Case. Spin doctoring is form of impression management that has been in the repertoire of public relations practitioners for four decades. The term refers to the tactic of shifting the focus off of the negative and harmful aspects of something by substituting another issue that has positive connotations. Spin doctors change the terms of public perception and debate using the mass media, which today includes blogs and social media like Facebook. Spin doctoring is an international phenomenon the serves the interests of organizations in every sector of society.
The tobacco industry is considered to be the classic case of spin doctoring. After 1966 when the Surgeon General of the U.S. pronounced that cigarette packages must carry a health warning, the tobacco industry found a way to offset the damaging publicity by sponsoring sports and arts events and giving grants for community development. By de-emphasizing the dangers of smoking and emphasizing the positive contributions being made to community life, Big Tobacco trivialized the health problems and turned attention instead to its displays of corporate social responsibility.
A contemporary example of spin doctoring relates to the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which was the original rationale for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. When the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction proved to be faulty, the debate was quickly and skillfully shifted by spin doctors to a humanitarian argument that the Iraqi people must be freed from the clutches Saddam Hussein the ruthless dictator. While no evidence of weapons of mass destruction could be found, mass graves of Iraqi citizens killed at the behest of Saddam Hussein could be found and thus, legitimate the invasion.
The debate over climate change and global warming is very similar in some ways to the tobacco example because it involves the efforts of hydrocarbons producers to debunk the hypothesis that global warming is primarily caused by the high levels of CO2 emissions associated with the consumption of fossil fuels. By spinning the argument away from CO2 emissions towards touting how technology is producing cleaner, greener fuels, the hydrocarbon industry gives the appearance of being environmentally responsible at a time when the pressure from environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Suzuki Foundation, and high-profile environmentalists like Al Gore cannot be denied.
Your Assignment: Use critical thinking to analyze the following three questions relating to aspects of persuasion. Specifically utilized the particular course concept or concepts stated in each question.
- Which paths(s) to persuasion is/are present in the global warming case?
- How does the tobacco industry example fit into our understanding of impression management?
- Is spin doctoring the same as propaganda or is it fundamentally different? Address the weapons of mass destruction case in your answer.