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21 Jan, 2009 09:29

Media spin: the deadliest weapon of all?

Media spin: the deadliest weapon of all?

On this page every Wednesday you will find an account of an armed conflict from the past – recent or distant – that went down in history not in the way it really happened but in the way it was portrayed by the media.

Media spin is older than the media itself. It is as old as the notion of news. It has been in use ever since news began to circulate through word of mouth. Rumour and speculation were added to information; ideological presumptions were attached too, until the news was transformed, often giving contradictory messages.

The effect of ancient spin can easily be seen in the descriptions of the same events in different chronicles, and this is as true for Western culture as Eastern. For example, the Grunewald Battle is described differently in the accounts of the Teutonic (German) Order, in the Polish chronicles and in the accounts of the Western Russian principality of Smolensk. The ancient chronicles of Burma and Siam draw totally different pictures of the wars fought between the two nations over several centuries.

In our time, spin thrives in an age where most people get their information from television, radio and newspapers. In Israel, the majority of the population thinks that their country has just won a war against Hamas. In Gaza, notwithstanding the heavy losses, Hamas celebrates victory over Israel.

The internet has changed the world in that it provides an opportunity to look at events from an angle different from that portrayed in mainstream media. But then again, we all have views of our own, formed by the media or not, and so we choose the websites we visit according to our views, to our liking, and limit our own horizons as we do so.

Spin is not a monstrous tool of psychological warfare. Rather, spin is an integral part of human nature, because a human brain is built to receive, process and project information, and that is why most thoughts are true but every spoken word is a lie.

But the natural character of spin doesn't cancel the fact that when someone wants the public to think in a certain way about a certain event, and that someone has enough money, power and influence, the natural effect of spin can be multiplied to become a potent weapon. And it can be a most destructive one, capable of killing the truth, of changing the way events are recorded and go down in history.

Here on this page we will do our best to un-spin the armed conflicts that were shown to the public as having gone on in one way but in fact had been fought, won and lost in quite another one.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.