No, this isn't a gratuitous political attack. No, it isn't an overgeneralized, unresearched meme being blindly and irresponsibly passed along in an uncontrollable chain of self-righteous repostings. If you've never seen it before, it's actually an endlessly ubiquitous and years-old fill-in-the-dialogue cartoon that's been used quite regularly to illustrate and/or affectionately mock everything from Super Bowl rivalries to conversations with grammar purists ... admittedly along with much uglier topics.
The dialogue in this cartoon changes from topic to topic, month to month, year to year, but the image never does. Yes, it's a violent image. Yes, that violent image accompanies messages encapsulating what can be intensely heated and violently provocative disputes on any number of volatile topics. But even the most extreme outlier knows that the violence in this image is between two fictional cartoon characters who live in a fictional cartoon universe that's perpetually embroiled in a disproportionately overwhelming climate of physical violence ... and that that universe is depicted in comic books and movies and practically every facet of popular culture readily available to consumers of practically every age. So even the most desperate argument that the cartoon violence in this image is in any way special or inflammatory or irresponsible is ridiculous and ineffectively distracting and categorically unworthy of consideration.
So. On to the message.
Sean Spicer, the Trump administration's press secretary, held his first press conference last Saturday, a little more than 24 hours after Trump assumed the presidency. The press conference lasted an alarmingly -- and uselessly -- short five minutes, where instead of taking questions from the press, he parroted Trump's ponderous whining about the "dishonest" media and disturbingly spent the majority of his five minutes defensively obsessing about the size of the crowd at the inauguration the day before. He cited as "facts" his estimations of the crowd sizes on select platforms and areas of the Mall and the number of riders on the D.C. Metro, a figure that the transit authority promptly disputed. He dismissed the photo of the half-populated Mall printed in the New York Times as a "misrepresentation" without providing any proof or citing any quantifiable, representational population numbers.
And he provided this gem: "Inaccurate numbers involving crowd size were also tweeted. No one had numbers, because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out."
Let me suss this out for you: He clearly stated -- with supporting evidence -- that "no one had numbers." Yet he prefaced that by declaring that those non-existent numbers were "inaccurate."
This rambling, uninformed, factually illiterate man who is demonstrably incapable of linear thought is the morally, financially and Constitutionally suspect Trump administration's most visible conduit to the entire Fourth Estate. And that is terrifying.
The next day, Kellyanne Conway, the Trump administration's senior advisor, went on record on NBC's "Meet the Press" in defense of Spicer's vague declarations, unquantifiable refutations and disputed statements about the inauguration crowd sizes. Which by this point were nothing more than a transparently calculated distraction from issues of real substance regarding the new administration.
But Conway was adamant about reframing the language -- the facts, if you will -- about this runaway narrative, and in the space of a minute she TWICE introduced to the American lexicon an instantly viral phrase:
"Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts."
"We feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there."
Put alternative facts out there. PUT ALTERNATIVE FACTS OUT THERE.
Why is this important?
These are two highly senior, high-profile Trump surrogates who, before Trump even started his first official day in office, have clouded and obfuscated and obstructed the newly imperative national political dialogue with distractions, generalities, unquantifiabilities and demonstrable lies they're instantly reframing with even more distractingly ridiculous euphemisms. And there's no telling how far they'll go from here to obstruct Trump's much-heralded transparency when it becomes politically or suspiciously expedient to do so.
Donald Trump has a thoroughly documented history of lying and -- when challenged -- lying about his lies since the dawn of his presidential campaign. The moment he was inaugurated, his two most high-profile surrogates carried on his ignominious behavior and then concocted a euphemistic lie to cover their tracks.
This cartoon is arguably puerile and oversimplistic, but it all but literally smacks down the outer shell of the Trump administration's expanding nesting dolls of lies. It quickly captures attention, succinctly makes its point and provides an effective way to spread its message quickly.
It's a message people need to know. It's a message people need to understand. It's a message that offers people a vital understanding of the way the Trump administration behaves toward -- and about -- its citizens.
It's an administration that is already hiding its questionable behavior behind desperate, intellectually insulting euphemisms.
Because all it does is lie.