Spin Doctoring

Week 4 Assignment

Critical Thinking Exercise – Spin Doctoring

 

This assignment is worth up to 75 points. We will apply course concepts from Myers Chapter 7 (Persuasion) to the following case:

 

Case.  Spin doctoring is form of impression management that has been in the repertoire of public relations practitioners for four decades.  The term refers to the tactic of shifting the focus off of the negative and harmful aspects of something by substituting another issue that has positive connotations.  Spin doctors change the terms of public perception and debate using the mass media, which today includes blogs and social media like Facebook.  Spin doctoring is an international phenomenon the serves the interests of organizations in every sector of society.

 

The tobacco industry is considered to be the classic case of spin doctoring.  After 1966 when the Surgeon General of the U.S. pronounced that cigarette packages must carry a health warning, the tobacco industry found a way to offset the damaging publicity by sponsoring sports and arts events and giving grants for community development.  By de-emphasizing the dangers of smoking and emphasizing the positive contributions being made to community life, Big Tobacco trivialized the health problems and turned attention instead to its displays of corporate social responsibility.

 

A contemporary example of spin doctoring relates to the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which was the original rationale for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.  When the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction proved to be faulty, the debate was quickly and skillfully shifted by spin doctors to a humanitarian argument that the Iraqi people must be freed from the clutches Saddam Hussein the ruthless dictator.  While no evidence of weapons of mass destruction could be found, mass graves of Iraqi citizens killed at the behest of Saddam Hussein could be found and thus, legitimate the invasion.

 

The debate over climate change and global warming is very similar in some ways to the tobacco example because it involves the efforts of hydrocarbons producers to debunk the hypothesis that global warming is primarily caused by the high levels of CO2 emissions associated with the consumption of fossil fuels.  By spinning the argument away from CO2 emissions towards touting how technology is producing cleaner, greener fuels, the hydrocarbon industry gives the appearance of being environmentally responsible at a time when the pressure from environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Suzuki Foundation, and high-profile environmentalists like Al Gore cannot be denied.

 

Your Assignment:  Use critical thinking to analyze the following three questions relating to aspects of persuasion.  Specifically utilized the particular course concept or concepts stated in each question.

 

  1. Which paths(s) to persuasion is/are present in the global warming case? Explain how the paths are shown.
  2. How does the tobacco industry example fit into our understanding of impression management?
  3. Is spin doctoring the same as propaganda or is it fundamentally different? How so? Address the weapons of mass destruction case in your answer.

 

Expectations

  • You will address each of the required questions in essay form, explaining the reasoning behind your answer and identifying the course concept(s) explicitly;
  • You will use subheadings so that each question clearly occupies its own section of the paper;
  • Your name will appear on the first page of your paper;
  • You will use APA citations in the text and include a References section at the end of your paper
  • You will spell and grammar check your paper

 

Grading:

  • 60 points per question for quality of your answer and use and understanding of course terminology to each of the required questions (20 points per question)
  • 15 points for orderly presentation in subsections, freedom from spelling and grammar errors, and use of APA style.

 

 

 

 

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