The World According to Wayne: Working the Spin Machine
April 15, 2008
Since it’s primary season, y’all probably know I couldn’t resist taking a few jabs at the people who think they are qualified to lead us.
It’s pretty easy to sit there, eating supper, watching the news on some cable channel that is bought out by one side or the other, but which claims to be unbiased. I watch them interview various candidates, and, if nothing else, I’ve learned one thing that candidates do – they never answer the question. They always answer a different question that highlights whatever balderdash they’re pushing. If a candidate happens to get pinned down, and actually has to answer a question, then the tactic is to spin – meaning, never lie outright, just color the story in the best light. Or, as we might say at home in Texas, “Put a little extra jam on the bread.”
There is an old story that has been used to illustrate this for years. I first saw it in debate class in the ‘60s, and it been coming around the Internet for a while now. I don’t know who wrote it, so don’t accuse me of plagiarism. I’m just using the story to make a point.
One day, a candidate was asked about one of his famous ancestors, a well-known figure in history, and the answer went something like this:
“My great-uncle (grandfather, cousin, whoever) was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include the acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, he passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform on which he was standing collapsed.”
Sounds pretty good, right? Ol’ Uncle So-and-so was a fine, upstanding citizen, capable of producing decedents qualified to lead us.
Not so fast. My debate teacher, Mr. O’Brien, taught me to analyze everything someone says, and figure out what is meant. Here’s my take on this one: Let’s take this one bit at a time, and see if we can figure out what really happened.
“My great-uncle was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad.”
He was a horse thief and train robber.
“Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility.”
He went to prison.
“… finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad.”
He escaped from prison and went back to robbing trains.
“In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the re-nowned Pinkerton Detective Agency.”
The Pinkertons chased him down.
“In 1889, he passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform on which he was standing collapsed.”
He was hanged.
Sounds a little different when you scrape off the extra jam on the bread, doesn’t it?
The point: Don’t believe a thing these people tell you, unless you personally know it to be true, or can check the facts independently.
I know that we’ve all got a few skeletons in our closets, but it seems to me that if these people claim really to be able to figure out what to do next better than we can, they better have their ducks in a row. Think about it; these are the people that claim they can
- Spend your money better than you,
- Plan your retirement better than you,
- Educate your children better than you,
- Protect your home better than you,
- Pick your doctor better than you,
- Decide what kind of house to build better than you,
- Decide what kind of car you are going to drive better than you can.
I guess I’m dating myself a little here, but the last presidential candidate I really liked was Barry Goldwater. Ever since then, I’ve had to make a choice between two candidates who I probably wouldn’t trust to wash my truck. They all talk so fast that’s it’s like trying to read Playboy with your wife turning the pages.
In closing, I’ll give you a quote by Senator Goldwater when he was running for president against JFK.
“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty, and that, in that cause, I am doing the very best I can.”
Ya think you’ll ever hear one of our current candidates saying such a thing?
My point is this: Don’t believe everything you hear at the coffeehouse, at work, or from some so-called Internet expert. Check it out for yourself, and then vote – early and often!