Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How to Spin

If present trends continue, it appears that I will lose my presidential straw poll (look at the top left of the mrontemp blog) - to a stick. Despite negative campaigning, I'm still losing.

Which means I'm gonna have to learn how to spin really well.

I found an article (written on, of all days, September 10, 2001) that discussed spinning in the Bush and Clinton administrations.

Spin, a practice that public- relation consultants use to control public perception, has, itself, gotten out of control.

Case in point: the White House, America’s largest spin-producing institution. The venerated establishment plays generous host to a team of perception-savvy spin doctors. This public opinion posse performs damage control on subjects ranging from the administration’s fund-raising engagements and personal health to judicial appointments and love affairs.

In his Aug. 9 address to the nation, President George W. Bush tried out his own hand at spinning, assuring the American people that "60 stem-cell lines" exist. These lines, he extolled, "have great promise."

Purse your lips and furl your eyebrows, Mr. President, because science isn’t as easy to spin as you think—especially with the nation watching.

On Aug. 17, solid objections emerged from the world’s largest (over 138,000 members) alliance of scientists. The American Association for the Advancement of Science called for Bush to immediately identify the 60 lines he claimed were available for federally funded research....

During Clinton’s presidency, spin-doctors made Olympian advances in evading the straight truth, "by chiding the press, browbeating reporters, referring inquiries to lawyers who will not comment or just plain changing the subject," said Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz....

[T]he Spin Office, I mean, Communication Office, has developed fail-safe tactics that effectively keep the cork on news the White House doesn’t want reporters to use.

For instance, White House spinners don’t allow scandalous stories to break on the television. By not confirming the validity of a story until the reporter’s deadline passes, press aids have almost complete reign over information. If reporters choose to air the story anyway, they risk their entire professional career.

Technically, this is not a new development.

[F]or decades, the White House has lassoed typically trusted figures into their spin savvy corral....For over a decade, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the aid of doctors and the secret service, spun his paralysis. The spin team masked the severity of FDR’s disability from millions of potential voters with deceptive statements about his health, in addition to tall podiums with camouflaged railings to create a mirage of FDR’s mobility. He relied, literally, on family and friends for support while approaching venues and posing for photographs.

The author of this article, Laura B. Weiss, argues that this leads to moral deterioration:

The problem with our spin nation is this: In the process of our government telling the world white lies, we, as a society are not only frequently fooled by what we read but are also, albeit indirectly, sanctioned by the government to tell our own white lies.

Spin teaches me that tax evasion is OK. When the Internal Revenue Service comes pounding at my door, all I’ve got to do is spin my story. Instead of admitting I didn’t pay taxes, I’ll just say I made a "very slight miscalculation." If slippery semantics work for our representatives in Washington, they work for me.

Personally, I don't believe that government actions sanction my own behavior - I'll figure out a way to justify my sin regardless of what the government does. But it does create problems for the governments.

Weiss concludes with the following:

At this rate, perhaps Bush will begin to "deeply" and "greatly care" about the 42 percent (as calculated by “U.S. News and World Report”) of his time in office spent en route to or on vacation. Just try to spin that one.

What a difference two days made. And what a difference ten months made. (Did "Scooter" squeal on Weiss' employment?)

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