Sunday, January 8, 2012

Occupy The Spin Room

Last night, there was a Republican debate in Concord, New Hampshire. It went a lot like all the others: Mitt Romney remained the frontrunner while the others tore each other apart. What specifically happened is not our focus, although highlights included Rick Perry expressing a desire to send troops back into Iraq, and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul getting into it over service in Vietnam. (Both Gingrich and Paul are correct in their stories, though Paul left out one little bit of info- Gingrich had a paternal exemption, and Paul did not have it available to him, plus Gingrich already had his father serving at the time- but Paul absolutely came out the better of the exchange.)

No, our focus is on what happened afterwards. As you probably know, after every debate the media proceeds to a 'spin room', where staffers of the candidates and perhaps the candidates themselves tell the media why they won the debate. (Because nobody's ever going to claim that they lost.) The media goes there, listens to the spin, and then files their stories in the most blatant, brazen example of bad journalism there is.

So the media, so used to the trappings of the spin room, was miffed when their passage into the room was blocked and delayed by a "security issue", which turned out to be the Occupiers, who delayed the media enough to cause them to miss being able to talk to Rick Santorum before he had to be off to South Carolina.

This isn't really about the Occupiers (although rock on, Occupiers). This is about the spin room. Jon Stewart, on the night in 2004 he essentially got Crossfire cancelled, made note of this. Here's the transcript of that:

JON STEWART: But let me ask you guys, again, a question, because we talked a little bit about, you're actually doing honest debate and all that. But, after the debates, where do you guys head to right afterwards?
TUCKER CARLSON: The men's room.
STEWART: Right after that?
STEWART: Spin alley.
STEWART: No, spin alley.
BEGALA: What are you talking about? You mean at these debates?
STEWART: Yes. You go to spin alley, the place called spin alley. Now, don't you think that, for people watching at home, that's kind of a drag, that you're literally walking to a place called deception lane? (LAUGHTER) Like, it's spin alley. It's -- don't you see, that's the issue I'm trying to talk to you guys...
BEGALA: No, I actually believe -- I have a lot of friends who work for President Bush. I went to college with some of them.
CARLSON: Neither of us was ever in the spin room, actually.
BEGALA: No, I did -- I went to do the Larry King show. They actually believe what they're saying. They want to persuade you. That's what they're trying to do by spinning. But I don't doubt for a minute these people who work for President Bush, who I disagree with on everything, they believe that stuff, Jon. This is not a lie or a deception at all. They believe in him, just like I believe in my guy.
STEWART: I think they believe President Bush would do a better job. And I believe the Kerry guys believe President Kerry would do a better job. But what I believe is, they're not making honest arguments. So what they're doing is, in their mind, the ends justify the means.

And this is why I cheer the Occupiers here. Whether or not it was their goal to do so, they blocked off the spin room, if only for a little while. The mere existence of the spin room is bad journalism. Here you've just sat through a whole Presidential debate, the thing you're here to cover. You at that moment have all you need to start filing your report. Why in the world would you want this report colored by going into a room that announces, up front, 'This room is full of people who are at best biased and at worst attempting to deceive you', and then incorporating what those people say into the report, very possibly without even fact-checking or disputing what they say? What good comes of that?

And why does it take a protest movement to even delay them from going there again?

No comments: