Friday, October 26, 2012

Spin, Facts & Using Your Brain

"Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!" - George Carlin 

When I was a lad at school, probably about 13 years of age, I remember convincing a kid who was a year younger that if you took a red car and an identical white car, the red one would go faster in daylight.  

The logic was this:  The red car would absorb more sunlight than the white car, and therefore get hotter.  As hot things get lighter, we can assume that less energy would be needed to make it go, and therefore given the same spec engine, the red one would go faster because it's pushing a lighter car.  

A number of years later, I overheard the same kid (now much older) in a pub pulling the exact same stunt.  I butted in, and pointed out that Formula One cars (which we all know are considerably fast moving) have a lot of spoilers to make them heavy using aerodynamics, and therefore grip better and have better acceleration as a result.  Applying this idea, the white car would be faster because it was heavier and it's tires wouldn't spin so much on the ground during acceleration and cornering.  

This is "spin" in action.  It's the thing that allows you to paint a picture of something in whatever light suits you, and by picking your words carefully, you can convince people of anything.  

However, just because I can spin a situation two ways, it doesn't mean that either are factually correct.  It also doesn't mean I know anything about the subject at hand, in this case the mythical science of photo-gravity enhanced aerodynamics of cars.

These are points that are lost on many people.

What immediately became apparent is that when someone is spinning something, they've tried to gauge your mentality and they think that they can pull the wool over your eyes, regardless of whether they are correct or not, or whether the subject matter is something they even know about, or not.  When someone starts using spin, they've concluded that they are smarter than you, and as a result they believe their spin would work on you.

When you think about this, it actually becomes a very abhorrent situation when you realise how stupid some people think you actually are.  We see, in the news, regularly conflicting stories that should make you question whether the media is just robotically pumping out drivvel that they're being supplied with by people who think that their spin is going to work.

Everyone should question what you're being fed in the news.  Ask yourself if the person presenting the "facts" to you actually knows what they're talking about, or if they're just regurgitating what they're being fed.  More often than not, they don't have an opinion and definitely don't offer it, have no prior experience with the subject, and most likely has no clue whether it's even true or not.  People need to use their own brains with this stuff.  When you think something is not right in the media, the chances are you are correct.  

Learn to spot spin and you'll do yourself a huge favour.