Is political spin a bad thing? Today and in the coming weeks, Spin-Out will deal with this fundamental issue.
Done honestly, it can help frame the debate around an important issue. Good spin causes those who are interested in an issue to get more involved by making them do research, look at pro and con arguments, and form an opinion based upon facts.
Who am I kidding here? Most people who practice spin are hoping their target audience succumbs to the temptation to be sloppy and lazy and not put forth sufficient effort to understand a given issue.
What about the media? Arenít they supposed to cut through the rhetoric with the precision of a scalpel in the hands of a well-trained surgeon so they may provide their readers/viewers/listeners with the information needed to make a rational decision?
Sorry. Most reporters are overworked and over-spun. And given the explosion of 24-hour news outlets, online blogs and other assaults on traditional media, reporters are doing all they can just to feed the beast.
With the competition to break news at fever pitch, details and perspective can sometimes be lost.
And thatís what most people who spin are counting on; a lazy target audience reached though a news media clamoring to break the next Big Story.
What makes up spin? Simply put, spin is choosing pertinent facts about an issue that supports your position while undercutting your opponentís. Whether you call it propaganda or public relations one thing remains certain, it surrounds us.
Obviously, the Internet contributes massively to the explosion of spin. Technorati.com, a search engine that monitors web-blogs, currently keeps tabs on 15.8 million of them, up from a level of 100,000 just two years ago.
Most people look at an issue and make up their minds about it based upon either a gut feeling or a few facts that fit within their personal view of the world. For instance, very few people would say that after witnessing the incessant media coverage of recent dog maulings that dogs bred solely for their vicious tendencies should not be outlawed.
As Senator Speier recently said during the floor debate on her legislation, SB 861, "This bill will save lives - both human and canine - and require more responsibility from dog ownersÖ Who can be opposed to that?"
Many who follow California politics agree that Senator Speier is a master of spin and her quote is proof of that. She has a sixth-sense that allows her to grab a current issue and frame it to serve her purposes. Thatís not so say those purposes are nefarious. Far from it; she, like many politicians, strives to move up the ladder to statewide office. Given the need to raise millions of dollars in campaign cash to run a worthy campaign, she is fighting for name recognition with the tools she has at her disposal.
But compare the amount of news coverage that she receives to the coverage of many of her colleagues. Iíll bet there has been many a sad-faced press secretary walking into the bossís office to answer the age-old question, "why canít you get me coverage like that?!"
Is it nefarious? Not really. Senator Speier has proven herself to be very capable at understanding and reacting to the issues that grab headlines, but does legislation based upon the news of the day really do much to make the world a safer place or is it simply designed to increase the level of name identification necessary to run for higher office?
Thatís what Spin-Out will seek to answer.