Friday, February 24, 2006

Say What You Will -- The Scary Spin Cycle

Lately, I've run into two opposing camps of Spin. Though at first glance, they seem diametrically opposed, they are actually mirrors of each other.

Camp 1: What Isn't, Is.

Anyone who ever heard the words "weapons of mass destruction" and "Iraq" in the same sentence has visited this camp. This Spin cycle posits that saying something will make it so.

The tabloids and other salacious rags do this all the time. Here's my current favorite example, taken from that paragon of journalistic excellence, GLOBE . It's from the February 20 edition -- the one with "Prince William ELOPES!" on the cover, and the one that trumpets the "American Idol Shocker" that Clay is ::gasp:: gay.

Of course, the issue is rife with Camp 1 spin, but the one that warms this writer's soul is the following quote from "Hooker's Sizzling Tell-All on West Wing Boss," an article about former call girl Dimitra Ekmektisis dishing decades-old dirt on Aaron Sorkin (p. 30):

Dimitra is now telling all in a blockbuster new book, Confessions of a High-Priced Call Girl, for which she is seeking a publisher.

See? Camp 1 all over the place. The sentence is a blatant, flat-out, English language impossibility. Either a book is a blockbuster, or it is unpublished. It cannot be both. God Himself cannot make an unpublished book a blockbuster without first putting the thing in print.


(If you actually pick up the magazine -- not something I'm suggesting or recommending, mind you -- don't miss the ad for the Crock Pot Racing slow cooker . It is THE kitchen must-have for the NASCAR set. Choose from many featured drivers, including Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. All major credit cards accepted. Order yours today!)

Camp 2: What Is, Isn't.

To visit Camp 2 is to bury your head in the sand and pretend that you don't know, haven't heard, or don't care about something. Camp 2's motto is: "Shut up and play your X-Box."

Camp 2's unmistakable stamp is all over the place, too. It's not so obvious in the tabloids or other media intended for bathroom reading. But it makes frequent appearances in the mainstream press.

A recent example happened at the end of January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Kellogg Brown & Root (a Halliburton subsidiary) a $385 million contract to construct U.S. based detention centers in order to deal with “an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.” (Market Watch, 1/26/06)

Which, of course, begs the questions, "The rapid development of WHAT new programs?" and "What new programs will make it necessary to detain up to 5,000 people in one place on American soil?" and "Are these programs already in the works?"

Read the story for yourself. Don't skip over the part about the Pentagon’s Civilian Inmate Labor Program that “provides Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations.”

As I see it, constructing detention centers capable of holding thousands of people, and stipulating policy for putting civilian prisoners to work on military installations is at least as important as Tom and Katie breaking up. But in Camp 2, if you don't report it, it doesn't exist.

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an article about the awarding to KBR of the construction contract, but didn't allot much ink to the issue of what was being constructed.

Either way you slice it, Spin is in. In the current marketplace, and in current media, it pays to belong to one camp or the other. Evidently the truth just doesn't sell well...