Spinning The Tale

When I was a kid, folks used to spend a lot more time together. Families were close knit, especially in rural areas and small town America. We learned from an early age the family worked together and played together.

There was always plenty of hard work to do, but there was also ample time for relaxation and recreation.

Play involved board games like Monopoly and Scrabble, cards, dominoes, checkers and sometimes, chess. There was also another common pastime that was shared by the family, especially in the late evening. We actually sat out on the front porch to enjoy the cool air and some good old fashioned conversation.

The talk usually started out with family members reporting on what they'd seen and done that day. From there the weather was analyzed and predicted. Perhaps current affairs around town or an article seen in the paper would be pondered. But sooner or later, an uncle or an aunt, a parent or grandparent would be reminded of a story. Much to everyone's delight, the tale would then unfold. What master yarn spinners they were!

Those were magical times, those evenings out on the porch. When telling folks about your day or things you'd seen or heard, nothing less than total truthfulness was expected. A person who misrepresented the facts, either intentionally or unintentionally was severely chastised. Most of us kids would have been mortified if we or a "grown-up"were found to have knowingly told an untruth about any serious matter.

Chronic liars were not tolerated. The standard punishment was simple shunning.

Story telling, however, was another matter altogether. Here, we could really let our hair down. The taller the tale, the better; the more outrageous the merrier. But best of all were the "gotcha"stories, where everyone was tricked into believing a story was true until the very last moment, when the surprise deception would finally become apparent.

We called this "spinning at tale". A talented story teller was an admired and treasured member of the community, like great musicians, athletes and other gifted persons.

When television first became widely available in the early 1950's, it was treated as an interesting novelty. Few realized this new media creeping into our homes marked the dawn of a new age. Gradually, we began spending more and more time indoors watching TV; and less and less time talking to one another.

The evening "news"was especially telling of times that were changing. Instead of gathering around the radio when major events were stirring, we found ourselves watching the likes of Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley speak to us from a small black and white screen. These were respected journalists of the highest integrity; we trusted them to report the facts. We believed they were telling us the truth about what was really happening around the country and throughout the world that day.

I can't say I ever remember any of those early news persons every sharing their opinions about anything with us. They told us what they thought were the facts and left the opining up to us. When the news was good they were slightly upbeat. When the news was bad, they reported it with a hint of concern in their eyes and tone of voice.

That's the way it was back in the early days of TV news. Once I moved out on my own, I seemed to have less and less time for watching television. In my late twenties, I settled in a remote area where it was very difficult to get good reception. For the next 30 years of my life I didn't own a TV and had almost no exposure to television of any kind. Once again I kept in touch with current affairs by listing to a short wave radio from time to time.

You can perhaps imagine my amazement when I recently decided to purchase a small satellite dish and a TV. Words can hardly describe how much television has changed since 1950!

Huntley and Brinkley have of course both passed away and Walter, though still alive is almost nowhere to be seen. Instead of these sage and dignified journalists I find we now must rely on news people who are either slow witted or who are very good at pretending to be idiots. And they do nothing if not give you their opinions on everything! They even comment on each others opinions and the opinions of a never-ending parade of pundits.

Networks have become like magazines . . . each one has an obvious slant or a profile which they strive to maintain throughout their programming agenda. Some are liberal, some conservative; some are both, and others neither!

On some stations news people have their own shows; in fact some of these networks are nothing but one news show after another; 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TV news personalities are thicker than thieves! Yet with all these news people and all of their news shows, there is almost no real, true and factual news!

Reporting the so-called news has devolved into spreading cheap gossip at worst and hearsay at best. Many of the news personalities I have seen thus far would have been tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail back in my day. Most of what they report bares little semblance of truth; their opinions are shallow, biased and often downright misleading.

You doubt things are so bad? You think this is just crazy talk or that I am exaggerating old fool? Perhaps, but I think not. By way of proof, I offer one word: spin. Today's news is all about spin. And you know what spin is, don't you? In short, news programs have become little more than tools of manipulation.

These days, as events happen and statements are made or speeches given, little attention is paid to the actual events that occurred or the words spoken. Instead, reporters gloss over the real story and concentrate on the "spin". They anxiously await the chance to see how this or that pundit will spin the story. Then they gleefully report the spin as if it were the true story; they even have the spinner on their show, giving them an ever wider audience!

As the spun facts continue to be reported and reported again, the truth behind the real story is lost and forgotten by almost everyone in the media. Spun versions continue to grow like mold on stale bread. Reporters pretend to believe the mistruths they repeat and viewers end up making decisions and value judgments based entirely on nonsense!

What an amazing thing this is for one who grew up with the Brinkley's and the Cronkite's of yesteryear. The most astonishing fact of all, however, is that reporters and anchor persons readily acknowledge they are reporting spin. Most all professional journalists who garner their own shows are little more than parrots of spin. Even when the true story shows up and hits them in the face on live TV, they gaze at the camera and stick with the spin!

We used to work hard at spinning tales. Everyone knew we were telling imaginary stories or altering actual events in outlandish ways to further entertain our friends, neighbors and family members. In the modern world of journalism, spinning tales out of actual facts has become the norm. The truth about the real story is completely lost in the spin.

Just to make sure I'm not crazy, I looked up the word spin in several respected dictionaries. They all agree. Spin means to make up an extended story or a series of lies. The idea behind spin is to edit somebody's remarks, or relate a story, in such a way as to influence public opinion in a desired way.

Isn't this just a fancy way of calling a lie a lie? What? You thought spin was just sort of like explaining things in simple terms or something? Certainly not. Spinning is slanting the story to keep us from seeing what it is really all about. Or focusing our attention away from the real issues at hand.

I've actually heard pundits tell news people on the air, "I know you expect me to spin this but I don't have to because in this case I don't need to."In other words the perceived facts in this case serve the purpose of the pundit; no spin was required. I'm sure you've heard and seen this same kind of thing as well.

Today we live in a nation of "informed"people who have 24 hour access to unlimited sources of news and current events. Yet I wager the vast majority of us, even those who regularly watch the news, are totally ignorant of what is really going on in the world.

Our news media, from TV to radio to newspapers, are almost all owned by a handful of mega-media conglomerates. Too many of us merely accept their distorted, biased facts as the truth. By controlling the spin on the news we see, hear and read, these media moguls shape our perception of current events and real the direction our nation is heading. And we become little more than pawns, moving about according to the whims of those who control the game.

If you believe the news you see on TV, or learn through radio talk shows, is the truth, I urge you to do one of two things: 1) seek professional help because you are delusional, or 2) try watching Free Speech Television (FSTV) or LINK Television. These networks will set you free with programs like Democracy Now with Amy Goodman or INN. This is the closest thing to real, true news, virtually devoid of spin.

Ask yourself this question: Can I make informed decisions or come to rational conclusions regarding serious issues without knowing the facts? Filter everything you hear or read through your gut. Don't accept anything as truth on face value alone. Dig a little deeper; ask questions. Think about it! And don't be afraid to politely disagree with your peers and your elected representatives.

You and I, We The People, and our beloved United States of America are in serious danger of becoming a brain dead, hollow imitation of who and what the founders of our nation expected us to become.

The choice is ours to make. We can join the rest of the world and create a wondrous shinning future of endless possibilities. Or we can join the rest of the sheep, and play follow the leader, while a few clever zealots endlessly spin the tale that wags the dog.

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