McCain & Clinton talk straight; Obama spins the truth

Interesting New Scientist article.

Software algorythms used “to determine when a person 'presents themselves or their content in a way that does not necessarily reflect what they know to be true,” seems to strongly indicate Obama puts a very heavy spin on “what he knows to be true.”

On a scale with 0 being the average level of spin, McCain scored a -7.58, indicating he’s a straight talker. Hillary Clinton scored a 0.15, also a straight talker. Obama scored a whopping 6.7, calling into question how much faith he has in what he says.

I’m not sure what to make of this.

Sounds kind of dubious to me, especially considering the number of flat out lies that McCain has been caught in.

And how about Hillary’s sniper story? That was “straight talk?”

I’m not exactly sure how thye’re defining “spin,” but it doesn’t necessarily appear to be related to honesty. The article says that Obama’s “spin” goes up when dealing with crap like the Wright flap, but it doesn’t say he’s lying about anything. They seem to be defining “spin” as being more about emphasis and de-emphasis than truth vs. non-truth. They also say that McCain sounds “depressed” and “lacks credibility.”

So blatant lies are relatively rare, they say, but McCain has been caught in a boatload of them, so I’m not sure what to take from this.

Frankly I’ve always gotten the impression that New Scientist is a tad more enthusiastic than discriminating in its evaluation of new technological advancements.

Yes, it would be cool if a robot could tell us when politicians are lying. But where’s the follow-up on that relativity drive they covered a few months back?

Oh, I have that, and have relieved its inventors of the burdens of their sad and pitiful lives. Don’t worry, I’ll put the drive to good use, I promise.

The article doesn’t call anyone a liar. It’s how much spin they put on what they know to be true.

Hillary and McCain don’t put as much spin on the truth. Obama OTOH, apparently feels the need to, or just does.

Not that that would make him a bad or good president. You either make good decisions or bad decisions. People used to call Bill Clinton “slick Willie.” That didn’t make him a bad president.

Not to be snide, but you’ve hit on it in the first sentence: “what they know to be true.” In McCain’s case there is so little he knows to be true that it dampens his spin factor.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

I was thinking of this (possibly incorrect) definition:

critical in an unfair and nasty way

I did mean to be critical. I did not mean to be taken as unfair and nasty. I do think McCain has a loose grip on most facts. I think his loose grip on the facts makes it difficult to call his assertions “spin” by the definition upthread.

Moving thread from IMHO to Great Debates.

AND . . . this is exactly what I was talking about in the other two threads about what is and is not a “lie.” I’d bet that in your scorecard of McCain “lies” are several like in that pit thread, that you haven’t even tried to demonstrate are actually lies at all.

I think there will be agreement that this is a bunch of crap.

See, I used “I” instead of “We” so I’m telling the truth!!!

It occurs to me that I could devise an algorithm in which I assign high “spin” values to words McCain uses more often, run the candidates’ speeches through it, and declare McCain the ultimate spinner.

This new science is fun!

[costanza]Remember, Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it’s true[/costanza]

No, actually, you appear to be spinning what you “know to be the truth.” Also “I think there will be agreement” would appear to be a qualification, and “bunch of crap” would appear to be negatively charged words. Yup, there’s some spin in your post.

TWDuke, do you really think the researchers just picked words Obama uses more often than other candidates and labeled them “spin?” Don’t tell me, next you’ll claim “spin” is the new “code word.” Do you have any basis at all to claim the researchers just pick words one person uses more than others? Do you really believe this was some contrived conspiracy to be mean to Obama? Care to explain why?

Yeah, this article has a strong smell of BS around it.

It looks like there is just too much chance for error and bias to creep in (e.g., in determining which words indicate spin and how much spin they indicate). It seems very easy for the results to tell you exactly what you want them to or for the results to just tell you exactly nothing (after all, it’s not like there’s an objective determiner of the “spin” of a speech with which to compare these results).

Also, the article doesn’t say when he came up with this software. It may be interesting if he applied it to speeches in the last few campaigns.

The point is that we don’t really know what the empirical underpinnings are behind any of the cues or words chosen for the algorithm. We don’t even have a good definition of “spin.” The whole enterprise seems to lend itself to all kinds of tester bias and tendentious premises. It appears to be about on the same level as body language or handwriting analysis.

What can I say, I trust myself over mystery software when it comes to this stuff.

I’m reminded of analyses of Hillary’s body language during the speech she gave at the convention that reported that she was totally against what she was saying, like a POW delivering a statement under duress.

One obvious problem with the methodology presented in the article is that it’s an entirely internal measure that makes no reference to factual reality. In other words, a directly delivered half-truth counts as “straight talk”, while an artful presented truth counts as spin.

To put it a bit differently, what it sounds like the software measures is how much the candidate sounds like they’re spinning, not whether they’re actually spinning. I don’t think that’s all that useful a measure.

I know it’s a different news item, but a Firefox plugin called Spinspotter, along with the clowns who believed the story, got torn a new asshole over at the Language Log. Here and here.

This one seems to be a more sophisticated load of crap. And when you use an “I vs. We” analysis on Hillary Clinton’s speeches, she’ll come out a straight talker even when she’s recounting the time she stabbed Caesar to stand up against tyranny.

This also sounds as if they are equating spin to enthusiasm and comfort level in a topic. I thought spin was when you took something bad and tried to redefine it as something good and vice versa - basically untrue or at least alternative (OK, Rand Rover?) representations. It sounds to me as if this study is spinning spin.