Friday, February 15, 2008

¿good spin?


.... Perhaps good spin is an oxymoron, moral if not linguistic. But good spin is clever and forward-leaning pitches of actual realities, facts. The word in the sense we use it today actually came into being in the early 90s and to a great degree around the '92 Clinton campaign, which had such mastery in its practice.
But this Clinton campaign has been doing it in a weird parody mode. Not sharp 'spins' on favorable realities, but aggressive pitches of complete nonsense.
So now you have Penn successively saying caucus wins don't really count, small state wins don't really count, medium state wins don't really count, states with large African-American populations don't really count, all building up to yesterday's gem: "Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn't won any of the significant states -- outside of Illinois? That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama."

Clinton is ultimately responsible for putting her political fate in this fool's hands. But this is a guy who has basically one big political win under his belt and whose record in seriously contested races, particularly Democratic primary races is one of almost constant defeats. Much of Clinton's current predicament stems from Penn's disastrous, glass-jaw 'inevitability' strategy and the mind-boggling decision not even to contest a slew of states where Obama racked up huge victories and many delegates.

Campaigns are about winning votes not making excuses. There are plenty of delegates still out there for Clinton to win -- over a thousand left in the remaining primaries. But her efforts are being stymied by a campaign apparatus rooted in the belief that any new reality can be overturned by pretending it away.

--Josh Marshall
more ... on TPM
. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

ed. this is Thrasymachus at the helm (Josh Marshall is calling him a "clown" and a "fool" [and a "goof"; and a "swaggering oaf"; and "an overrated incompetent excelling mainly in being a showboating buffoon"]; someone else might be [slightly less] derisive and choose a milder term like 'doofus'). But whatever you call it, this brand of 'leadership' or 'wisdom' is at the very heart of what needs to change.

Our institutions, our corporations, our political campaigns are often led not by skilled pilots, but by ace rhetoricians. The 'Change' we need in this election is precisely a change away from leaders driven by 'the belief that any new reality can be overturned by pretending it away.' And more perniciously, the belief that every selfish advantage may be pursued by means of rhetorical or other trickery, notwithstanding the merits.

That's not integrity: that's a Rovean race to the bottom. We need a change to leaders with integrity. With intellectual honesty. Clear, substantive communicators; not spin doctors.
[Thrasymachus] is so convinced of the power of art, and of his art in particular, to accomplish whatever one wants that he does not feel compelled to look for the permanent limits and ends which cannot be altered by art.
The Republic of Plato (A. Bloom trans.), Basic Books, Second Edition (Paris 1991), pp. 340-41
[alibris / amazon]

In this networked information age, reality is no longer such a diffuse gas or formless liquid. There is a certain viscosity to reality, in this new age. A certain ability for information to hang together across dimensions. I perceive this viscosity to be increasing, rapidly. Firm factual footholds are everywhere to be found.
Here Thrasymachus might interrupt me mid-sentence to object that reality has not been (nor could ever be) fully specified or ascertained. Thrasymachus would likely expect that this observation would entirely counter my notion of the increasing viscosity of reality (a species of the rhetorical ploy I call 'multiplying by zero', which blends Schopenhauer's strategems 14, 20 & 25, among others). In other words, if the substance (reality) is not a 'solid,' then it's as good as a gas?

Well, Thrasymachus, I would reply, that does not stand to reason. A viscous substance is very different from a gas, and the fact that it is not a 'solid' does not nullify this difference. And in any event, it does not obviate an honest investigation of the properties of the substance (including its alleged viscosity) or its potential applications.
Something is different in the world today that is driving a change to a politics of integrity, of rigorous attention to the merits, of clear and substantive communication.

Lawrence Lessig articulates this concern with the Clinton campaign's use of Rovean tactics in his short film explaining why he is supporting Obama over Clinton.

Update 2.25.2008: Hillary campaign self-exemplifies its Rovean tactics by accusing Obama of engaging in Rovean tactics.

Update 3.6.2008: Huff Po: "After her New Hampshire comeback, Clinton famously declared: 'I found my own voice.' For this latest comeback, she found Karl Rove's voice."

Update: 3.7.2008: David Corn
How can the Clintonites justify tossing questions about Rezko at Obama but decrying his questions about her tax returns, equating his queries with Ken Starr's inquisition into Whitewater and Monicagate? Well, they don't have to justify this absurd contradiction. They can just keep spinning, throwing what they can at Obama and crying foul when anything is tossed their way. Presenting an honest, logical, fair, and consistent argument is not their aim; winning is.
Update: 3.28.2008: ¿Details Matter? look who's talking.

Update: 4.4.2008: ¿uth?

& Andrew Sullivan 4.23.2008

& Robert Reich & Glenn Loury 4.28.2008& Mike Allen Politico 8.10.2008

& TPM 8.11.2008

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