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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

political spin + media « Previous | |Next »
March 12, 2010

Finally, some critical commentary about in the mainstream media about political spin that has its roots in Madison Avenue. As we know spin operations that manipulate the news agenda in order to gain either positive or negative coverage, has become part of the routine modus operandi of party apparatchiks.

Many say that spin is here to stay on the basis that it's a fact of political life.Tony Blair, for instance, observed that one cannot be a modern day politician without being versed in the black arts of spin---not to have a proper press operation nowadays is like asking a batsman to face bodyline bowling without pads or headgear.

Sushi Das in Political spin undermines democracy in The Sydney Morning Herald says that:

spin takes various forms. Bad news is released late in the day or on a heavy news day to reduce the negative fallout. Chosen journalists are given information exclusively to secure a positive slant. Unattributable background briefings are used to fabricate allegations or smear people. Exclusive stories are released as part of ''official leaks'' to set the agenda.

Das states that these tactics by the various spin doctors succeed in an environment in which spin doctors outnumber journalists, underfunded newsrooms rob journalists of time to do their jobs properly, and reporters are judged on the number of exclusives they churn out rather than the depth of their reporting.

The Canberra Press Gallery rely on the patronage of Canberra insiders, many of whom depend on the spin masters for their stories. The problem is that despite their intense dislike for spin, these journalists depend on the spinners for information. This chummy media/government relationship explains why news management has been so successful for so long.

The techniques and tactics of intensive media manipulation could be one reason why some members of the Canberra press gallery report that black is white. Another reason is that they have spin doctors themselves, as they re-engineering democracy and help to create a culture of public cynicism.

When spin becomes a matter of public comment, its usefulness is thereby reduced.This requires its exposure by a press that fights back against the manipulation from within government (state and commonwealth). Those journalists who desire to be watchdogs for democracy can ensure that spin gradually becomes most loathed and help public opinion identify politics as media management as nothing more than spin.

Once exposed, as Peta Duke spectacularly was in Melbourne, the public grows more cynical about politics.They perceive politics as a shadowy exercise in which truth is concealed and deception is practiced.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:46 AM | | Comments (4)


Malcolm Turnbull made some good points in the ABC story --Journos 'willing participants in PM's spin machine' about the government/media relationship in Canberra. He says:

You have a situation whereby the media actually knows they're being manipulated and they know they're being spun through the cycle because it suits them. It packages things and it allows them to report politics within a particular framework without having to go into a great battle. They haven't got the resources or the time or background to go into a level of depth and analysis that you would need for some of the issues.

He adds that this results in a club atmosphere where there is a sort of 'rat pack' with a collective mentality:
What's surprising is the consistency with which the gallery approaches any given issue. When was the last time the people in the gallery actually branched out and went outside the conventional wisdom?"... journalists do not have the right to be frustrated when they allow themselves to carry on working in a herd mentality, whereby very little original thought is being put into stories. How much of the news when you pick up a newspaper, or listen to the radio, or watch television is somebody saying something? How much of it is people actually going out and researching what's in an annual report?

Very insightful. So who is going to do the analysis and research or counter the spin?

One very persuasive argument is that the media (Canberra Press Gallery) do not have the resources or the skills to distinguish between the surface and the substance of the Ruddite media machine's relentless spin.

They are in a bind, which is well described by Ivor Gaber in Lies, damn lies... and political spin in the British Journalism Review:

dealing with [UK] Labour's media machine posed something of a quandary for the political journalist: accept the line, the spokesperson, the story and all would be well – the journalist would get his or her interviewees, a regular dripfeed of minor “exclusives” and the sense of being “on the inside”. However, sign-up for the “awkward squad” and the result would be interview bids turned down, access to breaking stories denied and no flow of “exclusives”. It's a dilemma that faces all journalists, in any sort of lobby, all the time, but with New Labour it's particularly acute because the “game”, such as it is, has been and is played with an unprecedented degree of bitterness and brutality.

The spin operation of the Ruddite media machine is similar. They are addicted to spin.

The staple elements of reporting in televisualized politics have become the soundbite - the short, pithy statement encapsulating a political position or reaction -- and the photo-opportunity, the photographic session contrived to make a statement.

It is part of the smoke and mirrors of the political machine and its media staffers to steer, deflect and tame the democratic mass through political deceit (including deliberate lying and secrecy). The spin industry--the communication/media/campaign machines--- undergrids liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy depends on legitimate governance and that legitimacy requires the consent of the governed. Consent can be manufactured by keeping the mass disengaged from the real processes of governance and by calculated strategies of distraction---hence the spin industry.

Politics journos have one foot in politics and the other in journalism. They are part and parcel of the political game themselves. Investigative reporting is just not in their own best interests.