EDITORIAL: "We are under attack!" - A Primer on Political Spin
No, I'm not talking about Al Qaeda; I'm talking about the Republican and Democratic parties. While the center is organizing its political base, America is still at risk of attack from these organizations. While attempts have been made to increase security against attacks through political reform, the measures have been largely diminished by partisan reality and bureaucracy. This is not to say that the center does not want to organize an attack, but we are still mustering our armies in homes, coffee shops and internet cafes across America.
If you think I'm using sensationalism to get your attention, you are correct. But if you consider the following, maybe it's not as dramatic a method as first assumed.
How are we being attacked, and why are our heads spinning? Let's look at the title "We are under attack!" The first thing you think is probably some sort of terrorist attack. It's called political spin.
By planting that thought in your mind, I have already spun the message with a relational idea; when actually the content of the message is about something else. It works like this: "Terrorism" Image + "Spin is Bad" Image = "Terrorists Use Spin" Image. Combine that with "Politicians" use "Spin", and the equation comes to Politicians + Spin = Terrorist. That is how spin works, in a relational manner. It is a technique also used in advertising and television programs - not just by politicians.
How about tag team spin. How would that work? Before the 2004 election president Bush said, "On November the second, the people of America will reject the politics of fear, and vote for an agenda of hope. . ." On the very same day, Vice President Cheney said, "the biggest threat we face now as a nation, is the possibility of terrorists getting up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us, with a biological agent, or a nuclear weapon, or a chemical weapon of some kind. . .".
The tag team spin method is very effective as it avoids the need for a non-denial denial; it's more of a, "at least I got the message of fear out" and the president can say he didn't say it; in other words, an acceptance-non-denial, acceptance-denial, plus an apology. . . sorry about the fuzzy math. To be fair, you can safely bet that most administrations have used this technique to some extent.
WELCOME TO SPIN CLASS - The Lexicon of Spin:
In politics and public relations, spin is a usually derogative term that represents a sometimes strongly biased portrayal in one's own perspective of an event or situation. While traditional public relations may rely on creatively presenting facts, "spin" usually, implies deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics.
Because of the frequent association between "spin" and press conferences (especially government press conferences), the room in which these take place is sometimes described as a spin room.
OVERVIEW: Techniques of Spin
Presenting facts selectively and/or quotes selected to support ones position, especially when a quote is taken out of context of how it was said. This is done to unduly influence and supports one's position.
Non-denial denial - a means by which to avoid speaking about a truth or fact by means of deception that entails evasive speech.
Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths - using the subtlety of connotation in speech in order to unduly influence a presentation of statement in favor of ones bias.
Euphemisms to disguise or promote one's agenda - a means by which a speaker uses a less offensive word or phrase in order to avoid offending the listener.
Other spin techniques involve delaying the release of bad news so it can be buried by other news or ameliorated by time.
Spin Doctors are people that practice spin in favor of the bias of their perspective as either dictated or requested by the people or group they may represent.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DIPLOMACY AND SPIN
Spin has as its intended goal, purposeful deception. Diplomacy is considered the kinder side of argument. It tends toward respect in conveying a message and uses reason, as opposed to purposeful deception, to communicate intentions. Both use methods of toning down, but with different motives.
So, there you have it. The battle plans of the left and the right political parties entrenched in their ideologies, emboldened with the ammunition of characterization, and armed to the teeth with their version of the M-16 assault weapon, "spin".
The reality is that we have to read between the lines and exercise our ability to discern not just what a speaker means, but what that speaker doesn't mean. Because the reality is, what you are hearing may be by design, a means of subtle deception.
It would not be fair to say all politicians rely on such deceptive practices and awareness is our best defense. Until we have a political system that by design discourages the practice and reduces the incentives, we will have to pay careful attention, because it is harder to make sense, in a torrent of spin.