Saturday, November 3, 2012

Politics Week: Spin Doctors

Although the song "Two Princes" is a fantastic example of '90s college rock, we're not talking about the band today. We're talking about some of the most deceitful uses of language, spin.

It's tantamount to propaganda in its blatant use of deceit to sway the minds of the people, either in favour or in opposition of something. Spin doctors, without their degree in medicine or a PhD, are perhaps the most powerful wielders of language ever.

Politicians are most often connected with spin doctors, though large businesses also have public relations departments to spin information to their best interest as well. However, all spin doctors tend to use the same techniques, some of which we've listed below.

Cherry picking - It's the "art" of using incomplete evidence or suppressing evidence to prove your position. It's called cherry picking because it's like when someone is harvesting a crop (such as cherries) and selects only the nicest, ripest cherries while avoiding the bad ones. The person who buys those cherries can then come to the wrong conclusion that most or all cherries are found in good condition!

Check out these cherries... not a bad one in the bunch!

Non-denial denial - A statement that appears to be a denial, but when analysed is shown to not be one at all. It's an ethical dilemma as to whether or not this counts as a lie. The most famous example is former U.S. President Bill Clinton's famous line, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Unfortunately for him, that was later decided to be perjury, which was punishable by impeachment...

Non-apology apology - It sounds like an apology, but it has no real sentiments behind it. Usually said because the person who has done something wrong wants you to stop complaining that you've wronged them. A prime example is the use of "mistakes were made" by politicians. You'd love to know what mistakes they're referring to and who made them, but all the politician wants you to know is that they're "sorry" that whatever mistake people are upset about was made... but that they had nothing to do with it.

Doublespeak - Language that disguises and distorts the meanings of words. Political spin doctors love doublespeak and euphemisms, which replace offensive or emotionally-charged words with harmless ones. Think of the use of "economically depressed neighborhood" instead of "ghetto", or "misspoke" for "lied".

Also, it's not called "war" anymore.
"Conflict" is a far nicer term, don't you think?

Burying bad news - This technique is used when politicians hide their unpopular news in the midst of the announcement of something likely to be popular, in hopes that the media (and everyone else) will focus only on the good news. It doesn't always work. People often try this in everyday life... such as a teen complimenting their parents on how young they look and how they'd love to spend some quality time together as a family this weekend, and oh, by the way... they might have accidentally smashed the car up. Just a tiny bit. But how about that game of Scrabble?

That's spin in a nutshell for you. We're not deceitful like spin doctors though. We didn't want to tease you with the mention of "Two Princes", so enjoy!