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Over at About Last Night, Terry has a lovely little rant against spin, one which gets at one of the great crimes against language – the transformation of its purpose from communicating to manipulating (and by “manipulating,” I fear we very often mean “selling”). He also includes this:

…the greatest piece of unspin ever uttered by a public figure, General Joe Stilwell’s statement to the press after Japanese troops forced his men to retreat from Burma to India: “I claim we took a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, and go back and retake it.”

Just imagine if people talked like this. It’s part of the reason I loved Thank You For Smoking. For all the smoke being blown in that film, there was a certain, raw, honesty. Same goes for The Squid and the Whale. It’s gotten so that I’m grateful to hear the truth, no matter how ugly.


  1. Adam DeVille says:

    I feel much the same way about the uses and abuses of language, and this contributes, at least in part, to my love of writers like Waugh, O’Connor, and others with their blunt honesty. I’m often accused of an over-fondness for polemics, to which I unashamedly plead guilty in our dissembling, disingenuous age: I am hard-pressed to come up with another method to punch through all this nonsense. As Waugh said somewhere in his letters (diaries?) about the war-time propaganda he was tired of hearing, Our souls are parched for straight-talk. And as O’Connor so famously said about her often blunt and “violent” writing, To the nearly blind you must draw large and startling figures, and to the deaf you practically have to shout.

  2. mamagiglio says:

    I think that a politician could be very successful and even beloved if he or she would just speak the truth all the time. I wish the spin really did stop somewhere.

  3. Kevin Jones says:

    Wasn’t Warren Beatty’s Bulworth a filmatic attempt to depict a no-spin campaign?

    Sadly, even “Straight Talk” can become an empty slogan. But a self-aware, self-deprecating, and ironic campaign could make for a good flash-in-the-pan news story.

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