Thesis: How Has Media or Campaign Spun Affected the 2008 Election

Pages: 8 (3019 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy  ·  Buy This Paper

Spin

Political campaigns consist not just of statements and appearances by the candidate but also statements by the candidates advisors, often in an effort to spin the press as to how the press should see the meaning of whatever the candidate just did or just said. The practice is so much a part of the process that the press regularly talks about the spin room after an event like a debate as representatives of each candidate give their view of what just occurred in an effort to make the press and the public accept their point-of-view as fact. Spin is often used in a neutral manner, on the belief that both sides do it and so it cancels out. Others see spin in a negative way as an effort to color every situation to make it seem to the best advantage for the candidate involved, meaning that spin is seen as a form of bravado and perhaps as a form of lying. In the recent presidential campaign, Barack Obama stated, "When a product, person, or organization has to enter a particularly hostile or challenging market, they essentially have three choices:1) Stay true to who or what you are, 2) Change who your are, or 3) Change how you're perceived. It doesn't matter if it's product sales, non-profit work, or politics, perception matter, and in a media driven culture, how you're perceived is just as important as who you are. The Brand Reality vs. Perception." Spin is seen as an effort to shape reality and so as a bow to the brand name and not the reality, and it is also true that both sides do it, at least in some degree. How effective is spin? Does the public accept what is said, or is spin counter-productive because the public turns away from such blatant twisting of the facts in order to aggrandize the candidate? It is quite clear that campaigns believe spin is necessary and believe it works to change minds or to keep followers in agreement, but does it? The recent presidential campaign can serve as a case in point.

The modern political campaign depends heavily on television to each the masses and make as much use as possible of both free media and paid media. The cost of campaigns has been rising for some time in part because of the high cost of television spots. Another part of the televised campaign that has gained in importance since 1960 is the televised debate, and every presidential season brings negotiations over how many televised debate there will be and when and where they will be conducted.

Many believe that television contributes to the negativity seen in many campaigns today, while others point out that campaigns have always been negative. What is different is the medium through which this negativity is projected. At the same time, there seems to be more to the issue than simply a difference in delivery system. Political campaigns use advertising in ways they never did in the past, and the advertising of forty, thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago for political campaigns is very different in tone, content, and degree of manipulation from what is being undertaken today.

Americans have a certain distrust of advertising, which does not always mean they are immune to its claims. It does mean they at least try to take the message of advertising in a skeptical frame of mind. We seem to know instinctively that television has shaped the message in a unique fashion, though we may be less aware of the way television has influenced and reshaped such events as presidential debates. An examination of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the nineteenth century and more recent presidential debates beginning with those between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy shows that the process has changed.

The two most famous series of campaign debates in history were those of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen a. Douglas, conducted on the campaign trail before relatively small audiences, and those between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon on television in front of millions of people. Certain similarities between the two sets of debates can be noted in terms of the reasons for them and their consequences. Lincoln was the underdog in the senatorial campaign and wanted to share in the fame of Stephen Douglas by appearing on the platform with him, much as Kennedy would hope to benefit from appearing in direct confrontation with Nixon, then the Vice-President of the United States. Douglas agreed to seven debates, in Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton, Ill. By his vigorous showing against the more famous Douglas, Lincoln won the debates and his first considerable national fame (he did not win the Senate seat, however, as the Illinois legislature, dominated by Democratic holdovers in the upper house, elected Douglas).

Kennedy would be seen as the clear winner in the two debates he had with Nixon because Nixon did not come over well on television. Indeed, those who heard the debate on the radio had a different impression of who won from those who were watching on television, and television capability would hereafter be a major element in every presidential campaign (Jamieson, 1980, p. 158).

Campaign debates are not a necessary part of the political campaign, though in presidential elections they have become something the public expects. The Lincoln-Douglas debates gained in importance in part because of the later importance of Lincoln, while debates today gain significance because they are televised. The televised debate has a relatively short history, dating from the 1960 confrontation between Nixon and Kennedy. Indeed, there had been specific reasons why televised debates had not been undertaken before that time. Congress in 1960 lifted an obscure clause in the Federal Communications Act, Section 315, which stated that all candidates for President had to be given equal access to air time. There were sixteen candidates running for the presidency that year, and a debate on that scale would be impossible. Congress yielded to reality and permitted television debates between the two major candidates alone. This first televised debate defined the way debates would serve the interests of the candidates thereafter and would also indicate what elements appealed most to the public, making image more important than ever and substance less vital:

I]n the image-issue junction of the debates, Kennedy won. He had been portrayed by the Republicans as a rich, callow, inexperienced youth... He was, on the platform, easily the equal in maturity, wisdom, and presence of Vice-President Nixon. Kennedy had won the debates, if not on issue points, on personality (White, 1982, p. 401).

Immediately after these debates, however, Section 315 was reinstated, and it would then be 16 years before there would be another televised debate. Presidents Johnson and Nixon could refuse to debate on the ground that the law would not sanction individual encounters, but a way around the law was found by making the debates not a television show but a news event which the television networks could decide to cover. There was no law preventing any citizens group from inviting candidates to debate. The Benton Foundation in Chicago developed this idea and used the Education Fund of the League of Women Voters as the means to start national televised debates once more (White, 1982, pp. 401-402).

As the debates developed, one part of the debate format became the immediate aftermath as members of each campaign would be available to be interviewed by the news media and would give their view of who won the debate. A study by the Racine Group (2002) trace this back to the debates in 1976, noting that "now aware of the potential influence of their post-debate comments, network television news sought to objectify coverage. Television journalists initially turned to 'instant' polls, and later to focus groups, in order to determine debate 'winners' and relied increasingly on campaign surrogates to provide analysis of debates" (para. 35). The campaigns responded to the needs of the media and made use of the occasion to tell their particular story once more:

Campaigns responded strategically in order to win the battle over the interpretation of what took place during the debate. Martel refers to the post-debate effort as "meta-debating," or "debate about debates." Others refer to these efforts as "spin control." Whatever it is called, the "debate" about the debate is an integral element in today's debates and exerts considerable influence on post-debate public opinion (the Racine Group, 2002, para. 35).

It is not clear, though, if spin is that effective at changing the minds of voters. For the most part, spin seems directed at the base, meaning those voters who are dedicated to one candidate or the other and whose minds are not likely to be changed by spin or much else as a rule. The views of these people are bolstered by spin, meaning the spines are essentially preaching to the choir. What the spinners want to do is to speak to the undecided and to… [END OF PREVIEW]

Media Bias in America Term Paper


Blogs and the Effect on the Coming Election Term Paper


2008 Nomination Phase Campaign Term Paper


Public Sphere Research Paper


Pressure Groups Politics Monsanto Lobbyists Assessment


View 7 other related papers  >>

Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

How Has Media or Campaign Spun Affected the 2008 Election.  (2008, November 29).  Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-campaign-spun-affected-2008-election/56783

MLA Format

"How Has Media or Campaign Spun Affected the 2008 Election."  29 November 2008.  Web.  16 October 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-campaign-spun-affected-2008-election/56783>.

Chicago Format

"How Has Media or Campaign Spun Affected the 2008 Election."  Essaytown.com.  November 29, 2008.  Accessed October 16, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-campaign-spun-affected-2008-election/56783.