If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, it still makes a sound. When a forest of screaming pundits crash into each other on TV (or online), everyone hears it. But it doesn’t matter.
The cacophony of Liberal vs. Conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, has reached a boiling cauldron of over-caffeinated pollsters, pundits and publicists yelling at each other, dissipating into the atmosphere like wisps of steam.
As Wikipedia informs us, Spin is “a form of propaganda achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, ‘spin’ often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics.”
In the 2012 presidential election, both sides reacted so quickly, and so enthusiastically, to each alleged tipping point, they canceled each other like Sumo wrestlers in a phone booth. Think about it … how many “game changers” made a difference?
* The vice presidential selection
* The Republican Convention
* The Democratic Convention
* Governor Romney’s “47 percent” secretly taped video
* President Obama’s tepid performance in the Denver debate
* The vice presidential debate
* The (insert month here) unemployment report
* The (insert month here) growth report
* The second debate
* The third debate
* Hurricane Sandy
“The arguments were small,” said reporters at Politico. “Dozens of days were dominated by uproars over careless but inconsequential remarks by one candidate or another, with much of the debate playing out on cable TV and Twitter both of which shaped the contest in an unprecedented fashion.”
I agree with Politico that the arguments were indeed small, but I contradict that TV and Twitter shaped the contest at all. They made no difference. Audiences are used to both sides preparing for every issue with pundits, politicians and pollsters. But people are rarely moved by “Gotcha” Either the sides are too entrenched in their opinions or they completely discount the verbal food fights.
In his final electoral college prognostication, Nate Silver, the uncannily accurate statistician and pollster for the New York Times, predicted a victory for President Obama that was almost unchanged from the days before the first presidential debate in Denver. If that polling result doesn’t prove the ineffectiveness of Spin, nothing will.
Spin is Dead. It’s possible people change their minds or make decisions based on long-term trends, new facts or developments, the opinions of their family or friends, or any number of factors. But the lesson of the 2012 presidential election is that short-term occurrences, buffeted by Spin, don’t matter very much.
That doesn’t mean we won’t hear it any more, I’m not naïve. It just means the practice of relentlessly twisting any subject into a pretzel-shaped win for your side and a loss for the other team, has lost its impact. Rest in Peace. We could all use some quiet, civility, and conversations conducted at respectful volumes.
Robert Wynneis a public relations professional based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. He has consulted for large firms, start-ups and leading universities. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and also found atwww.wynnepr.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/robwynne.