OF TWISTED WORDS => SPIN

Of course what we are talking about is “political spin”. What is twisted about the word “spin” in this case. “Spin” has become a euphemism for lying. Because the word has been twisted and is just a euphemism for what should be plainly stated, I don’t use it much. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE “RIGHT” TO WHATEVER I NEED AND THE “RIGHT” TO WHATEVER I WANT? is an exception, and even then I felt it necessary to define the word. This post provides further explanation.

Consider this video definition.

Here are some more of the better definitions.

  • spin (PR, marketing) (whatis.techtarget.com): Although this definition refers to marketing, not political spin, the technique is still the same. A political candidate or political scheme is a product. If you lack sufficient skepticism, you may find the video eyeopening.
  • spin control (merriam-webster.com): Spin control refers to the activity that takes place with respect to political spin.
  • Spin (propaganda) (en.wikipedia.org)): Discusses spin as a form of propaganda. Politcal spin and propaganda are largely synonymous.
  • political spin (britannica.com): This article suggests that political spin contributes to the rise in cynicism.

Since it seems no one is ever punished for political spinning (Lying about one’s product can result in fines.), the deceptions can be quite audacious. Here is an example, In defense of political spin (washingtonpost.com). Consider the ending.

Journalists and intellectuals should — and do — call out politicians when they distort, exaggerate, or manipulate our hopes and fears. In an aphorism usually attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan (but first coined in slightly different form by Bernard Baruch), “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

The problem is that determining which facts are relevant or important to a political debate is part of the challenge — and often the heart of the disagreement. Instead of trying to somehow banish emotion and spin and other less rational elements from the kingdom of politics, we’d be better off trying to inculcate in our fellow citizens a critical sense that helps us question and evaluate politicians’ claims — and maybe, just once in awhile, to know when to believe in what they say. (from here)

The Washington Post doesn’t spin the news? That paper’s reporters just have a problem determining which facts are relevant? Their emotional involvement just makes it difficult for them to be objective?

Others, however, dream of The Death of ‘Spin’ (Will It Kill The Future Of Public Relations?) (forbes.com). When I looked at its publication date and read this article, I just cracked up. Here is an excerpt.

As a content universe we’ve come to expect the death of traditional SEO as it is supplanted by quality content, though many continue to grapple with the results. That evolution is big, and it’s beneficial. But now for the next horizon: the media universe (and Google algorithms) are increasingly demanding content that is not only authentic (and yes, interesting) but also genuine in its representation and devoid of manipulation and spin.

Is it even possible to eliminate spin? In my opinion, yes, it is. Bear in mind, however, I believe the hours expert writers spend creating irresistible headlines, using power words to command attention and testing A and B alternatives to provoke a result are not a breach of integrity, so long as the content of the piece is genuine to the promise of the headline, and provides readers with material and information that is honest, accurately identified and cited, and that they genuinely want to receive. (from here)

In the last election, Google tried to boost the Democratic Party. We know the Google SEO was programmed to produce partisan results. That is a form of spinning these days.

So can we eliminate spin? Can we eliminate people who lie? No, but we voters can learn to do our homework, and we can work to make the information we need available to study. However, to do that we have to deal with three big problems.

  • Our government runs our education system from kindergarten through the most advanced degree programs. Effectively, that means we have given politicians the power to control what our children are taught and who teaches them. Because of the massive amount of government-funded research, even the results of scientific research can be biased by those in power. Hence, many don’t trust the proponents of global warming because too many politicians are using the results of the research as an increasingly blatant excuse to seize more power for themselves.
  • Our news information systems have become more and more obviously partisan. That partisanship has become increasingly apparent for two reasons. The rise of cable TV allowed news networks to form without the requirement for FCC licensing. Formerly both radio and TV signals had to be broadcasted over the air, and that requires FCC licensing. That meant government official could not threaten to revoke FOX’s or CNN’s licenses because they did not need licenses.  The rise of the Internet also allowed news media outlets to form and publish inexpensively without government restrictions. As a result, we have many more point-of-views available, but fact checking can be difficult. It takes time to assess the reliability of a new source.
  • Instead of being for-profit enterprises, new organizations often serve as the propaganda tools of corporate interests. The owners of these news organizations and government officials can work in cahoots with each other. This results from Crony Capitalism. The more power we give our government, the greater the temptation for politicians and corporate interests to engage in Crony Capitalism. If and when crony capitalists own most of the news media, there is very little chance those crony capitalists will allow the news media they own to publish anything about their own nefarious schemes or the schemes of their buddies.

——

There is a complete list “Of Twisted Words” posts at the first post in this series, OF TWISTED WORDS => FEMINISM.

 

13 thoughts on “OF TWISTED WORDS => SPIN

  1. Agree. There is no escaping personal bias. The lens of our perspective will necessarily distort the truth (if that’s what we’re looking at in the first place).

    Equating all opinions is a gigantic barrier to critical thinking. Our culture cares more about “being heard” than “speaking truth”. Journalism has taken a nasty turn toward propagandism in order to boost ratings. “Republicans Don’t Care About School Safety” is certainly a provocative headline that is also hyperbolic. And even if it is true, what does reporting this “news” accomplish?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @John Branyan

      Propaganda is designed to further an objective. CNN is, as you suggest, trying to boost ratings. I think it is also trying to get Democrats elected. We have a lot of Crony Capitalists these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like most things, the Fourth Estate exists on a spectrum. In the broadest definition, this blog is the press (although, because of its outlier nature, it would probably be considered the Fifth Estate).

    “There are no facts, only interpretations.”
    Frederick Nietzsche

    This quote may go a bit far toward hyperbole. Was Neitzsche saying that there is no objective truth? I don’t think so – 2 plus 2 equals 4 from every perspective. Nietzsche also wrote:

    “It is true, there could be a metaphysical world; the absolute possibility of it is hardly to be disputed. We behold all things through the human head and cannot cut off this head; while the question nonetheless remains what of the world would still be there if one had cut it off.“

    Taken to its extreme, the idea that “truth is perspective” would mean that every perspective, no matter how narrow, no matter how distorted, is equally valid. And that seems to be a good deal of what we have today where, for example, one person’s opinion that manmade climate change is “an elaborate hoax” has to be given equal weight with the vast consensus of climate scientists who believe the threat is real.

    Because it is both epistemologically rational to believe that there are objective truths, the issue therefore arises as to how we get past the subjective limitations of our individual perspectives so as to ascertain something closer to those objective truths. Or in other words, we need to be able to distinguish what we call the objective facts from our own subjective opinions. As our main source of political information, the press in all its media forms is an institutional necessity to the modern democratic state.

    So what is the institutional purpose of a free press in a democracy? Is it to really provide us with impossibility of perfect objectivity? In my opinion, there are two primary goals: transparency and constant criticism, particularly criticism of corruption.

    As to objectivity, perhaps it’s best to measure the press by its own best practices. A famous press saying is that “if your mother tells you she loves you, you better get it corroborated”. The traditional press takes great pride in corroborating sources and facts, getting numerous expert perspectives and allowing an explanatory responses.

    The biggest complaint about the most credible press sources really is not truthfulness, but instead focus. Even if the story is factual does press medium only report the facts that address only the conservative or the liberal perspective? Does it ignore facts from the opposite perspective? Or in my opinion a worse problem lately, does the press create a false equivalency between perspectives that are not even close to having the same degree of truthfulness?

    The answer to all these problems is not to put one’s head in the sand and ignore the news, but to chose wisely what one consumes and to take in news from several perspectives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @tsalmon

      Thoughtful comment.

      I think you might find this post interesting: https://melwild.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/moral-realism/.

      Here is part of the comment I left behind.

      Our minds form abstractions of reality. In the abstract 2 plus 2 equals 4. In reality we cannot measure things perfectly. In reality, every object is unique. So we have a difficult time finding two sets of identical objects to add together. Here is an example. If I have two tasty apples and I add two rotten apples, do I have four apples, or not?

      Because our grasp of moral facts is limited, our moral truths (or abstract models of moral laws) are insufficient to describe the complexity of many many problems using wholly objective criteria. Hence, moral realism encounters similar issues as the addition 2 plus 2. Thus, the moral relativist gains the confidence to wave off the moral realist. However, that is akin to denying math or science just because we don’t know everything. Just because science cannot explain everything does not mean math and science don’t have validity. As one of your videos observed when describing moral convergence, the limitation is in the tool user, not the tool itself. When we share a similar understanding of the facts, we often reach the same moral conclusions.

      Is there an objective Truth? Yes, but we don’t have the capacity to completely comprehend it. We can only apprehend the Truth. That is, what we can comprehend is only a model of the Truth.

      How do we determine which models of various “truths” are best. That depends, but consensus is little use. Here is an example. This quote is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

      You can fool all the people part of the time, or you can fool some people all the time, but you cannot fool all people all the time. (from => https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/12/11/cannot-fool/)

      When I looked into it, however, it seems somebody besides honest Abe said that first.

      Unless we take the time to look into a subject, our opinion is of little use. So the fact that a bunch of people, even people the news media holds up as experts, claim something is true does not much matter. What matters is the intellectual rigor we use in discerning what is true and in testing that truth. That is the essential problem with “manmade climate change”. The computer models don’t work. The data supporting the assertions of “manmade climate change” don’t exist. All we have is a scary theory supported by anecdotal evidence and hysterical claims. That is why what use to be called global warming is now call manmade climate change. There has not been any discernible warming in the last fifteen years.

      Consider. What is the primary virtue of private enterprise? When we risk our own money, not somebody else’s money on our schemes, we don’t trust the consensus. Before we risk our own dough, most of us have the sense to gain some expertise of our own.

      So what is the role of the news media? I am afraid that depends upon the readers, watchers, and listeners. Do we want to be entertained or informed? Are we willing to take the time verify news media stories? Do we have enough native skepticism to double-check these people? If we won’t do the work or trust too much, then they will lie to us. People will abuse the power we give them.

      We cannot eliminate bias, especially our own, but we can ascertain that there is a difference between what we prefer to believe and the actual Truth. That is worth doing.

      Like

    2. “The traditional press takes took great pride in corroborating sources and facts,

      FIFY. That type of traditional press seems to have gone the way of the passenger pigeon.

      “The biggest complaint about the most credible press sources really is not truthfulness, but instead focus.”

      George Bernard Shaw aptly stated, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
      Partial information is false knowledge. It is worse than ignorance.
      Michael Crichton also noted the phenomenon. He said it less succinctly but equally well (see Gell-Mann Amnesia effect).
      When news sources spread false information they need to be taken to task, and their credibility questioned.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In the days before Watergate, journalists attempted to eliminate bias from their reporting. After Watergate, they saw themselves as “influencers” rather than as reporters. Now, they flaunt their bias. Sigh. Excellent points, Tom, as always!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Journalism is a relatively new profession. The standards the academics advocate are kind of weird. Objectivity almost requires disinterest. Kind of difficult to write a good story about something you don’t care about.

      What reporters did after the country was founded was to be honest about their biases. Many papers included the name of the political party they supported. What changed? Well, I think the FCC had a lot to do with it, but it is probably more complex than I know.

      Like

  4. The Modern World (Enlightenment to the present) believed that it was possible to present facts in a value-free environment. The Post-Modern World (roughly the past hundred years) says that we all have filters that color our perception of the facts–which facts to report and which to neglect, how to present them, and so on. In some ways the Post-Modern World is friendlier to genuine Christianity, even though many Christians are concerned about the Post-Modern appearance of relative truth without any objective reality. But when we acknowledge our biases and those of our sources and respondents, communication becomes easier and, in many cases, more courteous. J.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We used to have an employee in a responsible position where i worked who was tagged with the nickname, “The spinner.”

    Over time he became a laughing stock and was later fired.

    Sometimes, laughter is both the best medicine and resolution to tag people or entities who become spinners and in the end be laughed out of business or a job.

    Sadly though, in the meantime, their spins can cause collateral damage to innocent victims.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

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