Watching intently the media coverage and hype of the British child ‘Maggie’ who went missing in Portugal in May has demonstrated for me how susceptible that we have become to spin. Spin, as you well know, means to turn or twist something quickly and can be used in processes to fabricate. In this world of instantaneous information and media it appears that spin has also become a critical element in communications. Thus, whoever can control the spin has the ability to influence the outcomes.
In the particular case of ‘Maggie’ we are most likely witnessing the loss of a young life. At the same time people have to endure a flood of innuendoes, accusations and counter accusations at exorbitant costs either to sell news or gain attention. The real truth is lost in the proliferation of media spin. Chillingly, one report several days ago suggested that perhaps the truth will be never known because of the flood information and misinformation. One has to wonder if this is not the strategy.
But then this is not the only such case being played out in the public domain and getting attention throughout the world where information has been turned, twisted and spun until there appears no one who can untangle fact from fiction. There is the case of the death of the Princess of Wales, which after ten years, is still trying to be deciphered; the complexity grows as a result of continuous spin. Throughout history there are many such incidents of intrigue and many interpretations of “truth” most usually related to a dearth of information.
But in this era of information it seems much more of a common occurrence. What is stark about today’s world, supposedly advanced in information, sophisticated analysis and dissemination (The Information Age) is how to discern fact from fiction and what is just plain fabrication. Not only are we surrounded by information and media, we are deluged by it. Information, or perhaps what passes for information is pervasive. Thus those who can control these flows can sway the perceptions; real truth and its search is lost, as the exercise becomes one of generating as much hype as possible. This flood of misinformation much of it fabricated by creative minds was very much evident in the lead up to the Iraq war and the reporting on it since has been as skewed.
But it is not only politicians, media and those seeking attention that have captured the concept of spin. It has invaded most aspects of our lives. In the financial world spin has been adopted as a basic tool of economics. Banks and mortgage lenders spin off their loans to all and sundry investors in the hope of avoiding liability or loss. The securities industry has developed their own “spin tools” such as derivatives to create equity – most of it artificial and based on the hope that the spin will be perpetual. When the mortgage markets spin significantly slowed recently with the potential of stopping, even national central banks became involved pumping more money into the them to add additional momentum to the spin.
You will find spin at play in real estate markets as well. Most visibly used by such promoters such as Donald Trump. A project is promoted, aggrandized and glamorized to influence those that must be seen to be “part of the in crowd” and who will pay often excessive amounts to have their name on the list. The same process is used by much smaller promoters and in local developments as well. All play on human gullibility and the need to be “part of” something; at least if nothing else, they become part of the spin.
Spin is also evident in the world of science and research. Many scientists and academics appear to do a modicum of research and then spin the results in the hope of gaining recognition, reward or acclaim. We are constantly bombarded with new scientific findings of what’s good for us and what’s not. Then a few months later, from others, a new pronouncement suggests just the opposite. This is even true in the critical world of medicine with medications developed to cure an ailment, announced at great fanfare, only to be withdrawn when the cure is found to be worse that the disease it was supposed to treat.
There are many other examples that could be used to demonstrate how spin has become all invasive and wildly out of control. In fact most people today, especially those in “developed countries” feel caught in a spin in their everyday lives. There is a relentless push for change and instantaneous results. There is the persistent necessity to have more resources to pay for all the things felt necessary for modern living, with such fads changing very quickly. Then there is the compulsion for people to work harder as more are involved in information processing, no matter their occupation. This obligatory processing of the enormous amounts of information generated has put most into warp drive. One story of a couple of days ago out of Britain related to a nurse, who despite only recently receiving awards of proficiency, quit her career in protest. The reason was that she was no longer nursing but spending most of her time processing forms and documents while patients were becoming more and more neglected and suffering unduly as a result.
Life for most is accelerating at a speed which appears to be unmanageable. It is spinning so fast that many of the elements critical to society and human existence are coming apart (everyone knows that if we spin objects fast enough they will separate into individual parts). Time for reflection, discourse, relaxation and exercise have to be scheduled, budgeted and programmed. Family life, families, and even relationships have become relics of history. You only have to look at the expansion of internet and speed dating to realize something is out of place in the modern context of relationships. There was a story recently that soon humans will be able to enter into relationships with robots. Assumingly, one would be able to program the robot to adapt to our every whim, avoiding the necessity and time required to build genuine human relationships.
In reality and in nature things only spin so fast and so far. Eventual the natural forces of our world and universe take over. Spin can change the construct of that which is being spun. This is why natural brakes are applied to ensure the gyrations exhaust the momentum slowing that being spun before it comes apart. This is nature’s way of balance and control and balance is a fundamental part our natural world, our universe and life. Even the most forceful and powerful hurricanes eventually peter out.
There are limits to this folly of human spin. Eventually enough real evidence will appear to at least evolve some truths of the tragedies in current headlines and hopefully some form of justice will prevail. In most cases attention turns to notoriety. Politicians can only spin their stories for so long before people stop listening. Debt can only be spread so far before it has to be repaid and the world economy can only absorb so much cash before it implodes and collapses. This has happened before!
There are limits to technological advances as well. This has been evident through most of history with periods of advancement and periods of regression. Since time immortal, life has not evolved in straight line progression but with peaks and valleys. In agriculture the land eventually becomes redundant even with the most sophisticated fertilizers and we are learning that even the seas harvests can be exhausted. We have been taught in Christian doctrine that there will seven abundant years followed by seven lean years. We may be able to extend these cycles of time but we can’t eliminate them.
The road back to balance will be a long and arduous journey. It will be lead by natural forces not by human minds. Even though there are many with the desire to control and manage nature; the exact opposite is true. This natural rebalancing is quite evident today with the climatic changes taking place in the world. It is the way nature will rebalance the natural system of ecology and life itself. Society as we know it may self destruct (because of spin) but life itself will slowly decelerate until that too will be brought back into balance as in other periods in history.
The concept of politicians, governments along with many scientists and academics focusing their efforts on the rebalancing of nature is futile and meaningless at best. The real challenge for their efforts must be the rejuvenation of society and the painful process of human education and re-development. If these futile efforts to fix nature were applied to societal renewal and a revaluing of what’s natural and genuinely important, then this would be much more beneficial. People everywhere might appreciate the danger of destruction and waste and have more genuine respect for natural life and the world would be well on its way to self-healing.
This renewal of society will be our greatest contribution to global rebalance and is the only real contribution that can be made. Then there might be cause for celebration that true globalization has arrived not the variety spun by those who saw financial or personal gain by fabricating such a concept. Nature in time will rejuvenate itself as it always has. That is a fact no matter how you spin it!
Information has limited use if it doesn’t lead to knowledge and subsequently wisdom. With real knowledge and true wisdom people quickly learn what is useful and what is not. The challenge for people in this particular era is to separate the real information from the fabricated misinformation which is being generated in abundance.
Written by Bill Pardy
October 22, 2007