(c) DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons

The rebranding of a rotter

Steve Parry

Showbiz, like medicine, has the power to heal. Okay, it’s useless if you have a verruca or diabetes but it does have the power to rehabilitate the most toxic of public profiles. Last year we observed just such an operation at the Emmys where talk-show hosts Stephen Colbert, James Corden and others performed the first phase in the complex cosmetic procedure of detoxifying Sean Spicer – Donald Trump’s notorious ex-press secretary.

Spicer’s punishment for this degrading of US democracy was a glitzy platform at the Emmys and a chance to rebrand himself as a lovable, self-deprecating pantomime villain – in fact he is the real thing

This is a man who massaged the truth like a sadistic physiotherapist, routinely lying and defending lies from the lectern of the White House briefing room. Who can forget his risible claim about Trump’s swearing in? ‘This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.’

It so wasn’t.

Yet Spicer’s punishment for this outrageous degrading of US democracy was a glitzy platform at the Emmys and a chance to rebrand himself as a lovable, self-deprecating pantomime villain – when he is, in fact, the real thing! The sight of ‘Big Daddy Showbiz’ wrapping its gropey old hands around him and welcoming him into the fold as a naughty but nice national treasure was grotesque. A more appropriate reception would have been some form of Cersei’s walk of shame à la Game of Thrones.

So instead of being cast into the wilderness, Spicer is raking it in as a novelty turn on the after-dinner circuit of elite events – making jokes, laughing it up and making light of his role in Trump’s White House fiasco. There are even reports that he’s been offered his own reality TV show. It’s yet to be made but has already received the largest audience to ever witness a reality TV show, period, both in person and around the globe…

And it’s not just Spicer. A stint in Trump’s West Wing is like appearing on Big Brother: you spend the entire time lying, fighting and screaming obscenities at whoever will listen until your inevitable, unceremonious exit. But then, instead of the boos and jeers you deserve, the world of celebrity embraces you as a self-aware, lovable ‘TV personality’.

Anthony Scaramucci, ex-White House director of communications, didn’t even last long enough for people to learn how to pronounce his name properly, yet is now a host on showbiz gossip site, TMZ. Within weeks of leaving the West Wing, I confidently expect to see Kellyanne Conway launching her own range of perfume on QVC… ‘Kellyanne’s Eau d’ Collusion: The scent of Kremlin.’ If she can sell Trump’s policies, she can sell anything.

I hate it when showbiz rehabilitates proper rotters like Sean Spicer. He shouldn’t be allowed to be in on the joke. He should be ostracized for his part in attempting to undermine democracy. What incentive does it give public figures to behave well if they know there are no reputational or lifestyle consequences for lying?

People like Spicer might be morally bankrupt, but it turns out that in showbiz and politics a soul is not a vital organ; you can do very nicely without one.

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

mag cover This article is from the January 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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