A lot of the spin we talk about here at F.A.D.S. deals with corporate deceit and unethical practices by fellow PR folks. Whether it’s misleading blogs or manipulating Wikis, destructive spin is there. Sometimes we applaud folks for being straightforward and not falling into the spin zone.
And sometimes we recognize spin that is so egregious, you wonder how anyone got away with it.
I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff and he of salacious novel fame, was found guilty Tuesday of four charges stemming from the outing of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Libby conspired with the Vice President’s office to discredit a damning report by Plame’s husband Joe Wilson, who investigated and disputed claims that Niger was the source of yellowcake uranium. They offered that Saddam Hussein planned to use this material to build weapons of mass destruction.
While we’re not quite sure what all the hoopla was about – especially since Libby wasn’t on trial for leaking, he was on trial for lying about his role in the leak – we do know this: The spin that was spun leading up to the war in Iraq was the worst kind. It was contrived, it was ridden with bitter vitriol, it was opportunistic and it was, above all things, false.
I think there will be debates for years to come about what was known and other known unknowns, but if this mess has taught us anything, it’s that the consumer – those who buy the product, be it goods or information – must be wary of what is said. That makes our job harder. But it makes us strive to do that much better, to be more ethical and transparent, lest our destructive habits spin out of control.
I think messengers of information have a responsibility to be as honest as possible. In some cases, that’s just not going to happen. Many people might argue that a person’s worldview shapes his or her position and vision of honesty. I wonder how big a factor worldview played in Scooter’s story and the yarn cooked up by the White House.
Venting aside, do you think we have a responsibility to be truthful at all costs? Who does? Corporate and agency practitioners? Public affairs folks? Political mouthpieces? Does it matter? What are the costs of truth? What are the costs of lying?
Wait, we already know that.