Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spinning the Message

Dictionary definition of spinmeister - a public relations person who tries to forestall negative publicity by publicizing a favorable interpretation of the words or actions of a company, political party, or famous person.

Spin happens all the time about everything you hear, but I think many Americans aren't aware of all the places they are receiving bombardment. For instance, you receive Republican emails that are forwards. They are jokes making fun of Democrats (or some other group who is not 'you') for being wimps, cowards or maybe even traitors. The word traitor is thrown around a lot by the right when anyone finds fault with the current elected head of our nation.

(Insert: Bush is not our king, he is not the nation. Yes, he has taken on and been handed king-like powers that eliminate habeas corpus for those he alone deems to be traitors, but he is still an elected official who will be out of office finally in two years. Hey Republicans, when you relish how Bush has amassed power, how he can run roughshod over the rights of others when he deems it necessary in the name of security, consider this-- Hillary likes the idea of that kind of power. Are you that sure she won't be elected president or someone you equally dislike?)

Okay, I got diverted but anyway on the spin emails, the jokes are intended to be humorous. Don't take it so serious. Except they apply to issues that are not funny. These emails are spun out so quickly after the Bush administration makes some kind of statement that you have to think it's all part of their public relations department.

Along with these will be essays that validate the administration position by someone who often (if you do some research) said no such thing. Lies are apparently okay in the fight for... hmmmm... What is the fight about these days? Certainly not freedom from fear given that is the stock and trade of Republicans. Be afraid very afraid and only we can keep you safe.

If you get one of these emails, just remember if you pass it on, you have become part of the spin machine, and you have no idea who that spinmeister really is. Power often is not in the hands of those out front.

When John Kerry was running for president, we were bombarded by emails about Jane Fonda being a traitor. What?! She was in Iraq sitting on a big gun? No, this was all about what she did years ago, something she has long admitted was not done right, but happened during a divisive time in our culture. You might wonder what the connection could be to the issues facing the United States today; but to the right, the very name Fonda works as a spin; and although she had no connection to John Kerry's run for the presidency, the spin implied there was. Who knows he might have appointed her Secretary of State... Hatred for her was spun up as a way to gain and maintain power. Truth wasn't part of it. Spin knows no morality. It's a technique of politics.

Now, more than any time I have known, people can assure themselves they are right and hear only information that fits their political viewpoint. If you want to believe Iraq is going well, that any negative numbers are just put out by the Democrats, for that matter that any attacks right now are intended only to increase the Democrats chance to win because everybody knows terrorists and Democrats are in bed together, then listen to Fox and Rush Limbaugh. Both will tell you exactly what the Bush administration wants said.

Lately, it seems whenever I hear people from the right appearing on talk programs, their words are all about spin. I listened to an editor from Wall Street Journal (which has become a very political paper if it wasn't all along) and couldn't believe the spin that came out with every issue. If it didn't fit his machine dictates, he would switch the topic to something that did. In other words, don't answer the question, simply change what it was.

Real issues are not easily spun; so spinning machines are all about distraction and keeping away from real issues. Right now Bush and his spinmeisters are frantically throwing out fear talk and cowardice accusations. I know, Bush didn't use the word coward. He said the Democrats will cut and run because they don't favor staying the course anywhere. What kind of people cut and run in life? Everybody knew what he was really saying. Democrats, like me, must be cowards because we disagree with what he has and is doing.

Bush is looking for the sound bite that will hit the evening news and resonate with his base to keep them thinking how superior, brave and tough they are, and how weak anybody is who disagrees. If his spin works, people vote Republican in November as a patriotic and brave way of not only fighting back at terrorists but supporting our troops.

Never mind that the battle in Iraq did not start out about the terrorists and never mind that this is the same bunch that sent men and women to war not fully equipped, who are using a back door draft with the National Guard because they cannot admit how many real troops would be required for winning in Iraq. Never mind facts because spin isn't based around facts.

How can we be aware of spin when we hear it? Well if all the Bush people suddenly are using the same phrase, that is a tipoff.

Sometimes spin is hard to recognize. The Bush administration has sent (not sure if they did after the information became public) to small television stations prepackaged videos for their evening news as though it was news and factual which it could be but it also could be suds with no substance. Their only concern was that it suited their agenda. If you missed reading about this when it became known, an article worth reading on the topic-- White House news forgeries widespread. There are more out there for those interested in doing a search. The stations might know this is propaganda, but do the viewers?

Spinning didn't work so well with Hurricane Katrina because as the spin machine was telling us how much the Bush-lites were on top of all of this, we saw images of him looking befuddled (happens anytime he's not prepackaged), saying great job to the FEMA director, which would have meant Bush was also doing a great job.

Except there were those photos of the disaster, of people waiting for help that wasn't coming. If the Bush people had their way, they'd block such actual footage from happening again. Their spin will keep people happy and who needs to know the truth. That works best when it's from a foreign country; but given how the word traiter is being stretched, it might be someday here too.

This link is an article on how the Bush administration blatantly hired thinkers like Armstrong Williams to spin their take on the No Child Left Behind. Not just him but many such are seduced or paid to spread the doctrine that suits the administration.

When you hear a person like Rush Limbaugh completely defend whatever Bush does, do you ever wonder if he thinks for himself or waits for his talking points on any breaking news? If you don't consider this possibility, you are not being aware of spin. Rush never has guests.. that is except Dennis Hastert right after the Foley scandal or Dick Cheney whenever he needs to get out his side of an issue. What does that tell you about Limbaugh's program?

One of the things that might be making this country seem so divided is the difference in where we get our information. For instance, if you want to only hear Bush is doing well as president, that Iraq is successful and a new light is dawning in the Middle East (no it's not dependable electricity yet), that if there was any responsibility for what went wrong on 9/11, it's Clinton's, that you can have benefits with tax cuts and a war, that deficits don't matter, just stick to watching Fox News and certain talk radio spin machines, and you can feel content with how it's going and mad at the other side for lying about the 'truth.' More than any other time, we can control our personal news sources to a comfort zone for what we want to believe.

Although most reporters and journalists are said to be Democrats, most stations are owned by Republicans. I can't say for sure where Rupert Murdoch fits. He owns Fox entertainment which sells sex and salacious programming; then turns around and condemns it on his Fox News. Is that what you call covering all bases, drumming up business, or schizophrenic? I am still trying to decide..

When you get one of these emails intended to panic you into believing say the ACLU wants to remove crosses from military cemeteries, please do a search online for more information and check them out with Snopes who will give you facts you can consider along with that email.

Yes, I only hit on the Republicans because it's how I see it right now. I think this time is worse and more blatant than any I have known for how information is twisted, but if you want to write one on the left sending out the same emails, comment freely. Of course. I won't believe you because I know MSNBC and Keith Olbermann wouldn't lie to me!

The Tucson desert picture was chosen because it's a cactus wren nest in a cholla-- a neat contradiction between the softness and nurturing of a mother and babies with the nasty threat of the spines. This bird has built her nest in the safest place she knows. The nest is secure for her young to grow, but she can't stay there. She has to go out to find food for those babies.

What it says to me is, even in a confusing and frustrating time such as this, we can build our own secure nest; but we can't totally stay there. We have to be aware and look through all information with discrimination. Not everything out there is true or nourishing.


Parapluie said...

I knew the news I heard was twisted and made into simple propaganda slogans in favor of what Bush and his people want us to internalize, but your analysis puts the picture in absolute focus. Thank you for being the watchman or watch woman if you will.

Ingineer66 said...

There is no need to worry about any of that foreign policy stuff, the Dow closed at over 12,000 last week and we all know "Its the economy stupid". So there is nothing to be concerned with. And the Wall Street Journal has always had a political slant, it just used to be a lot more liberal. Lately they seemed to be a bit more balanced.

Rain said...

Did you just get your spin orders from the spinmeister, ingineer? *s* as that is exactly what Bush switched to yesterday or so the papers said. Going to push the economy for the next weeks instead of all his success in Iraq. It might work. Does anybody else wonder why the gasoline prices suddenly started dropping a few weeks ago and keep right on going down? I heard excuses for it but isn't this pretty convenient and does anyone doubt that the oil companies want to keep Bush in power. Look at their record profits for the last years. Interesting what can be manipulated and then when the election is over, it's back to business as usual... Which means if this gasoline drop in price is just coincidental, it'll stay down. If it was manipulation, right after Christmas or before, it'll be on its way back up.

Rain said...

And Ingineer, since you brought up economics, what about this from the Daily Kos? Any thoughts on it?

"I'm sure those of you reading this who have a vast equity portfolio (All twenty of you) as well as those who've been saddled with brain trauma so severe they cannot do simple math or recall the last decade--basically anyone who still thinks Bush is doing a great job--are thrilled with this recent earth shattering market rally. For the rest of us, here's a short stroll down memory lane with the benefit of a little arithmetic even Jethro Clampett could handle.

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average was bouncing around 11,000 in the year 2000. Last week's close was 12,002. So, based on those numbers, after swiping trillions of taxpayer dollars -- borrowed from you and your children--and tossing it into the gaping bottomless maw of Wall Street's elite like so much papery green chum, the return on the DJIA during CEO Mastermind George Bush's reign weighs in at a whopping ~ 1.5% a year or so. In between it took a steep dip resembling a certain mountain pass in Tora Bora and has regained just barely enough to rival the interest my credit union pays on a checking account. Goodness gracious, where will we spend it all?

"And for you tech investors, the NASDAQ Composite Index hit a high of about 5000 in March of 2000. It ended the week at 2342. Good grief, you'd have done considerably better if you had sealed the cash in a tin can and buried it in your yard for the last six years. Were the NASDAQ COMP a conscious entity in need of immediate medical attention, it might just give up at this point and opt for a mercy killing, lest the poor thing suffer another agonizing botched operation under the inept knife wielding hands of Doc Bush and Nurse Cheney.

"Now, it would be irresponsible to the point of deception to attribute market performance solely to a President. But if the GOP is dumb enough to try and play that game, it's perfectly fair to clock the living shit out of them by pointing out that under mean old, 'librul,' tax and spend, philandering Democrat Bill Clinton, the markets turned in healthy double digit gains year after year. "

Ingineer66 said...

lol that is good stuff. And I got my economy spin from the king spinmeister Clinton. Remember it did not matter that Al Quaida was blowing up our embassies and ships all that mattered was the Dow was on fire lifted by companies like Enron and Globalcom. Now that Bush is borrowing from the Clinton play book all you dems are pissed about it. I know the truth, if the economy is good the president gets credit, if the economy sucks the president gets blamed. But in reality I believe the president does not have much to do with the economy the Fed Chairman has a whole lot more to do with it.
And all you conspiracy people on the gas prices cant have it both ways. When prices go up you say its Bushes buddies gouging us all and then when prices go down it Bushes buddies giving us a break. If you hadnt noticed the weather is pretty mild right now in much of the country so there is little heating or airconditioning going on and prices always drop after school starts when summer driving season ends. When winter kicks up in a month or so and people start cranking up their heaters the prices will go back up a bit but be happy for now with the lower prices. Americans dont like $3.00 gas and showed it at the pump by not buying as much.

Ingineer66 said...

PS I did not know Bush was swithching to focus on the economy. I just came up with that all on my own. We are not all mind numb robots on the vast right wing conspiracy. We just sometimes enjoy good political theater.

Maya's Granny said...

A very insightful post. Right on, as usual.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

When I saw your desert photo, I thought you must be visiting back in Tucson. But you explained the analogy as it pertains to us.

You continue to make me think, Rain, though having been in a form of PR for most my career, I know how much spin has to do--with everything! That includes schools, institutions, government, churches. We hire top notch image consultants, marketing companies, and we then we build theatrical sets and we become the actors, spewing out the words that make us look like we are perfect--from whatever POV we think is "right." We are all selling our "product" these days--and it's sad--and it's the way the world seems to work.

Ingineer66 said...

Speaking of trying to speak to the "right" point of view. I have New York City channels for my east coast satellite feed and I saw a commercial tonight that made me almost laugh. During the first 3/4 of the thing I thought it was for a republican running for office. Talking about support for the troops and helping firefighters and keeping jobs at military bases and continuing some tax deduction. Then they showed Hillary sitting with a group of people saying that she has done all these things as senator. I thought of a few things: 1)if the national audience saw her acting like a conservative what would they think? 2) I dont think she publically acted that way before 9/11 I saw footage of her being booed off stage by firefighters shortly after 9/11 for how she had treated them. Just goes to show for most politicians it is all about power and keeping it.

Rain said...

Well don't forget that Hillary was a supporter of Goldwater in her college days-- liberal socially and conservative fiscially. With her Methodist upbringing and beliefs, you might be surprised at what she'd do as president.

On the gasoline, did you really not understand how it might behoove an oil company to temporarily bump prices down to get them up again for longer? Sometimes with Republicans, I don't know if they really don't get it or just like to hope someone else doesn't. :)

Also what you said about the high prices reducing consumption proves (if so) what the left has been saying. Tax the gasoline enough and use the profits to develop alternative energy. I realize the right would rather keep those profits in the hands of the rich, but if they went to development of new ways to fuel our world, we would end up not being dependent on oil... Not that the oil companies would like that idea.

Rain said...

Oh and one other thing. I will not continue to comment on what someone says unless it leads to a new thought. It isn't that I have changed my mind, it's just once i have said something, I feel like that's it. If an argument here changes my mind, that's when I will say something.

What you said, Fran, is exactly so. It's all spin, not just politics. We just need to be aware of it. and It does make it hard to separate the show from reality. That was a good additional thought :)

Ingineer66 said...

Oh come on I like your additional comments. And I know all about the oil companies but I disagree about all the profits going to the rich. They used some of those profits to find that big new oil field in the gulf. And we are going to be using internal combustion engine vehicles for probably at least another 25 years and we will be using petroleum for another 200 years. And if you think the oil companies are just going to dry up and blow away when the oil runs out that is just not going to happen. The big oil companies are diversified energy companies, they will switch to coal when oil hist $125 a barrel and then they will switch to solar or something else when the coal runs out in the year 2600. I am not sure why you think that a big tax would be such a good thing. I would rather give tax breaks to the private sector to stimulate alternative energy sources instead of mandating it with communist type heavy handed government.

Maya's Granny said...

The day the big energy companies switch to solar is the day we need to worry, since they won't switch to anything they can't control. The idea of Exxon in control of sunlight makes a good science fiction premise but otherwise has me switching between horror (at the thought that it could happen) and laughter (at the thought that it couldn't happen).

Ingineer66 said...

Alantic Richfield (ARCO) the company that had the Alaska oil pipeline problem a couple months back used to have one of the largest solar generating stations in the world here in California until they figured out that they could make more money by selling the solar panels to people to keep their RV and houseboat batteries charged than by selling the electricity to PG&E. We are SLOWLY getting off oil, but it needs to be at least close to economically feasible for it to work. What is more likely than any of the current alternatives is something totally new that has not even been thought of yet. And even if we stop using gas for cars we will still need petrochemicals such as road asphalt, plastics and pesticides.