A STUDY IN SPINNING
1. Spinning is a method of making thread from cotton wool. But today, spinning has an entirely different meaning.
2. I was told about the spin doctors used by Tony Blair very soon after he became Prime Minister. I did not know what spin doctors do. And so I rejected the suggestion that I should employ spin doctors for press relations.
3. Now we all know all about spin doctors, the chief of whom is Kalimullah. He decides how to spin any report on Abdullah. Reporters often apologise to me because their reports on what I said at press conferences are quite different from what they wrote. But they claim they have no say on what appears in print from their reports.
5. Readers would be taken in by the spin. If on the other hand, the subject is not liked by the spin doctors, then publish his picture scowling or cringing before whoever was talking to him.
6. Spinning may include misreporting, or excluding certain parts or twisting the sentences to convey another meaning.
7. Once I was asked about the reduction in petroleum price. I said “It is good for the people. We should have more by-elections (the Permatang Pauh by-election was on at that time), then the Government would reduce the price of petrol some more”.
8. What appeared in the press was “Dr Mahathir says the reduction in the price of petrol is good for the people”.
9. I cannot say I did not say it. But the newspaper publisher, by omitting the rest of my statement made it sound as if I was praising the Government for reducing oil price.
10. Sometimes the spinners do not coordinate with each other. The result is to make their reports negate each other.
11. On 15th September, The Star reported with the headline “Muhyiddin wrong to seek PM’s resignation”. The report stated that Dato Seri Rais Yatim, Foreign Minister said that UMNO Vice President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should not have asked the PM to step down as Malaysia practised democracy.
12. According to the report Rais said, “In a democratic country such action should not take place because we need to respect each other’s views”.
13. The next sentence seemed a bit confused as Rais was reported to have said (sic) urged Abdullah to act against Muhyiddin who had said that Abdullah should rethink his transition plan to step down by 2010 as the time frame was too long.
14. “If the PM thinks the minister (Muhyiddin) is not qualified or clashing with him and that action should be taken against him, then he should do it”, he (Rais) said.
15. For a Foreign Minister I thought this stand taken by him is odd, to say the least. Only recently, Blair the war criminal, PM of Britain was forced by Gordon Brown to resign, which he did. And Britain is an older democracy than Malaysia.
16. Then I read the Utusan Malaysia. I was startled by this paper’s report on Rais under the heading “Tidak wajar gesa Muhyiddin letak jawatan – Rais” (Not right to urge Muhyiddin to resign – Rais).
17. It reports Rais, member of the Supreme Council of UMNO as saying “finger pointing at other people and demanding the individual concerned to step down should not be done.”
18. Rais then said “Jadi tidak wajar anggota Kabinet lain menggesa rakannya supaya berhenti atau diambil tindakan. Itu satu gesaan yang tidak harus dilayan atau dilaksanakan kerana kuasa itu hanya ada pada Perdana Menteri.” (Thus it is not right for other members of the Cabinet to urge his colleague to step down or for action to be taken (against him). That is a demand that should not be entertained or implemented because the power rests only with the Prime Minister).
19. Clearly the two reports are about the same incident but the difference is remarkable. One chastises Muhyiddin and the other defends Muhyiddin.
20. Which report is right? I am inclined to think The Star has spun the report so as to look bad for Muhyiddin. Why the spin? Is it because of a desire to please the powers that be? It does seem likely because today everyone seems anxious to please Dato Seri Abdullah. Or is it because the reporter did not understand what Rais was saying? I wonder.
21. The Utusan report seems to be more in keeping with the attitude of Rais. He had always been outspoken and never hesitates to criticise even Government action, or Dato Seri Abdullah himself. Anyway, I hope the Utusan report is the more correct one.
22. In my time the papers did self-censor themselves. But they did not spin. Now spinning is blatant.
23. The bloggers have attracted a huge number of supporters with Rocky Bru having more than six million hits. The popularity of the blogs is obvious. It must be because people no longer believe or even read certain papers nor watch the Government controlled TV stations.