Last week, Gov. Paul LePage’s office announced the imminent resignation of Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett after six years on the job. Replacing Bennett will not be easy — after all, how many amateur rappers with a background in television reporting are there in the Greater Waterville area?
As the administration begins the search, I’ve drafted a “help wanted” ad to assist the governor’s team.
Press Secretary to Maine’s Governor
Grounded constitutional perspective
The Constitution may be a living document, but that First Amendment needs to die. We’re looking for someone who hates the press. Like, really hates them. For instance, if you set up a mocking “safe space” in your office with coloring books and stuffed animals to denigrate the personal characters of reporters, you might fit right in here.
Creativity/Ability to think on the fly
This is a fast-paced job, and your responsibility to obfuscate the words and deeds of a bumbling administration needs to be coupled with a penchant for creative thinking. For instance, you may hypothetically find yourself facing reporters as your boss says to them, “Jesus guys, get a life.” Coming up with a creative reinterpretation such as “how’s your wife?” and then questioning reporters’ listening skills, would be an example of the kind of quick thinking we’re after.
Effective bargaining skills
In this high-pressure environment, you have to be able to bargain for valuable information. If a reporter is working on a damaging story, you’ll need to uncover the source of the bad news so they can be added to the enemies list. Reporters may want to protect their sources, but you’ve got leverage. For example, you may offer them one-on-one time with the governor in exchange for outing the rat that squealed. Knowing how to help the team bolster our world-class retribution operation is critical to this position.
Ability to spot Fake News
Let’s face it — most news these days is fake. Knowing when to spot it and call it out will be a central part of your job. For instance, if your boss calls his colleagues and tells them he’s going on vacation, and the press reports on that, that’s fake news. Not because it’s not true, but because we don’t like it. If a story is not helpful to the governor, that’s a tell-tale sign that it’s fake news.
Strong responsibility-diversification skills
To put it succinctly, there’s no shame in the blame game. In fact, blaming others for this administration’s incompetence is a hallmark of our communications strategy. In most cases, you’ll be able to use the Legislature as cover. For instance, when someone asks why Maine is still one of the worst states in the nation for doing business after six years of LePage leadership, or when someone asks why Maine’s opiate epidemic continues to worsen, simply shift the blame onto the legislative branch. More complicated scenarios may require more imaginative blame-shifting: If the governor by chance makes wildly racist statements about black men coming to Maine and impregnating young white girls, it may make more sense to blame the entire situation on the media being in the pocket of “an adversarial blogger.”
Ability to cultivate positive reinforcement
You can’t run a first-class propaganda operation on your own — it takes a village. To get our message out, we need a solid rotation of suck-ups and lackeys to create the illusion of transparency and accessibility. Ideally, these would take the form of newspaper columnists and radio talk show hosts, willing to parrot our talking points regardless of how embarrassingly dishonest they are. There are always folks out there willing to debase themselves for access to power, and allowing the governor to become their conquering hero is the key to building the perpetual disinformation machine we’re looking for.
“The Mirror Test”
Here’s the biggest skill required to fill this position, that we like to call “The Mirror Test”: Stand in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eye. Then say something completely untrue. If you can do this with a straight face, there’s a good chance you can work with us — because you’ll be doing the same thing to reporters on a daily basis. We use this test with applicants to weed out those hampered by annoying traits like conscience and integrity.
This is a temporary position that will likely result in the severe deterioration of your future career prospects, largely because two-thirds of the state of Maine considers your boss to be an utter menace and embarrassment. The state of Maine provides a generous benefits package, which includes affordable health insurance options, a matching retirement plan, and paid days off in the event of government shutdowns.
There’s sure to be a flurry of applicants for this position, so potential candidates would be wise to submit their applications as soon as possible. As for me personally, I’ve requested letters of recommendation from Sens. Mike Thibodeau, Roger Katz, and Tom Saviello, and plan on submitting my application as soon as I hear back from them.