Monday, July 11, 2016

Great Spinning Freedom

 With political propaganda spin one should only feed at a rate of spin that can be reasonably assimilated. The information spins about; the listener should not. As we approach the political conventions, and the presumptive nominees for the two main parties become the actual nominees, we will be entering a time when many facts will be spinning out of control. Social media will be dizzy with half-formed opinions, and the sense of some imminent crash, with burning, will color most reasonable dialog about the future. 

“A spin is a special category of stall resulting in autorotation about the vertical axis and a shallow, rotating, downward path. Spins can be entered intentionally or unintentionally, from any flight attitude if the aircraft has sufficient yaw while at the stall point.” – 1943 Navy Pilot Training Film


Spin is a type of misdirection that falls slightly short of a boldface lie. Narcissists who live in a world centered about themselves might score every morsel of communication for spin. Sociopaths who critically need to control the thoughts of others will tally up the positive and negative spin in a conversation, and apply pressure to move interpretation of information in whatever way they had preciously decided the data as a whole should spin. The political spinner will compare discovered facts to a prepared tactical outline, and gather up the details that appear to augment some milestone communication goal. Positive-spin facts become part of a constant refrain; while negative-spin information gets lost or buried under trivia and euphemisms. Political propaganda during a presidential election year can sound like an extended conversation with arguing narcissists.

When piloting a plane it is possible to enter into a spin state where the aircraft cannot regain the attitude of normal flight; in a natural fully-developed uncontrolled spin in the Earth’s atmosphere the pilot experiences a maximum of only 1G of force.


Two of my favorite euphemisms that populist candidates trot out are “freedom” and “great”. I received a letter from one of the two major presidential candidates that had words to the effect of “Make America Great Again” on the outside of the envelope. I suppose America was, and can be again, “Great” because of “Freedom”, but I will have to open the letter to maybe find out. I am a little afraid that there will be no understandable description of anything a president might actually plan to do in the letter.

The term “spin”, as a way to describe a type of political propaganda, actually comes from the saying “To spin a tall Yarn”, and not the uncontrolled motion of a plane before it crashes. I think the idea of a plane crashing and burning resonates more with the current political climate in the USA.

In interpersonal dialog a sociopath or narcissist will blow through extended parts of a conversation using euphemisms to confuse discussion of any negative-spin data. They will repeatedly benchmark and define a term until it has meant several different –often incompatible- things in the conversation. “Great”, which does not sound like a typical euphemism for anything, can be benchmarked to the point where a set of circumstances can only be considered literally great if sifted through a filter of pretzel logic; it becomes, in the narcissist’s vocabulary, a euphemism either for a particular real set of events or an undefined fantasy condition.The candidate who wants to make things "great" again does not want to recreate a previous condition.  He just wants some kind of great that once was; great as in something good only HUGE. 

Freedom is worse as it can be used almost like an adjective-noun-verb to describe all sorts of things American, or maybe, more specifically, a junior high school version of American reality. We have freedom, or there is a freedom lifestyle, or I feel freedom. In a literal world freedom is defined by the lack of constraints, and implies some level of change in level of control or restraint. In the sociopath’s world it becomes a wish-washy feel-good term that is used to cloud any uncomfortable actual data.

The American Propagandist Edward Louis Bernays is credited with developing political spin into the modern artform it is today. Technology has certainly added a lot of leverage to what we experience as spin today (Bernays died in 1995), but Bernays’s post WWI epiphanies held the seed of what we now call spin. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and was assuredly primed to view the effects of his WWI propaganda as a mass psychology event. Give people large doses of the right kind of information while repressing the wrong kind, and their opinions start to turn; get them to turn fast enough and you have spinning.

The American public "could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above." – Anne Bernays quoting her father


Spin was a way of feeding people the right kind of attitude along with their information. Enlightened despotism became the model for a working American “Democracy”. People would get facts, but in such a way as to secure eventual opinions (and –of course- votes). Each camp has its spin doctors and spinmeisters, and it might be impossible for anyone to get elected without these professionals. However, spin eats up conversations with its reliance on obfuscation and misdirection.

If a conversation gets to spinning things too fast I feel nauseous.





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