The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You spin me right round

There's been a lot of spinning lately. Or at least, a lot of accusations of it. There's a school of thought, it seems, that everyone on the Other Side is spinning, but no one on yours. Of course this isn't true.

But what's also untrue is the somewhat po-mo belief that everybody is spinning all the time.

Many bloggers, many politicians, many columnists, many people (the former all being subsets of the latter, remember), write and say what they truly think, what they truly feel, not just what they think is politically advantageous. Sometimes honestly stated true opinion, or baldly stated facts, are also the politically savvy thing to propogate, sometimes not so much.

Perhaps dismissively saying "that's just spin" (the new "that's just bullshit") is actually not sufficient as an argument on its own. I suggest that maybe those who wish to debate need to find something more substantial than an accusation of spin.

I write this not just for you to read but also as a reminder to myself. Lately I find myself reading a lot of posts, particularly on Kiwiblog to be honest, and thinking "that's just spin."* My thoughts don't generally go much deeper than that. I know that I believe the other writer to be totally incorrect, but I don't bother constructing an argument, writing a comment, rebutting them on my own blog. Instead I just think, gee I really just want to write a three word comment to this: "spin, spin, spin".

So far I've resisted the urge. So far. I'm no purer than anyone else I suspect.

What do bloggers owe their readers? Do we owe you honesty? Do we owe you truth? No, not really.

A comment Make Tea Not War made (on a post she wrote about phalloblogcentrism at What We Said) challenged me to think about the annoyance I feel when other bloggers don't link or hat tip - we don't even owe each other that. There is no code of ethics for nz pol bloggers.

Personally, I am not generally crafting my posts to achieve a desired impact on the political landscape, nor do I lie** on here. For one this blog is too insignificant for that to be worthwhile. For two I can't be bothered. For three I'm more interested in putting my actual thoughts out there and getting some feedback. Others may share my motives, some may not.

Anyway, this has all been rotating in my head a while and it's getting in the way of me blogging about other stuff. Luckily, as you can see from the most recent Linky Love, there are many others not suffering from my internal thought-churning.

Normal (political) service no doubt resuming soon, but I'm be keen to procure the thoughts of others, by way of comments, on this post. Leave a message after the beep if you please.

* One example that particularly comes to mind is DPF's allegation that Wesley Primary possibly turned down Tastifoods free breakfasts offer as a result of Labour people talking to the PPTA, then a PPTA official saying something to PPTA members at the school, possibly the Principal. If you seriously want me to rebut this lunacy then I'm happy to do so, just say the word in comments.

** Note please - a lie is different from a mistake. I'm certainly not saying I've never made a mistake on Spanblather.


G7 said...

Currently DPF is really going off the deep end of readable and intelligent, he has put a foot in the sewer for sure.

There are definitely two different types of political blogs: promotional and thoughtful. You should be glad that yours falls into the latter category (which I would say is led by No Right Turn at the moment).

The promotional category is definitely filled up with right-wing blogs, partially due to simple anger at a Labour-led government, but also due to the number of scandals the government has faced. Left-wing blogs are (at the moment) more thoughtful. I would expect this to change if the government changed as well.

Placing an argument on a promotional blog is going to lead nowhere, it is all about slogans and who can shout the loudest. I wouldn't bother at the moment. It's still 22 months out from the next election.

(sorry if this posts twice, but nothing happened the first time)

Lyndon said...

Props. I would add the DPF didn't just make the allegation, he said you'd have to be hopelessly naive to believe otherwise. Given that when John Key raised it in a PR (yes, really) he cited no evidence at all (apart from the appearance of having changed their mind) I think I have a right to be sceptical.

Sometimes I think that when DPF links to some things, without explicitly agreeing with them, it's a sign that he wants to propogate an idea or invite a conclusion, but isn't prepared to endorse it himself. Which is a kind of standard.

I find disagreeing in the comments isn't worth the trauma.

Anonymous said...

Have to put a spanner in the works here, so to speak, ALL pols do is SPIN, it's their job to talk crap 's what their taught at pol school! And I'm not even being cynical yet ;-)

I'm too lazy to set up blogger account.

Amanda said...

Maybe this is cynical but IMO a lot of people don't actually wish to debate in any thoughtful way. They are just engaged in, what they see as, bloodsport or a game. I don't see much point in engaging with this mentality- it just annoys me- and I'd prefer not to be one of those people myself (though TBH I haven't always resisted the temptation to as well as I might of.)

Idiot/Savant said...

G7: while the promotional/thoughtful distinction is tempting, its a serious mistake to put me in the latter category. Like most other political blogs, I am blogging to change the world, by propagating my own political viewpoint.

, however, I try and maintain some basic intellectual standards in doing so.

Anonymous said...

Are we really just talking about DPF here? DPF has become to clever by half, and way to clever for the good of his own blog. I've never met him, though by all accounts he is fine fellow IRL. But nowadays he uses his blog in a most shamefully dishonest and manipulative wayand I've given up going there because his disingenuousness infuriates me and I just endf up losing my temper in the comments section.

Jordan spins, but he is not as dishonest about it as DPF. At the end of the day, its the insulting of your intelligence, the pious dishonesty - the hypocrisy - that drives you nuts, not the partisanship or otherwise of a blogger.

Span said...

This isn't just about DPF, in fact when I wrote this post I only mentioned DPF in passing. Interesting though that this is what commenters have focused on(and other bloggers such as Idsy in his post linked below too).

What is really causing me to consider ripping out my hair and running around the room gibbering (wouldn't take very long, tiny room) is the way that people are:
a) just writing off arguments they don't agree with as "spin", which suggests that it is not a genuinely held position;
b) not actually debating, but using "spin" as a short hand for an argument.

It's counter productive imho. Not to mention annoying!!

Anonymous said...

DPF has fallen prey to the bloggers malaise, the hunger for attention supplants to the need to be honest. Too clever by half and he taints National by doing so, and I thank him for it.

Anonymous said...

I liked your comments about the NZ blogging scene back in January on the Whatwesaid link.

I agree that traffic gets to saturation point very quickly here if you are a political blogger and the only way to attract readers is to start 'blog wars', attack your commenters, or write misogynist rubbish.

I thought Amanda's comment at Pandagon was very true as well:

"There is nothing strong about selling other women down the river so that sexist men will pat you on the head and say, “What a gooooood woman you are. Now go attack another uppity bitch and maybe this time I’ll give you a cookie.” Sexist men may praise you for your obsequiousness, but they don’t actually think you’re strong, and they don’t respect you".

Triple T said...

hey, note to all commenters, i'm interested in the idea of setting up a 'bloggers code of ethics'.

i'm going to try get some wellington bloggers involved in setting up a workable approach and tool.

if you're interested in ideas, flick me an email?


Insolent Prick said...

What a bloody ridiculous idea, Che.

What's the purpose of a code of ethics? What happens if somebody breaches it? Do you really think that those who comply with a hypothetical code will likely get more traffic to their sites than those who don't sign up? How do you enforce it? Who enforces it?

I note that Jordon's suggestion that he appoint himself the ethical blogging police has gone down like a lead balloon.

Yes, there's spin on some blogs. But it's extremely hypocritical to claim that it's all at kiwiblog. Jordon and Tony Milne are two of the most one-eyed, utterly partisan bloggers around. It's no secret that they will only blog about an issue if it does not conflict with Labour Party policy. Never have I read anything on either of their blogs that may even slightly annoy the PM. It isn't a huge stretch to say that their blogs are being co-written by Pete Hodgson.

I do exclude idiotsavant from that. Yes, he's a filthy, snivelling pinko, but he has at least the personal decency to not refer everything he writes to Labour's policy manual, and does take pot-shots when he's pissed off.

Craig Ranapia said...

After reading the comments above from Mr/Ms A. Nonymous, I'd like to propose an item for a blog code of ethics: If you can't - or more likely won't - say something nasty with your (real) name attached, don't say it at all.

Folks like Span have the right to allow anonymous comments if they choose, but there sure seems to be a correlation - if not an outright causual link - between the use of a pseudonym or anonymity, and the more toxic comments and blogs out there.

Triple T said...

well, the idea isn't about the commenters, we can't even imagine that they could or should be governed.

however, at it's heart blogging is all about putting ideas out there for consumption.

so while mr. prick is not into the idea, i'm sure readers would be assured by seeing a wee badge on site that lets them know if the blogger is a nutter, or a decent read.

as you say, plenty of blogs are partisan, but that doesn't automatically make them difficult to read, petty, or insulting. does it?

Span said...

okie dokie, I'm going to try to make all the points I want to succintly and quickly cos not much time tonight.

1. I don't think all politicians spin all the time, that was one of the points of my post. For a start I don't think a human being is actually capable of living such a fake life without a major form of mental illness.

2. I feel that I'm also trying to change the world, like Idsy, but perhaps I'm less agressive about it than some, and that's why G7 considers this blog more in the thoughtful category?

3. Anon (and IP for that matter), I don't think Kiwiblog is the only place where spinning is a problem HOWEVER the main point of my post was actually that just dismissing something as spin is not actually an argument against it. Yes I moaned a little about spinning, but most of the post is about the lazy debating of just writing off something you disagree with and not disputing it beyond labelling it as spin. (IP in particular, you may like to note that I had further clarified this in comments above before you called me an extreme hypocrit here and on NRT. Oh, and my perception of Tony and Jordan is that they are not under orders from the Ninth Floor but are in fact, like you, possessed of independent minds).

4. On the issue of a code of ethics, I'm not sure how it could work, but I'm certainly up for having a go.

5. Craig, there are a number of people who write under pseudonyms who do not use them to engage in cowardly attacks. Idiot/Savant is one such example. However I do share your apprehension about those who are totally anonymous. I have chosen not to ban their comments but of course reserve the right to delete them. The anon comments you complain about above are no worse than IP, in fact they are less abusive (and absurd, as if Pete Hodgson has time or inclination to write Jordan and Tony's blogs!).

To those I haven't addressed directly, thanks for your comments, I think this is an interesting discussion and I appreciate your thoughts. Please keep contributing them if you feel so inclined, or join in if you've been lurking!

Span said...

Further to my comments above, here are some of the pseudonymous who I feel haven't (to the best of my reading) been rabidly toxic and launched abusive personal attacks:
- Idiot/Savant
- the pseudonymous at Brain Stab
- Maia
- Make Tea Not War
- Carl
- kakariki
- Maramatanga
- red

Yes they're all off my blog roll, and I'm sure there are many more who I haven't got on there. They're all LOC-ish and that's probably more a reflection of my blog-roll than anything else.

So my point is - please don't lump the pseudonymous automatically in with the anons. No doubt some of us are trolls, but many of us aren't. Just as I'm sure not all National party members are homophobic racist bigots (you don't appear to be!).

Craig Ranapia said...


Up to a point, but there are plenty of people who've just walked away from otherwise decent blogs because the white noise in the comments is just too much. If I ever start blogging again, I just don't think I'll bother - it's a shame when a destructive (but very vocal) minority drags everyone down, but I think bloggers do have to ultimately take responsibility for everything they publish. I just don't think I'll have the time or the energy to be consttantly policing a comments box.


Fair point, and I certainly don't want to put folks like you and I/S in the same basket. And I can see a legitimate case for some anonibloggers - but I do have to wonder if some folks would *ahem* calm down a bit if their comments published comments on the same condition as a newspaper letters column.

IN this specific instance, I was a little pissed at anyone calling David Farrar dishonest in an anonymous comment. He posts under his real name - and there's quite a lengthy disclosure statement linked from the sidebar. I don't think you need to be a genius to figure out where David's political biases are; ditto for Jordan and Tony. (A pretty basic ethical no-no for any political blogger is to pretend you're non-partisan when you're anything but. Then again, I'm one of those poli-sci nerds who doesn't think saying someone has an 'ideology' is tantamount to calling them serial killer.) Folks who attack the integrity of others pseudonymously - either in blog comments or the MSM - always have me wondering what they've got to hide. But there's room for honest and honourable disagreement on that matter, and I didn't mean to sound like I was trying to tell you how to run your own blog.

Anonymous said...

Insolent Prick, I've never seen you write anything that wouldn't have been signed off by National Party campaign organisers. So why don't you just get over yourself?

I have not tried to appoint myself as anything. I simply got sick of Cameron's behaviour, and called him for it.

Perhaps you could let him defend himself, rather than going bitching about the matter on other people's blogs? Just a thought.

Triple T said...

catch-22 isn't it. youwant to write something people will read, but sometimes that thing results in... 'unsavoury' commenters.

welcome to the internet.

maybe we need a way not to police blogs and comments, but to give readers a heads-up of what to expect.

would be nice if the ranters and haters knew they were reading another kiwiblog (which has a *reputation* as such a place), or reading another NRT.

Insolent Prick said...

Maia does get personal. She bans people from her blog all the time, for no reason other than that they show her up for being stupid.

I don't know who those other pinkos are that you mention, other than that they are a waste of human space, and this Earth would be much more eco-friendly if they didn't exist.

See, and you commies think you're the only ones concerned about global warming!

I'm surprised you label me as abusive, Span. I don't abuse people. I just point out their very obvious flaws. If it weren't for me, socialists like your beloved Aunty Helen would walk around thinking she's a pillar of human perfection.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post and comments! I've linked to it in my lastest post trying to counter what I think is Farrar's unfair distortion of one of my posts.

Triple T said...


a number of different bloggers have started calling farrar on the 'distortion' or outright lying pattern.

seems our RWDB friend is gaining a bit of a reputation in this regard.

my first experience of him doing so was his cherry-picking comments from club politique, and *outright* misquoting them.

Anonymous said...

I must thank DPF and his cohort army for putting me back firmly on the path of rightiousness and redemption. I was lost, now I'm found. Righto, where's the tinfoil?

Anonymous said...

Hi Che. I agree with you that it is good that people have started calling DPF on this. But it still makes you feel stupid when he takes what you say and distorts it to make his very large audience think you believe something you don't (as has happened to me a few days ago). Your only comeback is to comment on his comment section (I hate reading it let alone commenting) or to post on your own blog - which for most of us only has a small portion of his readership.