Tuesday, November 6, 2012

So Much Spin...I'm Dizzy!

“If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read 
"President Can't Swim”.  Lyndon B. Johnson

By the time you read this the 2012 Presidential election will be over. 

Thank God! 

Hope your candidate won. Also hope my candidate won. So I guess what I am saying is, I hope we have the same candidate. And he won.

But you will never know.

I have decided that in a country so deeply divided it would be wise to keep my personal political choices a private matter (so as not to risk being ostracized by the opposing side). My father often quoted a kernel of country wisdom that holds more truth today than ever before: Avoid the front side of a bull, the back side of a mule, and both sides of a political issue.

During this election I have learned a number of things from Facebook:
1) I have friends on both sides of the fence (many of whom have defriended each other because of the election).
2) Some of them will be very disappointed with the election results.
3) A somewhat larger number will be elated with the election results.
4) I want to keep them all as friends regardless of  how they voted because I love my friends more than I love my politics because I trust my friends more than I trust my politicians. Perhaps that sounds needy or greedy, but it is actually very difficult to remain neutral in these divisive times. After all, it would be so much easier to only associate with people that shared my political points of view; think of all we would have to talk about, such as, “We are right and they are wrong. Love talking to you!”

We are in an age where many have become so inflexible in their opinions that having a polite discourse with a member of the rival party is now a waste of time. Besides, to have a civil debate about the issues with someone that disagrees with you runs the risk they might change your mind, then you would have to change the channel you get your “news” from, and who needs that kind of hassle. Where politics are concerned “compromise” has become a dirty word. Everything is black and white. Maybe they’ve developed a Political Grecian Formula, because grey areas have disappeared. I, for one, miss the time when the political canyon was still able to be bridged by conversation, but now the chasm is so great that it terrifies most folks to even stand near the edge, much less try to see the other side. Sad, because factual, rational deliberation is a pillar of democracy.

I always avoid the temptation of trying to force my opinion on others (although to me, my opinion seems so convincing!) I know everyone views the world through a unique lens tinted by their emotional make-up and experience. However, I never avoid a friendly discussion. Unlike most, I remain fascinated with why people feel the way they do, even more so if they feel differently than I do, because I agree with Abigail Adams’ observation, “I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.”

These days it seems the number of conflicting viewpoints has dwindled down to two, and you must pick one. Will it be Conservative Red Elephants or Liberal Blue Donkeys? Rush Limbaugh or Chris Mathews? Ann Coulter or Rachel Maddow? Dennis Miller or Bill Maher? Clint Eastwood or George Clooney? FOX News or MSNBC? NRA or ACLU? Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Hatfields or McCoys?

Hurry and pick your team. Because the sooner you know what team you’re on the sooner you can close your mind and open your mouth. Let the group-think hate-speech begin! (Remember group-think within your party is “team mentality” but within the other party it is “mob mentality.”)

The above is a perfect example of “spin” which is a nice way of saying “lies.” Spin is what LBJ was referring to in his quote at the beginning of this column. Someone recently emailed me another example:

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogical researcher, discovered that Hillary Clinton's great-great uncle, Remus Rodham, was hanged for horsestealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is this inscription:

"Remus Rodham; horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.”

Judy e-mailed Hillary Clinton for comments. Hillary's staff of professional image adjusters sent back the following biographical sketch:

"Remus Rodham 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. 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, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

This is undeniably a funny example of political spin. Funny in two ways: funny to claim someone that was hanged “passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed" and funny because I got this very same story emailed to me during the Bush-Kerry election with name Rodham changed to Bush. I discovered on Snopes.com that both versions of the story are big fat lies.

Campaigns are not decided on which party has the best candidate but which has the best spin doctors. These people rely on a highly creative presentation of facts involving deception and manipulation to promote their party’s agenda. Spin is so accepted that it makes believing either side impossible, thus making an informed decision near impossible. Both sides can back up their arguments with distorted facts; we all know they are doing it, but we are powerless to stop them. We simply shrug and say, “Oh well, all politicians lie.” I did a Google search for “Obama lies Romney lies” and got a total of 227 million hits, more than one for each eligible American voter. But if we all agree most politicians on either side are power hungry liars, why do we let them tear us apart?

I encourage you in the next election to fully explore both sides of every issue rather than wander blindly down party lines. Initiate polite debate with people of all political affiliations rather than dismiss their opinions before listening to them, and at the very least, agree to disagree. Dig deep for the facts rather than accept the spin. Because if you really examine it—you will find—that politics is like an onion, and if you peel away each layer—you will find—more stinky stuff that makes you cry.

My name is Steven Kent McFarlin and I approve this message.

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