I consider myself a strong speller, but my brain refuses to absorb the name “Kayleigh McEnany.” I blame the victim. “Kayleigh” is needlessly adorned—this is my son William, whom we call Billeigh—and “McEnany” is just a bunch of sounds, the Scots-Irish equivalent of “banana.” Maybe that’s the point. McEnany herself is a cipher, a pretty blonde template after the fashion of Fox News. She looks like the anchorwoman in a Paul Verhoeven movie. In this regard, she contrasts sharply with the previous anchor of the real news, Lara Trump, who looks like the realtor who tried to fuck your dad.
Thus we enter week two of the real news, “brought to you from Trump tower here in New York.” Like most Americans, I am sick of fake news such as the New York Times and long for news I can trust, ideally broadcast from a black tower owned by the person the news is about. Once again, the real news reports that Donald Trump is great. But it’s got a new, more professional face in McEnany, and it also seems to have better production values. There are wipes between cuts instead of momentum-killing fades to black, and there are inserts. Granted, the inserts play sound at low volume while McEnany talks, but we’re still looking at a leap forward in production values. Check it out:
McEnany’s appearance on the real news coincides with her appointment as spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. Previously, she was a contributor to CNN and a producer for Mike Huckabee’s show on Fox News.1 Between the personnel change and the more professional look, it’s tempting to conclude that the RNC is producing the real news now, but it remains unclear who makes this show. It runs on Trump’s Facebook page, and it claims to shoot in Trump tower, so it makes sense that it would be a product of the Trump PR team. But this installment bears the RNC’s fingerprints, not just in staffing and production but in message.
“More great economic news on Friday,” McEnany says, following Walter Cronkite’s practice of telling viewers how wonderful world events have been. “Overall, since the president took office, President Trump has created more than one million jobs.” That sounds impressive, but we should not that there hasn’t been a six-month period since mid-2013 that didn’t see the creation of more than a million jobs. That factoid comes from this Washington Post analysis of recent messaging from the RNC, which described the million-jobs statistic as “unprecedented economic growth” in a tweet Sunday night. Two pro-Trump organizations could easily talk about the same recent economic data at the same time without working together. But McEnany’s new positions as RNC spokeswoman and real news anchor make it seem like more than coincidence.
If the RNC is involved in the production of these videos, it represents a pernicious shift in the party’s attitude. It was one thing to watch legions of Republicans change their tune on Trump after he won. It’s another to watch the GOP tacitly endorse the idea that actual news broadcasts are fake, and only propaganda is real. Say what you will about the disintegration of longstanding norms in American politics. Up until last week, both parties at least gave lip service to the distinction between journalism and politics. That’s over now for the GOP.
One presumes the Democrats will respond by producing their own, slightly less audacious “real news” program hosted by Mark Zuckerberg. I guess I should be numb by now, but it’s still unsettling to see naked propaganda from the president and his party billing itself as news. I feel as though we have violated some longstanding condition in the social contract, whereby we agreed to distinguish between fact and opinion. Probably we crossed that line long ago and have just gotten around to making videos about it. But this real news feels surreal, like a scene in a science fiction movie or some viral video from North Korean state television. It’s weird that making America great again involves making it awful in ways it never was before.