When spin wins, public loses

We are now firmly ensconced in, as someone else aptly termed it, the political silly season.

Personally I think the adjective “silly” is far too innocuous. The dictionary defines “silly”  as “having or showing a lack of common sense or judgment; absurd and foolish,” and “used to convey that an activity or process has been engaged in to such a degree that someone is no longer capable of thinking or acting sensibly.”

While the definition cited above is certainly an accurate observation of the political silly season, it fails to convey the ulterior motive of those who actively work to create it, and there is an ulterior motive with a purpose behind the surreal circus of the political silly season.

The silly season obscures facts, hides truths, and boldly promotes distortion and falsehoods until up equals down and fallacies become facts. It’s like the old saying, “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” It’s as easy as denying words captured on video by simply saying “I disagree I said that” and if repeated often enough, it works all too often. And when pure spinning doesn’t work, diversions and deflection can accomplish the same result.

Karl Rove, the wildly successful Republican campaign guru, is famously known for describing his approach to successful campaigning as attacking and discrediting an opponent’s strengths. Only wusses need bother with an opponent’s weaknesses, according to Rove’s strategy. Removing an opponent’s strengths by creating an alternative, albeit false, reality is far more effective.

The Rovian examples are well-documented and legendary. In 2000, Republican John McCain’s war hero status and reputation for integrity was tarnished by an unprecedented campaign of robo-calls falsely accusing McCain of adopting his own illegitimate child fathered during his years of service in Vietnam. Democrat John Kerry’s medals received during his two voluntary tours of duty in Vietnam were tarnished by the since-discredited Swift Boat Veterans allegations. Now the term “swiftboating” has become shorthand for a malicious and false personal campaign smear.

All’s fair in love, war and politics — fraudulent, specious, Machiavellian, sometimes malevolent, but effective nonetheless.

Presidential campaigns bring out the worst of the worst and the humorous adage about knowing a politician is lying when his lips move seems accurate much too often. Fortunately, some independent, non-partisan fact-finding organizations exist for those more interested in reality than spin. (Try www.factcheck.org and www.politifact.com for a look at prevaricators and accomplished spinners of all political bents and parties.)

Perhaps I’m too naïve for my own good, but I’m surprised that our own local campaign season is now producing the same spin, falsehoods and creation of alternative reality for a political purpose. Perhaps I’m too much of an optimist, but I continue to believe our local behavior can outshine that of the toxic swamp of national politics.

One of the spurious spins involves me and my writing about LHCDC.  Despite the clear record of researching, documenting and reporting to our community from facts in the public record since January 2011, in the last month or so I’ve been repeatedly accused of underhanded campaigning. Suddenly some folks have decided my reporting about LHCDC is part of a conspiracy that would had to have begun 16 months ago, when I wrote the first column about LHCDC and the Lompoc Theatre. (Someone also keeps falsely insisting I live in Santa Maria. Nothing against Santa Maria, but I live in Lompoc.)

For these folks, the facts no longer matter because the spin is more important, especially during campaign season. Refraining from reporting facts for fear of offending someone is politics at its worst. Facts have political ramifications, certainly, and denying their existence by countering them with diversion and falsehoods may be crafty, but it is also unprincipled.

On May 15, I gave City Council members a list of the loans and one grant awarded to LHCDC from 2003 through 2009 for a proposed development on a vacant lot in the 500 block of North T St. The amounts of the grant, unpaid loans, and $140,000 the city must reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the original noncompliant loan that failed to produce anything totals $581,000. Thus, a vacant lot on North T Street, which the city now owns, was essentially purchased by the city of Lompoc and its residents for $581,000.

That’s why facts matter, even when spin wins.

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