By contributing writer Mark Jabo

You're not really reading this.

I know you think you are, but you're not.

Not only that, I didn't just tell you that you weren't reading this… no matter what you think you just thought you read. Weird, huh? Apparently, though, someone changed the English language while none of us were looking. How else to explain the recent spate of news stories where we’ve been told that what we've heard isn't really what we’ve heard. It's official: “spin” has been taken to new heights of absurdity.

“Spin” is something we all grew up with and have been aware of for some time. It used to be that spin was found mostly on Sunday morning news shows where politicians and media pundits mutually stroked each other while participating in the simulated act of discussing “real issues.” The good part about spin back in those days? Like smoking, it used to be confined to certain areas.

Some of us even remember when spin also used to be known by its more common name: lying. And, although you may find it hard to believe, sometimes people even used to take offense at it. Imagine that.

Perhaps because of the advent of 24-hour news, listening to a steady array of individuals lying on a variety of topics has become the intellectual equivalent of living next to an airport: after a while, you just don't notice the sound. Whether it was O.J. vowing to continue the search for the real killers, or George Michael/Paris Hilton/Patrick Kennedy insisting that it was just an adverse reaction to prescription medication, it used to be that there was at least some attempt to bullshit creatively.


“I do NOT have a big nose.”

Personally, I mark the end of the era of creative spin when Bill Clinton tried to convince all of us that there might be some debate on what “is” means. You can't really get below “is.” The word itself is only two letters. Ever since then it seems like it's no longer necessary to even try to concoct a plausible story.

Come on, people. If you want me to believe, ignore or rationalize something stupid you've said or done, at least do me the courtesy of putting a little effort into your line of crap.

These days, it seems like even that little bit of effort is too much to ask for. The new strategy is to flat out deny that you said or did anything, regardless of any video, written, or audio evidence anyone is able to provide. How else to explain two of the most blatant examples of if-I-close-my-eyes-and-can't-see-it-then-it-must-not-be-there statements that came out recently.

Exhibit 1: Our President, George W. Bush

Appearing in the weeks before the election with George Stephanopoulous on ABC's This Week, Big George, in response to a question by Little George insisted that the administration's policy in Iraq has never been “stay the course.” Even someone as casually interested in politics as I am (and by “casually” I mean “sound asleep”) could probably give you actual dates when George Bush has said we'll “stay the course” in Iraq.

If I was Laura, I'd be nervous. At this rate, her husband might decide he never said, “I do” even if you showed it to him on the wedding video.

I guess if you were a Republican spinmeister you could argue that what George W. meant to say was, “I never said we'd stay the course… today.” At least in Bush's case, people had to do a little research to come up with an actual quote contradicting what he said he never said.

Exhibit 2: Newsweek’s “Retraction”

Here we have a case where a news magazine actually told us that we didn't read what we thought we read in the preceding paragraph.

A little over a month ago, Newsweek (in what has to be the longest-delayed retraction in magazine history) printed an article admitting that back in 1975 they had printed a story that they had been wrong about the dangers associated with climate change, er… global warming, I mean… global cooling.

Well, they kind of admitted they were wrong anyway. Okay, they kind of admitted it and denied it at the same time. (I know, I don't understand it either.)

The Newsweek article described their own 1975 article like this: “Citing ‘ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically,’ the magazine warned of an impending ‘drastic decline in food production.’ [We reported that] political disruptions stemming from food shortages could affect ‘just about every nation on earth.’ Scientists urged governments to consider emergency action …”

So far, so good. But in the very next paragraph, Newsweek went on to say “the story wasn't ‘wrong’ in the journalistic sense of ‘inaccurate.’”

I didn't major in journalism, so I can't profess to knowing what constitutes being “wrong” in a “journalistic sense.” My memory of the 1980s is also a little hazy, but as hard as I’ve tried I just can’t seem to remember all those political disruptions on just about every nation of the earth over food.

The part where I get really fuzzy is the whole right/wrong thing. It’s just that it seems to me if something you predicted “didn't happen” then you were pretty much “wrong” in whatever sense you want to use that word.

Clearer than anything, this illustrates the chasm between science and what passes today for journalism. In science, if you predict that when you drop a rock it will float in the air and it subsequently doesn't, you are pronounced “wrong.” Today's advocate journalists, on the other hand, are just as likely to maintain you had a good theory, but it is being falsely maligned by special interests beholden to powerful corporations with a vested agenda in promoting the continual belief in gravity.

Guess what? You're still wrong… or at the very least, journalistically inaccurate.

The bigger problem here is the ongoing attempt by everyone, from Donald Rumsfeld to Mel Gibson, to deny reality. This has led to the Alice in Wonderland world of euphemisms and political correctness which we've come to know as today's world.

You can't change something just by refusing to call it what it is. Some people are not “gravitationally challenged, differently-visaged, and less mentally advantaged,” they're fat, ugly and stupid.

But, if anyone asks, I never said that.

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