Home > The Body Politic > The Art of ‘Spin’

The Art of ‘Spin’


The Art of  ‘Spin’ – or misleading the public – is a tool that every politician knows how to use almost in their sleep. For a successful politician, they must know how to ‘spin’ an issue so it appears in the public domain in a way that is favourable to the poli.

Of course, a politician could adopt a radical practice of telling the truth (as s/he sees it) – but they either worldn’t last long, or would be pilloried in the media and public. (Hone Harawira is a prime example of a politician speaking his mind – and getting publicly vilified for it.)

When the public say they want “honest politicians”, I suspect this is not true. I suspect what the public really wants is for politicians to say what the public want to hear (John Key and David Lange are also prime examples of this), and if they’re fibbing or stetching the truth – the public don’t want to know. Especially if it’s a particular party we each support.



Occassionally, though, politicians become ‘unstuck’, and their “spin” is unmasked for what it is: bullshit.

Case in point: what is the role of the SAS in Afghanistan? John Key assured us that  it was ‘mentoring‘,


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Only problem is… it wasn’t quite true. SAS soldiers were ending up dead – casualties in firefights with insurgents (or local families disputes).

Eventually, Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp had to come clean and admit what we all suspected to be the plain and simple truth;  the SAS’ “mentoring role” of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (ACRU) was actually more of  a “substantial combat component”.

In other words, they were shooting at the enemy, and the enemy was most definitely shooting back.


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Ironically, Key and Mapp still attempted to put a ‘positive spin’ on their previously unsuccessful ‘spin’,

Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp has admitted the SAS’ mentoring role of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (ACRU) has morphed into a role with a “substantial combat component”.

However, neither he nor the Prime Minister believe this means the SAS are in Afghanistan in a combat role.” Source

So as the TV3 headline sez, the SAS is in combat, but not in a combat role?!

As Manuel used to say in a certain Torquay hotel,


How does that work – being in combat, but not in a combat role???

Oh well, I guess National’s Ninth Floor spin doctors were having such a hard time reconciling the disparate comments from Dear Leader and Wayne Mapp, that they just decided that any old BS will do. After all, at 50%+ in public opinion polls, I guess it doesn’t really matter if the public believe their latest ‘spin’ or not.

However, that leads on to a somewhat more serious and deadly matter,


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Judging by John Key’s and Wayne Mapp’s earlier “assurances” about “mentoring/combat” roles, I find it hard to accept anything that comes out from this government. Hell, if John Key tells me it’s October, my first inclination would be to check my calendar!

I sure as hell hope that when Defence Force Chief Lieutenant-General Jones says that there was “no complicity in torture or any other international crime by New Zealand or members of the NZDF by partnering with the CRU” – that this is the pure, unvarnished truth.

Because if it ever comes out that we’ve been lied to and NZ troops were complicit in torture – then that will be a dark stain on our country’s reputation. It also makes us liable to be charged at the International Criminal Court for being accessory to war crimes.

To John Key, I say this; if we are playing some kind of covert role in supporting torture in Afghanistan, even in an indirect manner, then be aware of one thing: eventually the truth will come out. Secrets do not stay secret for long.

And you will be known as the NZ Prime Minister who sanctioned torture.

Do not play “silly buggers” with this issue, Mr Prime Minister. Take it from me that secrets do not last.


Additional information

Minister releases report on Afghan detainees

Listen to Radio NZ  Checkpoint interview with Wayne Mapp



  1. Deborah Kean
    23 October 2011 at 6:56 pm

    You’re absolutely correct, Frank. This is the most important mess NACT have made/are making…

  1. 18 August 2016 at 8:01 am

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