When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared at a press conference last year and with a grave face announced that he was suffering from prostate cancer, “spin experts” (and there are many of those around here) rushed to warn us: The PM is choosing to divert the public and media discourse to his disease in the face of the threatening shadow of the Winograd Commission. “It was a perfect spin,” they concluded with sharp irony.
Meanwhile, as it turned out, the Winograd report did not damage Olmert badly, while the cancer is still in his body. The “spinologists” grew silent.
Only a few months passed, and again we saw the spin commentators hit the media. Look at that, they warned us, he’s done it again. Olmert timed his MRI test to serve as an excellent spin to coincide with the tough period of the new police probe against him. It’s all about spin, they said.
Yet meanwhile it turned out that Olmert’s medical situation has not deteriorated, and the spin magic evaporated within a few hours. However, our spin-struck commentators do noet let the facts confuse them: They find new spins. So now, the signals exchanged between Olmert and Syrian leader Assad are interpreted using spinologist logic as yet another attempt to divert public discourse to another direction
Assad has his own problems, including a nuclear reactor that was bombed, the Lebanon entanglement, and an international probe over the Hariri murder. Against this backdrop, Assad is obviously seeking to direct global media attention to another issue, and Olmert, of course, is seeking to get away from the bribery and corruption affair.
And so, any diplomatic initiative, the renewal of talks with Syria, progress in talks with the Palestinians, or even a lull agreement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip are all interpreted as some kind of scam.
Recipe for inactionIsraeli politics bears much of the fault for the public disappointment with it. Many politicians brought upon themselves the cynical, skeptical, and alienated attitude of the Israeli public. Yet we must recall this: Our leaders are the people entrusted with our future, our destiny, and our hopes. If any move they undertake and any diplomatic initiative they come up with are interpreted as a cheap and clever spin, Israeli politics will be headed to complete paralysis.
The alienation and cynicism may serve to perpetuate inaction, lack of initiative, and ultimately, a despairing decline.
It is ok to yell out “spin” when there is good reason for it, but those who suffer from “spinophobia” ultimately end up viewing any move as a spin, ranging from a medical examination to contacts with bitter enemies.
Spinophobia leads to despair, indifference, and alienation from politicians and from politics. If we reach the point where we are disgusted by our politicians all the time and under any circumstances, we shall bring upon ourselves future leaders who deserve only scorn and alienation.
Under such circumstances, I don’t know what’s more dangerous: A small yet stable case of prostate cancer, or spinophobia that spreads through the nation’s body and soul.
Prof. Gabriel Weimann from the University of Haifa specializes in political communication