June 17, 2012 in City

Spin Control: Reality is an innocent victim of ‘The Killing’

By The Spokesman-Review

I’ll be watching the cable TV drama “The Killing” tonight to find out who killed Rosie Larson, even though it irks me.

Not just because the main character, Sarah Linden, could get an Emmy for worst TV mother in a drama, or that it is set in Seattle but was mostly shot in Vancouver, B.C. Our northern neighbor offered more tax deals, so producers must have decided one rainy Northwest city looks like any other.

But what irks me most is the fracturing of political facts thrown into the storyline for no good reason. Perhaps more precisely, it irks my wife because I keep saying, “Well, that couldn’t happen because …,” until she tells me to pipe down so she can watch the show.

For those who have never watched, “The Killing” is a mystery about the murder of a Seattle teenager investigated by two detectives so unorthodox they make Starsky and Hutch look like Sgt. Joe Friday and Bill Gannon. The subplot is the mayor’s race between a corrupt incumbent and an idealistic but flawed challenger. In the show, Seattle city politics would make Chicago ward heelers blush, and while Emerald City politics aren’t squeaky clean, it’s unlikely any Seattle residents watching the show are saying “ya got that right.”

But political corruption is a dramatic device, so they get a pass on that. They use outdated images from a previous generation about the race coming down to the wire on Election Day, and driving voters to the polls … which doesn’t happen in Washington state anymore because everyone votes by mail on ballots sent out weeks earlier.

Maybe they want to appeal to a broader audience, the folks around the country who still go to the polls. OK, so why use Seattle, other than to have your characters always in a car with the windshield wipers going?

And then there’s tonight’s big climax, on Election Day, which in the storyline happens the day after Halloween. Nowhere in the country does Election Day happen the day after Halloween. Elections are always on Tuesdays in November, but if Halloween is on Monday, Election Day is always Nov. 8. The earliest we ever vote is Nov. 2.

I am not total purist on such matters. In “Truth Like the Sun,” a new novel by good friend and former Spokesman-Review colleague Jim Lynch about another Seattle mayoral election, the 2001 primary is shifted a few weeks forward into August, where it is now but wasn’t 11 years ago. But it’s for a reason important to the denouement. There was no good reason to mess with the election schedule in “The Killing.” It’s just lazy.

And with that, I’ll pipe down.

Check the math

While we’re on the subject of shifting facts to fit your plotline, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was guilty of at least faulty math last week in its euphoria over Ron Barber’s victory in Arizona for Gabby Giffords’old seat. The organization, which is dedicated to electing more Democrats to the House, sent out a series of cookie-cutter press releases, including one to Eastern Washington with this headline:

“Democrats win special election in more Republican district than Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’.”

That description seemed odd, because the district in question had a Democratic congresswoman for the past five years, and Eastern Washington’s 5th hasn’t had a Democratic representative since 1994. How do ya figure “more Republican,” the DCCC was asked.

Steve Carter allowed as how there’s no one good way to figure more Republican, but they based it on the presidential results of 2008. By their figures, John McCain got 53 percent of the vote in Eastern Washington and 52 percent in Arizona’s 8th District.

But that’s only true if you use just the votes for Obama and John McCain; when votes for the other six candidates on the Washington ballot are part of the equation, McCain only got 51 percent. It’s true that Obama only got 45.5 percent of the vote in Eastern Washington under that equation, and got 47 percent in Arizona’s 8th, but that doesn’t make them more Republican, just less Democratic.

The DCCC sent out similar press releases in more than 80 districts to boost its candidates, simply swapping out the names of Republican challengers or incumbents and the states they were in. Such cookie-cutter releases aren’t new or exclusive to one party. But for Democrats to have a chance in Eastern Washington, they’ll need more than fuzzy math and a search-and-replace function on the word processor.

Spin Control also appears online with daily items and reader comments at www.spokesman.com/blogs/ spincontrol.

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