Thursday, May 7, 2009


In public relations, spin is providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, "spin" often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Politicians are often accused by their opponents of claiming to be honest and seek the truth while using spin tactics to manipulate public opinion.

Because of the frequent association between "spin" and press conferences (especially government press conferences), the room in which these take place is sometimes described as a spin room. A group of people who develop spin may be referred to as "spin doctors" who engage in "spin doctoring" for the person or group that hired them.

* 1 Overview
* 2 See also
* 3 Fictional Spin Doctors
* 4 References
* 5 External links


The techniques of spin include:

* Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one's position (cherry picking)
* Non-denial denial
* Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths
* Euphemisms to disguise or promote one's agenda
* "Burying bad news": announcing one popular thing at the same time as several unpopular things, hoping that the media will focus on the popular one.

Eddie Bernays claims to be the "Father of Spin". In his book he describes some situations in twentieth-century America where tobacco and alcohol companies used techniques to make certain behaviors more socially acceptable. Bernays was known for being a propagandist and was proud of the evidence he found. [1]

Another spin technique involves the delay in the release of bad news so it can be hidden in the "shadow" of more important or favorable news or events. A famous reference to this practice occurred when UK government press officer Jo Moore used the phrase It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury in an email sent on September 11, 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center.[1] When this email was reported in the press it caused widespread outrage for which Moore was forced to apologize.[2] She was later made to resign when it was claimed she had sent a similar email following the death of Princess Margaret.[3]

In the United States public affairs dealing with military contacts during the beginning of the War in Iraq used a spin tactic. Several parts of U.S. military wanted to hire PR firms to send out fabricated or misleading information to get a rise in the public approval of the war. Some officials did not want to join information officers with public affairs officers for the fear of underminding the military's credibility. This form of spin uses the tactic of blowing small circumstances out of porpotion to get a certain reaction from the public. [2]

Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors", though probably not to their faces unless it is said facetiously. It is the PR equivalent of calling a writer a "hack." Perhaps the most well-known person in the UK often described as a "spin doctor" is Alastair Campbell, who was involved with Tony Blair's public relations between 1994 and 2003, and also played a controversial role as press relations officer to the British and Irish Lions rugby union side during their 2005 tour of New Zealand.

The Americans talk and radio show-host Bill O'Reilly calls his show the No Spin Zone to emphasize his dislike of the phenomenon, although the show itself has been accused of epitomizing spin.

State-run media in many countries also engage in spin by only allowing news stories that are favorable to the government while censoring anything that could be considered critical.

See also

* Apologetics
* Astroturfing
* Code word (figure of speech)
* Doublespeak
* Framing (social sciences)
* Hasbara
* Information subsidy
* Lie
* Managing the news
* Media manipulation
* Propaganda
* Sound bite
* Weasel word
* Bullshit

Fictional Spin Doctors

* Nick Naylor - Protagonist of Christopher Buckley's bestseller Thank You for Smoking.
* Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty in the American sitcom Spin City.
* Malcolm Tucker - enforcer from Number 10 in the BBC comedy The Thick of It.
* Conrad Brean - hired to save a presidential election in Wag the Dog.
* Charles Prentiss and Martin McCabe in the BBC comedy Absolute Power.
* In the game Toontown Online, one of the Lawbot Cogs has been named a Spin Doctor.


1. Sept 11: 'a good day to bury bad news', UK Telegraph
2. Sorry mess as Jo Moore makes her apology, UK Telegraph
3. 'A good day' for No10 to bury Jo Moore's career, UK Telegraph

* Roberts, Alasdair S. (2005). "Spin Control and Freedom of Information: Lessons for the United Kingdom from Canada". Public Administration 83: 1. doi:10.1111/j.0033-3298.2005.00435.x.

External links

* Christian Science Monitor: The spin room - oily engine of the political meat grinder
* Outfoxed: OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism
* Spin of the Day - Center for Media and Democracy
* Spinwatch monitors spin and propaganda

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