Mike the Mad Biologist

Spin, Lies, and the Straight Bullsh-t Express

Recently, a loyal reader related to me that the house next door to where I grew up sold at about fifteen percent less than the original asking price (not two years ago, housing prices were still climbing). This slashing of housing prices was euphemistically referred to by the broker as a “price enhancement.” Some might call that turning a frown upside down, but its proper name is spin.

While the term price enhancement is spin, it does bear some relationship to truth: after all, it did encourage the buyer to buy. From the buyer’s perspective, this is an enhancement–less money, same amount of housing. Spinning might not be commendable, but, like it or not, it’s part of life. People even spin themselves: how many times have you heard someone try to find the good in a lousy situation that he or she is enduring? Underlying spin is a tangential (at least) relationship to the facts, even if the interpretation leaves much to be desired.

Lying is an all together different beast. In the above, if the realtor had claimed that the house had sold at the original price, not the knockdown price, that would be lying. The observable facts directly contradict what the liar is claiming.

Spinning is part and parcel of politics. To a certain extent, it’s an integral part of the process. Politicians have to convince different parties, who might actually be in opposition to each other, that they all got something. Likewise, the parties themselves usually spin themselves (and their supporters). But flat out lying is different–if nothing else, if a politician breaks his word enough times (which is different from offering ‘support’), then he can’t be trusted to do a deal.

Which brings me to McCain’s Straight Bullshit Express. An aside: anytime a politician paints “Straight Talk” in huge letters on the side of anything, you’re probably getting anything but straight talk. Why people fall for such obvious bullshit boggles my mind. Anyway, back to the McCain campaign. Frank Rich on Sarah Palin:

Most of the rest of the biography supplied by her and the McCain camp is fiction.

She didn’t say “no thanks” to the “Bridge to Nowhere” until after Congress had already abandoned it but given Alaska a blank check for $223 million in taxpayers’ money anyway. Far from rejecting federal pork, she hired lobbyists to secure her town a disproportionate share of earmarks ($1,000 per resident in 2002, 20 times the per capita average in other states). Though McCain claimed “she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,” she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard. As for her “executive experience” as mayor, she told her hometown paper in Wasilla, Alaska, in 1996, the year of her election: “It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.” Her much-advertised crusade against officials abusing their office is now compromised by a bipartisan ethics investigation into charges that she did the same.

How long before we learn she never shot a moose?

This is called lying, and, as Hilzoy notes, is incredibly corrosive to our political system (boldface mine; italics original):

When politicians lie — and here I mean not just putting the best spin on things, but out and out lying — they might as well walk up to each and every one of us and say: Hello! I have no respect for the value of your time! You might have other things to do — work, playing with your kids, taking a long hike in the mountains, whatever — but I don’t care. I’m going to put you in a position where you’re going to have to research everything I say, or else just give up on your civic duty. You don’t get to assume that my words are, if not exactly true, at least somewhere in the general vicinity of the truth, and decide whether or not to vote for me. If you want to be an informed citizen, you’ll have to become obsessive, like hilzoy.

They might as well add: I have no respect for democracy. In a democracy, citizens listen to what each side has to say and decide who to vote for. To work, it requires that what each side says bears some resemblance to the truth. If I cared about democracy, I’d respect those limits — maybe stretching the truth every now and then, but generally maintaining some sort of relationship between what I say and reality. But guess what? I don’t care about democracy! If winning requires that I make things up out of whole cloth and hope that I’m successful enough to frustrate the popular will, then that’s what I’ll do. Don’t like it? Think democracy is a good system, one that we should cherish? That’s just too bad.

But Palin has gone beyond this. She is not just telling lies; she’s telling lies that have been exposed as lies, and that have gotten a lot of attention. Assuming she does not actually want to lose, she must assume that her audience either doesn’t know that she’s lying, or doesn’t care. In either case, it’s deeply cynical, and deeply insulting.

I’m not a huge fan of Obama’s policies; if it were up to me, I would choose different policies, but since I’m not willing to run for office, I gets what I pays for.

But Obama isn’t lying.

McCain is. If you vote for him, you have no idea what you’re getting–particularly if you listen to what he says.

There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers. Which are you?

Troll-Be-Gone: Don’t bring the ‘honest Republican’ shit here. McCain’s and Palin’s campaign is predicated on falsehood after falsehood. There are no honest Republican presidential candidates in 2008 anymore than there are Magic Ponies.

Comments

  1. #1 Becca
    September 10, 2008

    I checked out the McCain website recently. It gave me a truly queasy sense of 1984… “Ministry of Truth. Ministry of Plenty. Ministry of Peace”

    Headline from the website:
    “Reform. Propsertity. Peace”

    Yeah. And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I’d like you to give me money for (but not build)…

  2. #2 pough
    September 10, 2008

    Well, the “Propsertity” part might be true, or at least cromulent.

  3. #3 Troublesome Frog
    September 10, 2008

    Headline from the website:
    “Reform. Propsertity. Peace”

    To paraphrase Brian Regan, these types of empty slogans only make sense if your opponent’s web site says something like, “Barack Obama: Laziness! Thievery!”

  4. #4 Jared
    September 10, 2008

    At this point, I’m so disenchanted with the political scene in the states, I’m contemplating an emigration from her to possibly Europe or Japan. I doubt honesty will be there, but perhaps intelligence may be slightly more abundant (present, at least) in the political scene.

    P.S. Obama’s policies do, in fact, suck
    P.P.S. McCain’s entire campaign is, in fact, built upon lies
    P.P.P.S. You wouldn’t be elected; only professional liars/politicians get elected in this country!

  5. #5 Lord Reptor
    September 10, 2008

    American politics are a good example of the way pushme-pullyou dualist mind-blinders are far too inefficient a method for herding modern sheeple. We deserve better control systems – adaptive nonarchies, authority levels interacting like software modules, intersecting like Venn diagrams.

    Hierarchic, surplus-based, walled-city agriculturalist/technolical empires = cultural crack. Ruined land, ruined cultural knowledge, degrading to the level of ANTS.

    Obama? McCain? Who cares? If any of you have read Pohl&Kornbluth’s Space Merchants, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s like the difference between Universal and Starrzelius Verily.

    If you haven’t, do. That and their Gladiator-At-Law will tell you all you need to know about what’s coming down the pipes here (although a little Jared Diamond won’t hurt you either). For instructions on what to do…well, I guess maybe Fahrenheit 451.

    Back to my notepad in the sun,
    Lord Reptor.

  6. #6 Joshua
    September 10, 2008

    Unfortunately, thanks to crap like this that plays into people’s fears of the Angry Black Man, McCain will probably win.

  7. #7 Turcano
    September 10, 2008

    There are no honest Republican presidential candidates in 2008 anymore than there are Magic Ponies.

    That’s putting it mildly. There hasn’t been an honest Republican presidential candidate since 1956.

  8. #8 A
    September 10, 2008

    “The Lie Is The Plan” as noted in more detail at
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/9/10/2132/39817
    Given there:
    ” John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters’ opinions of the candidates.
    “The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there’s a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she’s new, she’s popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent,” Feehery said. “As long as those are out there, these little facts don’t really matter.”

    And the media/press has given up on calling lies lies, see
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2008/09/19-reasons-why.html#comment-129827468

  9. #9 Grant S. Boardman
    September 11, 2008

    Politics aside it doesn’t matter because we don’t live in a true democracy, it is really up to whoever is in the Electoral College now (i.e. your vote doesn’t really count anyway, which is why I could never understand recounting votes in Florida). So, if the EC guys want to continue the war or are just plain scared of African Americans, McCain is going to win.

  10. #10 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    September 12, 2008