This long, rambling blog post is just my opinion about “spin” messaging. Although, I am sick to death warning about the dangers of our endless 2016 spin information war, I wanted to write one more post about this and then I am taking a break from writing about politics for a while.
I became interested in spin messaging during the 1990s, when I first noticed this new form of political messaging taking hold in America. Sure, politicians have always relied on a soapbox and sloganeering, but spin messaging went way beyond that. I’ve written plenty on this blog about our spin information war.
Despite decades of complaints from Republicans and conservatives about “media bias” and the mainstream media favoring the political Left in America, I have never read anything about spin being mass media information warfare, despite those engaged in it, infusing their spin efforts in militaristic terminology from its first appearance in America.
Over the years, I’ve pondered if there were hostile foreign intelligence operatives behind the birth of our American spin war and while I’m open to that possibility, it is clear the original spin messaging efforts began among politicos on the American Left. During the Clinton years, starting with the Clinton’s “war room” is when I first saw mass media “spin messaging” efforts emerge in American politics.
Among the American Left, communism, Marxism and socialism hold great sway, so it’s very possible that our spin information war is a completely homegrown political effort, but it’s wise to be open to the possibility of foreign hostile hands in the opening salvos in our mass media spin information war back in the 1990s. It’s also obvious that even if there weren’t hostile foreign hands in the beginning, after decades of our constant spin information war, hostile foreign intelligence operators assuredly are working for ways to ruthlessly fuel, interfere in, and escalate our spin war.
The American media and politicians talk and write about “spin” in terms of it being just some benign form of political media operations. Encyclopedia Britannica offers this explanation:
“Political spin, in politics, the attempt to control or influence communication in order to deliver one’s preferred message.
Spin is a pejorative term often used in the context of public relations practitioners and political communicators. It is used to refer to the sophisticated selling of a specific message that is heavily biased in favour of one’s own position and that employs maximum management of the media with the intention of maintaining or exerting control over the situation, often implying deception or manipulation.”
For another explanation, Wikipedia offers this:
“In public relations and politics, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure. While traditional public relations and advertising may also rely on altering the presentation of the facts, “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics.”
I don’t know exactly who developed American SPIN information warfare. I’ve never come across any literature that pinpoints in terms like, “Dizzy Spin developed mass media spin information warfare in 1990.”
Back in the 1990s, I became fascinated with watching the Clinton spin efforts, which then infected the entire Democratic Party and the Left’s political operatives. Their media efforts combined social psychology and aggressive repetitive mass media messaging to dominate the mass media battlefield.
Spin messaging weaponizes lies by packaging them in very deceptive language, but it also includes vicious, orchestrated mass media character assassination attacks, to bombard and bury political enemies under a mountain of dirt. Vicious character assassinations are a feature of spin messaging information warfare, not just a bug. However, spin information warfare is about more than partisan politics and winning elections.
The larger objective has always been to control public opinion in America.
The Left wants to win a larger cultural war, by manipulating public opinion, waging spin messaging information warfare attacks against the American people.
Throughout the 90s, I kept trying to understand how spin messaging works and why it works. Every strategy can be broken down into parts (the ways and means employed to achieve the ends). As the political Right in America kept losing ground in the cultural battles, which were advanced through aggressive mass media spin messaging efforts, the political Right constantly railed about “unfair media bias” to explain why the Left’s spin efforts always succeeded. This “unfair media bias” explanation is way too simplistic and benign to explain why the Left’s spin messaging always won.
Spin messaging in our free society can only work with constant, massive mass media collusion.
Spin often uses language that inverts the meaning of words and terms, to not only confuse people, but also to slowly erode people’s ability to communicate, think clearly and have the ability to counter the spin. This is an old communist tactic to control people. The Left in America has relied on this tactic too and our culture is awash in PC-dictated terms, we are pressured to use.
Those actively engaged in SPIN information warfare efforts, both the combatants and their willing colluders in the media, always cast spin efforts in terms of benign, ho-hum, political media operations, never the sinister mass media brainwashing that it is, nor the fact that it is, in fact, information warfare.
Spin information warfare is waged against not only political opponents, it’s ruthlessly being waged against the American people.
The American people are the primary target of all spin information warfare.
It’s important to understand all of the components of this type of information warfare.
The most obvious component of spin messaging is the short, talking points messaging used. This messaging must be relentlessly repeated by both the politicos and a large portion of the mainstream media. This messaging builds messaging walls, which block out competing messaging and control the terms in which issues are framed. A good example of the Left building a messaging wall was Hillary appearing before the Benghazi Committee in 2015. For 11 hours the Dems on that committee resorted to shamelessly repeating two talking points messages to build a messaging wall:
“This hearing is a right-wing witch hunt” and
“This is costing the American taxpayers $4.7 million.”
The mainstream media carried and amplified those two spin messages and worked to present Hillary as a victim of a “right-wing witch hunt”. The mainstream media then declared Hillary the winner and worked to discredit the Republicans on that committee.
Many media people and political people wrote about spin, but none of them ever explained that the secret sauce to spin messaging is not the ruthless repetition of spin messaging (lies) to build messaging walls, but the ruthless repetition of opinion polling to create the illusion that the spin messaging represents the majority public opinion. It’s a sinister mass media brainwashing operation to herd people to believe spin (lies) and quell dissenting opinion.
Spin messaging manufactures opinion cascades (often called information cascades). Spin messaging from the Left, repeated by a wide swath of the mainstream media successfully monopolizes both the terms used in public policy discussions and constantly reinforces these manufactured public opinion cascades, by bombarding the public with polling data resulting from spin messaging campaigns.
Polling data has taken on an omnipotent power in American politics and all public debate. Polling is used by politicos and the media to convince the American people that opinion polls reflect “the will of the people”. Spin efforts manipulate public opinion and then that manufactured public opinion is used to convince the American people these polls represent the mainstream, majority opinion. Opinion polls are just a sampling of opinions of a very small fraction of people. They mean nothing in terms of the merits of any issue.
Americans love being “popular” and this drive to be “popular” above all else, feeds every social media platform, so it’s no surprise many Americans are very vulnerable to being manipulated by polling data.
A favorite media tactic to reinforce the spin-driven, manufactured public opinion is public shaming efforts, where manufactured opinion polling is used to marginalize dissenting opinions in the public square. Through constant repetition of polling, the American people have been conditioned to being herded into falling into the spin-generated “mainstream public opinion”. How many times have you seen a person on cable news being interviewed, expressing a view, then having the interviewer inform that person something along the lines of , “Polls X. Y, & Z show the American people don’t agree with you.” or “Your view is way out of the mainstream according to all of the polls.”? This tactic effectively marginalizes dissenting opinions, but it also works to create the illusion that the dissenting view is extreme, no matter how thoughtful the dissenting view is presented.
Trump and his media spinners, especially on Fox News, now effectively use this same herding public opinion by citing polls tactic against Democrats and non-Trump supporting guests. For instance, yesterday, Harris Faulkner, a skilled polling data Trump-supporting spin herder, used this tactic against Jeanne Shaheen, a skilled Dem spinner.
Another good example of media spin herding was during the GOP primary when media spin herders constantly cornered Republicans with, “Trump is winning in all of the polls, so don’t you have to support the winner?” Trump was winning in all the polls with the aid of billions of dollars in free media spinning him as the “GOP insurgent”, “great businessman”, and “the winner in all of the polls”.
Without this constant polling kabuki manipulation by politicos and the media, spin messaging would lose a great deal of its power.
Until Donald Trump, the American Right never made any inroads into successfully using spin messaging. The Right successfully used talk radio, some online platforms and FOX News, but the mainstream media still is controlled by the political Left. The 2016 election changed that dynamic, when Donald Trump began campaigning using the Left’s spin messaging tactics.
During the GOP primary, the mainstream media and FOX News gave Trump billions of dollars in free media to aid his “GOP Insurgency”. The mainstream media was working to advance the Clinton Pied Piper strategy to promote the most extreme GOP candidate. This effort was part of Bill Clinton’s old triangulation strategy, where Bernie served as the far-left kook, Trump was supposed to be the far-right kook and this cleared a path for Hillary to claim the middle ground, where American presidential elections are won.
Trump weaponized his personal Twitter account as a means to constantly lob spin attacks at the mainstream media, to influence his supporters and constantly bait both his political enemies and many of the mainstream media (especially those who are dedicated colluders spreading the Left’s spin messaging). He built a grassroots following using rally road shows around the country, to build on his reality TV fame. He created a brilliant branding campaign around a few key slogans, with Make America Great Again, being the most popular one. Most importantly, when the mainstream media pivoted to running the Clinton’s dump on Trump spin attacks in late 2015/early 2016, Trump still managed to hobble together a mass media platform using FOX News and some conservative venues to combat the mass media spin onslaught from the mainstream media and Left (the Trump the fascist smear campaign).
The Left’s spin experts love to brag about their spin efforts and months before the 2016 primary season was over, I recall hearing Simon Rosenberg on TV during an interview bragging about how they were compiling massive amounts of dirt to unload on Trump later. It’s important to realize that their “they” included large numbers of mainstream media journalists and news outfits, who sat on their mountains of dirt, until the Clinton campaign and Dems gave them the signal to release their Trump dirt.
Trump proved to be a brilliant self-promoter, but he’s a genius at spin messaging. The word salad, used car salesman, rapid-fire way Trump speaks, both repeating and emphasizing his buzz words, makes him a world-class spinmeister. Added to that he revels in outrageously and shamelessly lying. He was the first Republican to break through the Left’s lock on spin messaging information warfare. He even borrowed most of his damage control “witch hunt” spin messaging verbatim from the Clintons.
While the American Left and mainstream media see Trump’s overt, often sloppy media collusion with FOX News, they still don’t acknowledge their own media collusion spreading the Left’s spin messaging.
The Left and mainstream media constantly work to foment Trump hysteria and hype Russian interference “to steal our democracy” (that is a lame Dem spin message btw). The truth is the Russians don’t have the power to “steal our democracy”. Another truth is the deliberate hysterical Russian spin from the Left and mainstream media is damaging our democracy more than the Russian info war efforts ever will.
Here’s another truth, President Trump’s relentless spin messaging attacks on “fake news”, his petty character assassinations, and his constant shameless lying also are damaging our democracy more than the Russian efforts to interfere in our elections ever will.
The biggest threat to our democracy is our own escalating domestic spin information war, that has been blowing hot since 2016.
Our spin info war continues to destabilize America, deepen partisan divides, leaves us very vulnerable to hostile foreign information warfare efforts and is rapidly destroying America’s credibility around the world.
Mass media spin information warfare is antithetical to our American free speech principles and should be discouraged and shunned by all Americans, especially those running for high elected office and those claiming to be journalists. Ending our domestic spin war should be a top national security priority and a top priority for both political parties. The news media should work to quell spin messaging, stop colluding with political factions to spread spin and quit selling polls as reflections of anything other than the opinions of a small sampling of Americans.
Our endless scorched earth mass media spin information war is our most potent enemy within.
Finding our way back to some common ground on valuing honesty and civic virtue offers the real hope to restore our American spirit and defeat spin information warfare. In our degraded political climate and culture, often I wonder if I am clinging to a pipedream, but I will continue to hope.