Archive for the 'mistakes' Category

Hillary the C. Follows John the K. down Derring-dotalk Slippery Slope

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton’s current “mistake” in her report of bravely landing in Bosnia under enemy fire that has proven to have been non-existent is an outstanding spinspeak case history on why derring-dotalk is such a slippery slope.

She might have learned from the derring-dotalk difficulties of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), whose own 2004 presidential campaign prominently featured so many colorful Viet Nam war stories including his imaginative Christmas boat trip to Cambodia.

Clinton’s actual “mistake” was not having the National Archives or some other government agency redact all newsfilm showing her accepting flowers at the landing ceremony rather than dodging bullets. Kerry adroitly had his own jungle film taken afterward, but forgot to burn the records and shoot all witnesses

Spinspeak Rule 1 for successful derring-dotalk: Make it up out of whole cloth. Rule 2: No cameras. Rule 3: Be the only survivor.

Really, Really That’s the Way It Is: Just a Mistake

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Struggling like a lamed Houdini to extricate himself from a locked safe to which more chains are added by the hour, CBS Anchor Dan Rather along with CBS unloosed six additional varieties of memogate spin to the seven already described in the Spinspeak Letter:

  • The “we were led to believe” spin — We never said they were absolutely the real thing. (Well, not in the last few hours anyway.) And now that everyone but us is saying they are forgeries, we want you, our diminishing viewers, to know that “we were led to believe” they were OK by “others.”
  • The Edward R. Murrow spin = “I’d like to break that story” if those documents turn out to be forgeries. (Of course, the trouble with this spin is that Rather was already scooped by the “ pajama-clad” bloggers who first spotted the fraud.)
  • The “cannot prove that the documents are authentic” spin = See, the problem here is not that the documents are blatant forgeries but that we can’t prove they are real; therefore, maybe they are not forgeries after all, maybe.
  • “I no longer have confidence in these documents” spin = See how we safeguard the viewers’ interest: I, Dan Rather, after much research, now withdraw my confidence in what so many others on whom surely you can’t rely have been calling an outrageous forgery for days.
  • The big “apology” spin = Not for perpetrating and defending a major journalistic fraud for a week, not to the President of the United States for trying to destroy him in a presidential election campaign, but for a “mistake.” And, of course, we all make ‘em, right? As the spindocs for a former President used to say: It’s time to move on.
  • CBS Wins Golden Spinny Award for Memogate

    Thursday, September 16th, 2004

    The Spinspeak Letter has awarded a special Golden Spinny to CBS Anchor Dan Rather and CBS for its handling of the fake documents imbroglio.

    Rather and CBS along with Democratic surrogates have offered at least seven varieties of spin in less than a week as alternate explanations to crass, pajama-clad disbelievers of CBS’ insistence that its newly-discovered documents trashing President Bush’s Air National Guard service are not fakes. The seven varieties:

  • The objective journalism spin – Our reporting on the fake documents is highly professional and accurate even if they are proven to be fake (which we insist they are not.)
  • The truth-will-out spin – The content of the fake documents is accurate even though the documents submitted to prove the content true are really fakes.
  • The victim spin – We have been had by some nerdy, irresponsible computer trickster.
  • The conspiracy spin – The fake documents were given to us by agents of that devilish plotter, Bush Strategist Karl Rove, as part of the vast right wing conspiracy.
  • The technological marvel spin – The documents could indeed have been made to look like 21st Century computer processed documents more than 30 years ago. All it would take would be a highly adroit typist in an Air National Guard office in Texas using an advanced IBM Selectric with a variety of handily installable font balls or maybe a type setter-printer or maybe a secret PC prototype being tested before being shipped to Cambodia.
  • “They” are dodging spin = The Republicans are using the fact that the documents are fakes to avoid answering the unsubstantiated slanders in the fake documents.
  • The first-to-tell-you spin – Should we be wrong, and we are not saying we are wrong, we’ll be first to tell you and “want” to do it.
  • Criteria for Golden Spinnies include “innovation under fire, speed of change in argument, maintenance of sincerity and reasonableness of tone despite extreme provocation including laughter, strong self-delusionary capability and total shamelessness.”

    And That’s the Way It Is: the Accurate Faux Facts

    Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

    The major flap over CBS’ “reporting” on Bush’s National Guard service record based on very apparently fake documents puts under the spin detector’s microscope for study a whole new category of spinspeak: the accurate faux fact.

    Initially, CBS Anchor Dan Rather, with all the sincere relish and mock dourness of a certified Bush basher, reported “new” sensational facts trashing the President’s service in the Air National Guard during the Viet Nam War. The “facts” were based on “newly discovered” documents.

    Within minutes, the “report” began to fray as the authenticity of the documents was questioned on the Internet. Increasingly, hour after hour the documents were exposed by various experts as poorly constructed fakes. Among the more damning of numerous defects: they were miraculously composed by computers and software that didn’t exist in the early 1970’s when the documents allegedly were written.

    It were as if the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled a long-lost Tintoretto of St. Jerome. And there was the saint looking out of his cave at a distant landscape that included a very small World Trade Center in the distance; also the paint was acrylic; also the ornate gold frame was made of genuine Lexan.

    CBS and Rather unloosed a jumbo cloud of spin: they insisted that the documents were authentic; or they insisted that at least they were told the documents were authentic; or they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the source which they would not disclose on their journalistic honor; and, in any case, they insisted that the “reporting” of what the documents said was totally accurate even if the documents were fakes.

    There was the breakthrough in spin technique: the establishment of a new level of journalistic excellence for our times: the careful, professional, absolutely, totally, completely accurate, repetitive reporting of humbug regardless of truth.

    So what’s your problem?