Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spin, Lies and Political Firepower

Spin is defined as providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion. According to Randall Rothenberg, CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau, the term “spin” has lost part of the pejorative connotation it had in the 1950s; while back then [it] was indicative of deceit, since the 1990s, according to Rothenberg, its use has shifted to a "mockingly admiring ‘polish the truth’”

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news.—Wikipedia

It took two generations—forty years—for the concept of “spin” to crawl out of the carpet bag of the snake oil salesman and become the tool of choice carefully tucked into the briefcases of corporate executives and political aspirants. Forty years, and the fortuitous explosion of audio and video media... And since the final decade of the last century, Americans have been a captive audience to the rise and ultimate dominance of political spin—that vehicle which has made it so easy for a gullible public to choose and zealously defend its own reality. But the 2012 presidential campaign has made it clear that even “spin” has had its day.

We knew, or should have known, it would come to this eventually. How great a leap is it, after all, from “spinning” to all-out, in-your-face, pants-on-fire lying? Rush Limbaugh—that ordained prophet of the American right wing—has been doing it for decades. Caught in any demonstrable lie, Limbaugh simply blows off responsibility with the self-deprecating declaration that “I’m just an entertainer.” We all know Rush Limbaugh is anything but entertaining. He knows it, too. But his lies, tirades and none-too-subtle pandering to the fears and prejudices of the American Everyman have garnered him the largest nation-wide audience in the history of radio—to the tune of a $50,000,000 a year contract through 2016. (Ever wonder where, exactly, that money comes from?)

Which demonstrates, I suppose, that America loves a liar.

How long did we think it was going to be before the politicians tossed out their bags of spin and laid in a lifetime supply of outright lies? The Republican presidential campaign has certainly bought into the strategy. One of the most popular television attack ads rolled out by the Romney campaign has been proven to be based upon false information,  but the campaign refuses to pull it, claiming that it is getting great results in swing states. At the Republican National Convention, vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech was riddled with falsehoods and half-truths, as was Mitt Romney’s. No spin. Just lies.

By now, they know the American public is so inured to creating its own reality that they needn’t worry that anyone will check the facts. It doesn’t matter a damn if a politician speaks the truth. If we hear what we want to hear, we not only accept it, we guzzle it like moonshine. And God help the “revenooers” who try to bust the still.

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight.  I don’t expect a much more truthful or upstanding performance from this side of the political spectrum. When a tactic, however reprehensible, becomes part of the accepted arsenal, it’s available to both sides of the battle. I suppose it could be said that it would be foolish for one side to refuse to use a weapon because it’s morally objectionable. No place, not even the moral high ground, is safe from the strength of superior firepower. Being right and dead gets them nowhere.

But how I wish it could be different!


  1. I fear you are correct, but I hope for something otherwise.

  2. Its up to the public to hold everyone to a higher standard, but, just as most TV has turned to trash, I don't see that happening.

  3. Virginia, I'm afraid it's the American public which is lowering the standard. Then again, with the ownership of media outlets distilled to 6 mega-corporations, you never know if it's actually what the people want to hear and see, or if some powerful group of someones want us to believe it's what Americans want to see... I'm starting to suspect the latter....