The first time I ever heard the terms “spin” and “spin doctor” was when George H. W. Bush was running against Michael Duka-ka. They had a debate and as soon as it was over both sides sent out spin doctors to try to influence media reporting and public perceptions of how the debate had gone. The concept of “spin” was to take the facts and turn them until they presented the best possible view for your side.
This is similar to what lawyers do in closing arguments. All the evidence has been presented to the jury and now the attorneys will try to persuade the jury as to what those facts prove. The terms have been in common parlance for nearly 30 years. There was a band called “The Spin Doctors” and a television show called “Spin City.” And of course, Bill O’Reilly used to refer to his show as a “No Spin Zone.”
But spinning stories used to be something politicians and political operatives did. Journalists were supposed to cut thru the spin to reach the cold hard facts. That was then, this is now.
I found this article in Mom’s Merced Sun-Star. It is written by Associated Press reporters Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller, and it is a report on President Trump’s visits to Dayton and El Paso yesterday. The pre-trip reporting was that Trump was not welcome in either city. Then he seemed to get a warm welcome in both places. That was my impression anyway. Other people seem to have gotten a different impression.
Aiming to play the traditional role of healer during national tragedy, President Donald Trump paid visits Wednesday to cities reeling from mass shootings that left 31 dead and dozens more wounded. But his divisive words preceded him, large protests greeted him and biting political attacks soon followed.
Huh. That’s weird. I watched some of the live stream and I didn’t see anyone confront Trump. His limo may have zoomed past some people holding signs, but that’s it. And “large” protests? I saw some people standing around that blows-up orange baby balloon, but I would estimate that there were approximately 50 people in that group.
There are two media narratives in that paragraph. The first is “divisive” as in “Trump is divisive.” The old narrative was “Obama brings people together” even though he used identity politics to divide and conquer and he left the nation far more polarized than when he took office. But Trump is divisive because he says things that the Democrats don’t like. Whether or not something is divisive is an opinion, but it is stated here as if it were a fact.
The second narrative is found in the words “biting political attacks.” You don’t have to read the rest of the article to know who was making those alleged attacks. When the Democrats say negative things about Trump they are “criticizing” or “pointing out” or “confronting” Trump. When Trump responds he is “attacking” them.
This next paragraph contains something I find amusing:
The president and first lady Melania Trump flew to El Paso late in the day after visiting the Dayton, Ohio, hospital where many of the victims of Sunday’s attack in that city were treated. For most of the day, the president was kept out of view of the reporters traveling with him, but the White House said the couple met with hospital staff and first responders and spent time with wounded survivors and their families. (Emphasis added)
I highlighted the part I found amusing. I’m gonna jump ahead to show you why.
The White House did not allow reporters and photographers to watch as he talked with wounded victims, medical staff and law enforcement officers there, but then quickly published its own photos on social media and released a video of his visit.
I don’t see anything newsworthy in that paragraph, do you? All I see is a couple reporters whinging about how much their butts hurt. Poor babies. Why would Trump want to exclude a group of people who hate his guts and can’t say anything nice about him unless they also say two bad things about him. Maybe Trump was watching on that day in 2012 when the media screamed “WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES?‘ at Mitt Romney.
The fact that they put it in their story doesn’t say much about Trump but it says a lot about them. OTOH, maybe I’m being unfair. They might have just been concerned that Trump would use the opportunity to hold a secret meeting with Vlad Putin.
This next passage is what the media calls “giving context.’
Visits to the sites of mass shootings have become a regular pilgrimage for recent presidents, but Trump, who has sometimes struggled to project empathy during moments of national tragedy, has stirred unusual backlash.
Though he has been able to summon soothing words and connect one-on-one with victims, he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements — just recently painting immigrants as “invaders,” suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should “go back” to their home countries even though they’re U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.
Empathy is something you feel, not something you project. They are trying to imply that Trump is trying to trick people into believing that he feels their pain. Once again we see a media narrative. For eight long years, we were assured by the media that “Obama cares.” Trump, however, is a heartless bastard who only cares about himself. Trump can “summon soothing words” but he does not mean them.
The stuff about the “Squad” and Baltimore do not belong in this story. Baltimore is indeed rat-infested, but it is not a hell-hole. It’s a shit-hole. This is the kind of thing that ruined the media’s credibility. The media can call something racist, but they can’t make it be racist. They can go on and on and on for days telling people that Trump said something racist. Sooner or later, however, people will ask, “What did he say?” When most people hear what Trump said their reaction will be, “That’s not racist.”
The media would like you to believe that they are honest and impartial. When they make an occasional mistake they claim they were acting in good faith. Except they don’t make occasional mistakes. They make lots of “mistakes.” And if they are acting in good faith, why do they withhold important, relevant details?
For two days after the Dayton shooting the media sat on the fact that the shooter was a registered Democrat who stated he supported Bernie Sanders and Lying Liz Warren. Then the NYT broke the story in the non-Fox media. Other members of the media were furious and said it was irrelevant.
The premise of their irrelevance argument is that John Q. and Jane Public are incapable of deciding for themselves what is relevant and material and what is not. They need journalists to intercede for them much the same way that Catholic priests were needed to intercede between God and the laity.
Remember the stories we were originally told about Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown? Trayvon Martin was gunned down in cold blood by a white security guard who wrongly assumed that Trayvon was trespassing. Mike Brown was a gentle giant who was looking forward to starting college in a few weeks. Big Mike was murdered by a racist cop while he had his hands in the air trying to surrender. In both cases, it was clearly shown that the media knew or should have known the truth but reported something else.
It has been a long time since the news media reported “Just the facts, ma’am.”
The media tells us that Trump is divisive. But it is actually the media that is being divisive. They lie, deny, conceal, and selectively reveal in order to manipulate us. Imagine if you will a world in which the news media gave Donald Trump the same kind of knobslobbing coverage that Obama got. Or where Obama got the same kind of vetting that the media gave Sarah Palin.
Other than Fox News, no national news outlet has any Trump supporters on their staffs. They have plenty of liberal Obama supporters and some TVGOPs. (“I’m not a Republican, I just play one on television.) The media’s idea of a balanced discussion is three liberals and a NeverTrumper.
Do they really think no one has noticed?