Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language has been part of anthropology since the discipline started in the 1ate 1870s. This site is a place for linguistic anthropologists to post their work and discuss important events and trends in the field.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Political spin: not lying - but not honest

It is commonly assumed that politicians lie. While there are occasional instances of politicians saying things they know are not true with apparent intent to deceive, more often political speakers attempt to "spin," or frame a discussion in ways that favor their preferred understanding. While such statements can be dishonest, they are not necessarily lies.

A case in point are the Barrack Obama presidential campaign’s statements around the rejection of public financing, and the rival John McCain campaign’s response.

Barrack Obama is the first major-party candidate to opt out of public financing for the office of president. USA Today quotes anonymous "top [Obama] campaign aides" as justifying the action by claiming that Mr. McCain has been raising funds since March, while Mr. Obama was contesting his party’s primaries until 3 June. This is literally true, but suggests that the McCain campaign has raised more money than the Obama campaign. In fact, the opposite is true.

On the other hand, NPR quotes senior McCain adviser Charlie Black’s criticism of Mr. Obama: "He talks about participating in a new kind of politics. Just to raise as much money as you can is an old kind of politics."

But in fact, Obama is the first eligible candidate ever to opt out of the public financing system, which has only existed since 1976. In that respect, this is a new campaign practice.

That is not to argue that it is a good thing; simply that it is in fact new.

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