The practice of “spinning” a story, or aiming for a particular narrative (during my lifetime), had grown exponentially to the point where I tossed out my television back in 2003. Yep, no cable, no satellite, and I’m proud of my “KILL YOUR TV” mentality; it remains quite strong.

Blame_storming

“Blame Storming” by Erik Pevernagie. The artist states: “If brainstorming becomes ‘blamestorming’ by reason of time pressure or on account of pure laziness, the truth may be assaulted and unyieldingly vilified .”

But now, with the current White House occupiers, “spinning” itself seems to have been tossed in favor of just outright and egregious lies (or “untruths” as the New York Times may print it). Spinning vs. lying, I would argue, they are not the same thing. Spinning is crafty, lying is simple. With spinning you must turn a narrative in a certain direction while still attaching that position to reality. With lying there is no narrative except the one that is created. Not only is lying often detached from reality, it attempts to create a new reality…that isn’t. Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” statement was the signal flag put up by the Trump administration that “spin” is dead and “lying” the new fashion.[1] It’s easier, seemingly effortless, and when called on a lie by the pesky “fake” media, just make another lie.

This bothers me and many others. Truth is foundational to our legal system, our democracy, collective science, and once upon a time… a non-partisan trait.[2]

And this got me to thinking… has money in politics really done that much damage?

I know the Supreme Court’s errant ruling on “Citizen’s United”[3] rankled many, but the issue of those with wealth coupled to their ability to buy “the truth” must be much older than our country.

It is.

In going over some notes for a forthcoming book, I came across the following quote attributed to Silvester Partridge, author of a broadsheet newspaper called the Jesting Astrologer or the Merry Observator back in 1701.

“It will be hard for a poor Man to be thought a good Man, or a rich Man an ill Man, in this Age; whilst Men shall be esteem’d Honest for their Wealth, much rather than their Vertues…”[4]

What Partridge captured is the admission that wealth buys truth. Men shall be esteemed “Honest” for having lots of money, more so than virtue can bring. At the dawn of the eighteenth century, virtue had already taken a backseat to what wealth can deliver. Partridge wrote satirically, but his satire is our window into understanding seventeenth- and eighteenth-century concerns over the moral directions of humanity.

My tolerance for dishonesty, spinning, and lying is truly not very high. My love of liberty, democracy, and justice rely upon truths. I always tell my students that to learn of history is to learn of yourselves – especially in the realm of understanding where and how you fit into the current world order. Apparently “lying” is attempting to become the new norm. If allowed, the implications are huge: Silvester Partridge jotted it down in his Jesting Astrologer back in 1701 – wealth now equals honesty, now equals someone who can do no ill will. Trump’s “shoot a man” quote[5] is a testament to the messianic thoughts of a satirist just trying to make a living in 1701 London. I can only make this one small suggestion: KILL YOUR TV before it takes you!

 


[1] January 22, 2017: https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/conway-press-secretary-gave-alternative-facts-860142147643.

[2] Frieda Gehlen, “Editor’s Notes,” Graziadio Business Review, vol. 7, no. 3 (2004) [https://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/editors-note-seasons/]; Dan Rather, “News is What the Powerful Want to Keep Hidden,” Facebook (2017) [https://www.facebook.com/theDanRather/posts/10158087282405716]; Louis Girifalco, “Scientific Truth,” in The Universal Force: Gravity – Creator of Worlds (Oxford Press, 2007) [http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199228966.001.0001/acprof-9780199228966-chapter-23]; Leon Botstein, “America Universities Must Take A Stand,” New York Times (Feb 8, 2017).

[3] January 21, 2010.

[4] Charles E. Clark, The Public Prints: the Newspaper in Anglo-American Culture, 1665-1740, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 48.

[5] Jan 23, 2016. See [https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/01/23/trump_i_could_stand_in_the_middle_of_fifth_avenue_and_shoot_somebody_and_i_wouldnt_lose_any_voters.html]

Advertisements