A New York Times article, “Why Spin Is Good for Democracy,” caught my attention like a large pile of cow dung on the trail, or rather front page. Unlike the author David Greenberg, Rutgers University Professor of History and Journalism and Media Studies and Who Knows What Else, I loathe spin. The article is a fine example of mind-numbing spinning of spin itself, as if we all needed that.
“Spin, on the other hand, has an impish quality; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Spin winks at its own truth stretching. It signals to the journalists who report it and the audiences who consume it that they’re getting a partial, even insincere, version of events. But it also suggests that this grazing of the truth is no grounds for alarm, because, after all, politics has never been the realm of dispassionate truth-telling.”
Likely, Greenberg is working a spinner’s vein of paid speeches and publications, ever pushing spin as some kind of wonderful thing for democracy in an onslaught of blather from the comfy bastion of his buffered academic sinecure. His essay might as well have been called, “Why Nonsense Is Good for Democracy.”
It is nearly impossible for me to fathom those like Greenberg who actually enjoyed watching former White House Press Secretary James Carney (or now Josh Earnest, though not a journalist) blatantly lie to the press and public and openly display just how corrupt journalists like him could be.
“In a time of cynicism, audiences need to find ways to take pleasure in politics,” argues Greenberg, apparently not even realizing that spin has likely provoked, more than anything else, cynicism, the summum of which was best expressed by Spinner-in-Chief Bubba: “this cynicism is my enemy.” Of course, President Clinton could not admit, let alone perceive, that his own prolific spin (i.e., congenital lying) apparently had created his very own enemy.
Greenberg notes, as spin historian emeritus: “The word ‘spin’ connotes something a little different from older names for persuasive speech.” Yet it is not a question of persuasive speech at all, but one of cover-up and cover-over of lies and fraud. In praise of spin, Greenberg argues: “Yet all the distortion involved in modern spin, the thrust and parry of competing arguments are vital to democracy, and a big part of what gets us interested and engaged in the first place.” Rather than “vital to democracy,” however, spin is clearly a manifestation of the dying of democracy. And if spin indeed “gets us interested and engaged,” it is only because blatant prevarication, euphemized as spin, ought to provoke—not delight—visceral anger.
“The fact is, many of us enjoy the post-debate commentary. Confident that we can see through self-serving claims of the hacks and flacks, we question them, and even applaud those who voice our own sentiments. When politicians we like are foundering, we want them to be more skilled and aggressive with their spin, not less.”
More “skilled and aggressive” with their lying? Likely many, many more of us do not enjoy the post-debate commentary at all or for that matter, the debates themselves and do not watch them because we are not masochists! Perhaps indeed many citizens—many more than who’d side with Greenberg’s aberrant infatuation with spin—cannot bear to watch known liars, uh, spinners, like Obama, Josh Earnest (an appropriate name indeed!), Hillary, Bubba, Ryan, Romney, and the rest of the hard-core hackerama. “Why Lying Is Good for Democracy” is the real case Greenberg attempts to spin…