trying to cope with having two sides where one side is just a funhouse mirror.
So the answer is simple: if having Kellyanne on just makes the truth more muddled, then you have to cut it off. We, you, journalists, have an obligation to the truth—above all else. Anyone who gets in the way of that is expendable.
Sometimes it’s not worth it. On The Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson said her boyfriend, Brooks Ayers, had cancer. Turns out he didn’t, and all the other ladies wanted to know how much Vicki knew. She obviously knew a lot, because they were in a relationship and she never went to any of his doctor’s appointments or chemo treatments, etc. And she lied for him, endlessly. She, to this day, has not really admitted that he doesn’t have cancer. She has not admitted that she knew anything.
And so I have a lot of experience with blonde ladies who have a loose relationship with the truth. And this is what I’ve learned: they won’t change (even when you are mean to them in Ireland) and so at a certain point, you have to refuse to engage. Because what they want more than anything else is attention, and even negative attention feeds that addiction. So you cut them off. You don’t let them spew their bullshit. You shut it down.
But the difference between Kellyanne Conway and Vicki Gunvalson is that Vicki Gunvalson doesn’t have the ear of the guy with access to nuclear codes. Vicki is dumb, but harmless, and infinitely entertaining. But Conway has so little regard for the truth and so little respect for the American people that she having access to Trump—who is proven to be volatile and rash—is terrifying.
So maybe we’ve come to the point where we can’t engage with Kellyanne. Where having her on screen puts more danger into the world than good. And it’s scary to admit that this is where we are as journalists, but we have promises to the American people—we must not harm. (I know that’s the Hippocratic oath but stick with me). And she’s definitely causing us harm.
It’s a question I’ve posed to friends, a question that’s been rolling around in my head.
There are a lot of people who argue for watching something, anything else. It’s a compelling argument. Bill Scher of the New Republicsaid that viewing, even tacitly, boosts Trump’s ratings and engorges his influence. It’s a fair argument: Trump’s actions garnered him so much free press through unrelenting media coverage. According to a Nov. 9 CNBC article, Trump’s campaign team spent $238.9 million, compared to Hillary’s $450.6 million.
And so if this was still the campaign, I would agree with the argument of looking away for ratings’ sate. But this isn’t. He will be inaugurated. He will be our president. The Trump presidency looms over all of us with the iron heaviness of a train about to hit. But much like looking away at the train comes near, not watching Trump’s inauguration won’t make his presidency hurt any less.
In a great Vulture piece (@Vulture, hire me), writer Kathryn VanArendonk said that this does not apply to any “puff piece” spun around the Trump family. Feel free to boycott everything else the Trump family has touched.
After the election’s results came out, everyone was in shock. It was palpable in the air, heavy and tumultuous. And so for the next three months, we’re been in a purgatory of pseudo-normality. It’s lulled us back into relative complacency. Not anyone’s fault—because to remain in a continuous state of fear and anxiety is completely destructive. But much like having a bad dream, when we had that respite of waking up, we wanted to sink into that comfort.
But this is like the bad dream of giving a presentation in class—you wake up, sweaty and panicked, having just come from a dream where you forgot your laptop and your pants. You flop back against your pillows, your heartbeat stuttering. It’s just a dream. Your eyes flick to the chair, where your pants are, and your desk, where your laptop charges. It was just a dream. But you still have that scary presentation, so your relief is tainted by the awareness that it is temporary.
I’m going to try to watch the inauguration. I might not be entirely successful, but I want to witness of it as much as possible. For a lot of reasons.
Trump used the media to his advantage. He provided soundbites, he acted the part, he fed the media’s ravenous hunger for “scandal” and “drama.” Don’t let the media filter the inauguration for you. Witness it yourself. For as much as it will be a Roman Triumph of Trump, it will also be a testament to his rampant incompetence. Witness it in its fumbling glory. Don’t take your eyes off him for a second because the moment you do, you allow him to contradict himself and change the narrative. Hold him accountable.
Like the great Oprah once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
Watch everything. Watch how they address fact that dozens of representatives are boycotting the ceremony. Watch how they introduce Trump. Watch the Women’s March the next day. Watch how the two differ, how from the ground up there is a strength rising that belies the gilded falsities Trump is trying to make us believe.
Watch everything. Witness everything. Don’t let anyone take your right to knowledge away from you. Take it into your own control.