A Patented Poole Screed(tm) on SPIN ...

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Since the campaign heated up a few months ago, one link after another has been posted to one web site after another "proving" that Gore is a liar, that Dubya is a dunce, that all Republicans are evil and cold-hearted, and that all Democrats are evil communists and liberals.

This, my good friends, is spin, which is part and parcel of politics in this great nation. We declaim, "*your* spin is wrong, but *my* spin is correct!"

As proof of this, watch what happens when someone posts a Web link (and a half dozen articles) here "proving" that, say, Gore is a secret communist agent in service to China. There will follow the usual expressions of support and denunciation; some will be fer it, some agin' it. Following that in train will be a dozen more links.

It's time, folks, for you to understand why I rarely even play that game. I shall elucidate, then demonstrate. It's time for another patented Poole Screed(tm).

Spin is like pornography: we know what it is, but it's hard to define. I'll take a stab at it.

In the strictest sense, spin is a denial of apparent reality.

For example, you may have been caught dead to rights, standing there with that smoking gun over her naked, dead (and perforated) body; your fingerprints are on the weapon and powder marks on your fingers imply that you, and you alone, fired the pistol.

If you're a spinner, you will deny your guilt and declaim your innocence, in spite of all objective evidence to the contrary. You will insist that it's a conspiracy; that you were framed; that someone is out to "get" you; whatever.

You will do anything but admit, "uh, yeah, she burnt mah toast fer the LAST TIME, so ah plugged 'er."

In the political sense, though, spin is usually more subtle. It's the act of attempting to cause people to believe a reality that may or may not exist. (All the better if it happens to be true, but this is anything but a strict requirement in politics.)

How does this work? It's simple: if you're trying to create a negative impression of somebody, you don't just repeat the same charges against your opponent, you act as though they're already widely-accepted fact.

In your every statement and every move, you telegraph the certain knowledge that Congressman Sowbelly beats his wife, that Republicans are evil, that Democrats are liberals and that the White Sox will win the World Series. Faith becomes reality, assertion becomes fact and desires become the title deed to things hoped for.

I shall now illustrate with an example.

Let's take an exceedingly random Joe named ... well, Joe, son of a surgeon in a small rural town.

His life to this point hasn't been that remarkable; he's from a middle-class family, has collected his share of speeding tickets as a teenager, has had at least one noisy breakup with a former girlfriend and has even bounced a check or two by the by. He regularly attends church, gives to various charities and even spends time as "big brother" to some inner-city kids. He likes kids.

Joe has a very dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. After being involved in a car accident that was his fault, the officer asked if he'd been drinking. He hadn't, but replied, "I MUST have been, to have done something this dumb." The policeman absently marked "DUI" on the accident report, then caught the joke; he discarded the form and started over on a fresh one.

Joe has run several small businesses, a couple of which have failed -- one (a car dealership) spectacularly; he had to scramble to pay the witholding for his (now former) employees. The IRS was annoyed at the delinquency, but it was worked out.

Finally, Joe is divorced. His ex-wife, a paranoid psychotic named Evelyn, was convinced that he was cold-hearted, mean, spiteful, a secret member of the Klan and a cheat to boot ("because I saw him leaving that restaurant with HER" -- actually, a sales contact -- "not once, but several times!").

Now, let's have Joe run for Congress. The local Republicratic party has tapped him because he's good-looking, well-spoken and (most importantly) a loyal party member. He has name recognition from running a popular chicken joint out on the Interstate; he once served as a county commissioner.

The press releases from his campaign are going to be predictable: Joe Blow, Sr. is a great man. He has been a successful small businessman, he gives to charities, he's a member in good standing of the Antioch Free Will Pentecostal Latter-Day Sainted Baptist Church, loves kids -- in fact, he even devotes a day a week to mentoring the inner-city children at a community center downtown!

Of course, it also goes without saying that his campaign won't mention the accident, the speeding tickets, the divorce or the little run-in with the IRS -- and they pray that the press won't find out about Evelyn.

OK? Now: armed with these facts and others uncovered during my investigation of the guy, I shall now set up an Anti-Blow Web site. The main page might look like this:

Old Wine In A New Skin

[Insert an unflattering image of Blow here]

Like many of the New Republicrats who are trying to redefine their public images, Joe Blow gives good face. He's good-looking, articulate and well-groomed. His handlers have coached him well; he knows just when to smile, when to look concerned and when to appear the Good Listener.

That smile is his biggest asset; it's dazzling. But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "'tis meet that I should write this down, that a Blow could smile, and smile, and yet evil be."

You see, there's more to a good Blow than a pretty face. Hey, Dan Quayle was handsome, too.

But now meet the real Joe Blow ...

It starts with the silver spoon in little Joey's mouth: his father was a surgeon with the largest practice in Blow's hometown. He was able to send his son to the exclusive WalkingKnot School, a conclave of the local Rich and Famous. Little Joey finished out his education at Colgate, again courtesy of Daddie's money.

So much for Blow being concerned about the Little Guy. He ain't one of us.

As a teenager, Joey was a tad on the wild side; he got several speeding tickets, all of which were probably paid off by Daddy. His first girlfriend, Doris, who now works as a waitress at a nearby Flying J truckstop, said, "I was afraid to ride with him. He drove on the wrong side of the road and yelled like a maniac if he saw anyone he knew. He was reckless. That's probably the biggest reason why I broke up with him."

Far more serious, though, are charges that Joe wasn't entirely honest with his money.

No one is sure where Joe got the funds to start his first business. What we do know is that it didn't have a very good reputation. Says Doris, "He bounced a couple of checks to local suppliers. They threatened to haul him into court, but his daddy made it all right."

We could write this off as youthful indiscretion, but even in his early thirties, Joe was still skirting the edge of responsibility. In an exclusive interview with this writer, a former IRS auditor has provided details on one of Blow's businesses, a car dealership in Hometown.

Says the auditor, "the business was run very badly, from what we could tell. There were questionable deductions on every return ever filed. We couldn't find any hard evidence, but everyone who worked there suspected what was going on. No one was surprised when the business failed.

Did he leave any unfinished business? "Absolutely," said the former agent confidently. "When the dealership failed, he tried to avoid paying the final witholding taxes for his employees. We finally got the money, but we had to threaten him with legal action."

Then there's the case of the Drunk Driving Charge That Never Was. Picture this: little Joey gets in a car accident, running a clearly-posted stop sign, slamming into a van carrying a black woman and her three children. Two of the children were injured and required hospitalization.

We have interviewed eyewitnesses to the accident -- one of whom was Doris, the former girlfried -- and they all claim that the policeman had filled out one report, torn it up, and then started another. One of the witnesses insists that the discarded report, which the policeman had thrown in a trashcan, clearly indicated "DUI" as the cause of the accident.

Another witness reports that when Joe was asked if he'd been drinking, he replied, "What do you think? I MUST have been, huh?" as if it was all a big joke. And yet, no charges of the kind were ever filed against Blow.

Yet still another case of Daddy applying pressure? We'll never know. You decide.

Since the Republicrats are making a big issue of "personal integrity," it's fair to ask what sort of husband and father he was. Enter: Blow's ex-wife Evelyn, whose opinion of the man is mostly unprintable. What little we could share with you follows.

"He was a womanizer, plain and simple," said Evelyn. "I caught him a local restaurant with one of his hookers -- he claimed she was a business contact! -- but I knew. That, and all of his hassles with the IRS, tore it for me. I had to leave.

"I also suspected for years," she continued, "that he was a member of some wierd cult or something. That church he attends isn't right; the preacher believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old! He's scum," she concluded. "He left me penniless, with nothing. And now he's remarried to some floozy, and I'm left in the cold."

She grins wryly. "So much for Christian compassion, huh?"

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001


Note two things:

1. There is nothing in the "attack" piece which is demonstrably false.

2. There is no mention in the "attack" piece of Joe's donations to charity, or his work with kids.

That's how it's done, folks.

From now on, when someone sends you a link "proving" that your candidate is a heinous, underhanded piece of pond scum, just give 'em a link to this piece. :)

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001

Sorry Stephen, that just isn't going to do it. You can make up a little diddy "explaining" these (similar to Bush) situations, but there are facts that exist that ARE important and should be included in anyone's "view" of this election. The main one is the amount of effort that was put forward to GIVE Bush the election. And it is not a matter of one guy winning over another, the policies and laws that will go into effect will influence millions of people's lives.

It probably will not be until it effects yours and your love ones lives a few times before you realize just how wrong this entire coup was.

Try as much as you wan to justify everything that has happened since Bush senior lost the election, but excuses are just that, an attempt to justify an action, not accept responsibility for it.
Sorry, but that attempt was just an attempt to excuse Bush and his party. There is a big difference between someone making a joke and an admission of drinking while driving. The same with the rest of the "justifications" you put in it.

I have listened to the hate filled voices of the republicans for the past 8 years, I am not going to turn around and kiss their asses now. They only want everyone to shut up and work together now, after 8 years of their antaginization, it is totally hypocritical. If Gore had gotten the office he won, they would be standing there screaming their heads off bitching and fighting against the Democrats just like they have done for the past 8 years.All of Americans are not fool enough to fall for their Bull Shit.

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001


I very carefully crafted this example to be NON-PARTISAN. The term "Republicrat" is a combination of "Republican" and "Democrat." It's a fictitious party that doesn't even exist.

(I took some serious jabs at the Republicans during the Clinton administration, if you'll recall.)

To my sadness, you're just doing precisely what I said above: you're insisting that YOUR spin is right and everyone else's is wrong, when the truth is that most of it is malarkey and that people are going to read and believe as they choose to do so.

The REAL answer is to stop reading spin from biased sources. Now, if you attack Bush for decisions made, that's fine. For example, you can certainly criticize some of his cabinet selections. But I'm telling you, this dredging up of old family history in an attempt to "prove" that Bush is some sort of criminal is a waste of time.

In plain English: let's wait and see. You can attack Bush all you want for WHAT HE DOES NOW. I am not the least bit interested in what he has done in the past. The truth is that everyone has skeletons in the closet. I wouldn't want you dredging up my past, and am not the least bit interested in the dredged sludge from another's.

And before ANYONE else here responds angrily, remember that I said the SAME THING ABOUT THE CRAP DREDGED UP ABOUT GORE -- the "Tennessee/hillbilly mafia," his alledged connections to China, etc, ad nauseum. I place them BOTH in the same camp.

Re-read that. This is the reason why I didn't bother to respond on the old Poole's Roost when page after page of crap was posted about Bush OR Gore. Most of it is CRAP. It's biased. It leaves out the defenses (or better yet, calls THEM spin[g]) and deliberately tries to place things in the worst possible light for POLITICAL PURPOSES.

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001

Well said Stephen

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001

In plain English: let's wait and see. You can attack Bush all you want for WHAT HE DOES NOW. I am not the least bit interested in what he has done in the past. Okay, so you don't want to hear about personal things in his past. How about facts about the things he did in Texas as Governer, political, Governeral things? The fact is that he is not going to majically change from the person he was, with the attitudes, the behavior and the prejudices, into someone completely different just because he is in the office of president. The fact is that someone who cannot think rationally or act morally or lacks knowledge one day will do so the next. We are the culmination of our lives and his past is very important to us now because it effects all of us now. You seem to feel that all of the things I and others like me have expressed about him are nothing more than spin and some kind of anti-republican "feelings".

I have stated that I was republican al of my life, hell I voted for Nixon and still believe I was right in doing so. It is the actions of the republicans today, and in the past 12 years that have forced me to stand up and do what I had never done before-publically express my political beliefs. They are the ones that have gone to criminal extremes that are unacceptable to me. I cannot condone behaviors in others which by my own standards and self dicipline I do not allow my self to do. Education is the only means we have to know the possibility of what the future will hold until it happens, refusing to take the past into consideration is in itself a wrong.

You hase the right to your beliefs as I do. I choose to consider the past as an important clue to the future. I have also learned to be aware of potential problems before they happen, not wait for them to hit me unexpectedly.

I find it difficult to believe that you see nothing in his ast or in the election itself that makes you sit up and consider anything wrong has gone on.

In the least don't you think a president should know something of the world situation or how the government is run befor he is elected to that office? I know the Demacrats have allowed society to go to some extremes that verge on criminal, but that does not justify government to go to the other extreme.

I hope you do not take the fact that we disagree on these issues personally, they do not change my respect for you. (although they worry me a bit)

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001


You correctly made the analysis that the number one mistake of the Y2k doom bunnies was that they could "study the problem" and understand it and the ramifications of the problem(impacts).

However, as we also knew on the de-bunking side, the biggest errors were made by people discussing things way outside their areas of expertise.

To Wit:

YoreToast-EY on embedded systems and on financial systems.

North and Hyatt on anything "technical".

and so on.

YOU.....of all people are committing the very same error by trying to "quilt" together the factoids on the life of someone who you don't know from Press reports and the highly subjective other "stitchings" (aka: extremist propaganda )you find on the Net.

NOW...............YOU.............KNOW BETTER THAN THAT .......CHILE.

You would do well to follow the path of the de-bunkers of Y2k and the Skeptics form CSICOP who click past the so-called "documents that prove.....beyond a shadow of a doubt.....etc". Look behind the Curtains and see who the wizards of BS are. As bad as the GOP was with some of the anti-Gore slams,,,,,they were equaled by the Dems and their deluded and not-so-deluded allies.

If you look closely, you will see the anti-alBore and anti-bush stuff begins to mutually resemble the Same ole shiFt-Just-another-day crap from the FruitLoops and the Doom Bunnies.


-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001


Of *COURSE* I don't take this type of discussion personally, and you shouldn't either. This is a big world with lots of different beliefs. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

How about facts about the things he did in Texas as Governer, political, Governeral things?

Yes, I would be interested in those. Be aware, though, that we're probably going to disagree there, too. I have a very conservative philosophy; I am agin' gun control, for the death penalty, agin' higher taxes and for more power to the states (with less for the Federal gubbmint).

Remember that discussion over at the old Poole's Roost, where someone (can't remember who now, don't have time to look at the moment) used the fact that Bush supported pulling out of Bosnia as a negative? Problem was, I *AGREED* with pulling out of Bosnia. It's a European problem, let them handle it.

See? Even if we stick to current events, we'll probably disagree.

But I do believe that it's time to let the past be the past. Gore and Bush (and every other politician, if not every other HUMAN) has skeletons in their closets. Leave sleeping dogs lie.

Now, if Bush committed *MURDER* 20-30 years ago (as many claim Ted Kennedy did), yeah, that would be relevant. But unless it's something on that level, I'm really not interested in dredging up the past.

(On or for anyone.)

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001

I think its rather unfair to compare Teddy's unfortunate tragedy with GWs reckless and hidden DUI....

Yeah, yeah, if Mary Jo could talk.....

-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001

For Cherri; the Village Idiot.

-- Anonymous, January 04, 2001

A great likeness isn't it?

-- Anonymous, January 04, 2001

I must admit I wasn't too crazy about the first Joe that was mentioned in the article. He might be a decent guy, but he doesn't seem to know much about business or economics. Mind you, in and of itself this wouldn't be enough for me to not vote for him, but I would certainly view it as a red flag.

On that same note, I should mention that the first description sounded pretty "spinny" to me, just in a different direction.

-- Anonymous, January 04, 2001

Stephen, the patent on the Poole Screed has been revoked. Reason: lack of sincerity.

Two days before these comments of yours on spin, you yourself posted a piece by George Smith about Richard Clarke. That piece happens to be an excellent example of the very spin you seem to be so much against in your screed here.

LOL! Don't be a hypocrite.

-- Anonymous, January 04, 2001

The difference is that Richard Clarke is demonstrably a moron. :)

What George writes isn't spin, it's the pure unvarnished truth. The *SPIN* comes from government droids in search of additional funding who are convinced that hackers are capable of turning off traffic lights, opening garage doors and causing the drive thru speakers at the local Burger King to fill with static. :)

-- Anonymous, January 04, 2001

A great likeness isn't it?

Looks more like Anita or "Trish".

But after awhile it gets really hard to tell the difference.

-- Anonymous, January 04, 2001

There is some thread drift here, I think. For me, Poole's point is poignantly relevant. It is my belief that the republicans won the "war of the spin", and that they used the internet more effectively, especially e-mail "viral" techniques, to spread that spin. WIth the e-mail channel working in concert with direct mail, broadcast media, and telemarketing, the republicans were able to convince many, many folks that allegations against Gore and Clinton (it did seem like half the time they were campaigning against a third terrm for Clinton!) were facts.

I had this discussion with someone else a short time ago, who did not believe viral e-mails could make a big difference. I beg to differ. My wife is on a listserv for attornies. Articles and Jokes that are posted here and at Unks end up on that listserv no more than a day or two later-many of them. The Love bug virus spread more rapidly than the Los Alamos fire last year. Make no mistake the republican spin machine was, to my chagrin, a beautiful thing to behold. Even my wofe's uncle was passing along those allegations as fact. He is neither on this bulletin board or that listserv I mentioned.

Finding the truth is a most difficult thing, but it is available to those of us that appraoch the issues with a purpose. More information, a knowledge of the law, and a solid mind can cut through most if not all of the spin. It takes work, but it can be done.

Unfortunately, 95% of America is perfectly content to believe spin- after all, why should they think for themselves?

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2001


The odd thing about spin is, you often simply cannot see it if you agree with it. Nothing is more reasonable than a shared prejudice.

From my perspective, the Democratic spin machine won several key victories in the election:

1) They got people believing that votes were "not counted", when in fact every vote was counted, most of them twice.

2) They got people believing that the courts are the proper place to make political decisions, despite reason and tradition to the contrary. They convinced the public that the people specified as responsible by the constitution (the legislature and the secretary of state) were the *wrong* people to make these decisions.

3) They got people believing that a hand count was "more accurate" even though we could see that this so-called "accuracy" was simply an artifact of arbitrary definitions.

4) They got people believing that Gore "really won" in Florida, and that an "accurate" count would bear this out. To this day, people are convinced that had the USSC permitted hand counts, Gore would have won.

These are powerful spin victories, FS. They got the public to view the election through Democratic lenses, accepting Democratic assumptions as facts.

[Unfortunately, 95% of America is perfectly content to believe spin- after all, why should they think for themselves?]

Physician, heal thyself. You not only believe it, you deny it's even spin you are so taken in.

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2001


I don't deny that you could nitpick even MY description of Joe. Sure you could. If you disagree, I'm sure you could write an even better example.

The point is obvious: Joe's campaign spins only Joe's good side. Joe's opponents write hatchet jobs based on inference, supposition and "hmmmm."

And just for the record -- this is a loose compendium of several cases (some involving Democrats back in NC, by the way) from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. I didn't just create this example from whole cloth and imagination. :)

-- Anonymous, January 07, 2001

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