Spin (public relations)
In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through 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 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.
Edward Bernays has been called the "Father of Spin". As Larry Tye describes in his book The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and The Birth of Public Relations, Bernays was able to help tobacco and alcohol companies use techniques to make certain behaviors more socially acceptable in the 20th-century United States. Tye claims that Bernays was proud of his work as a propagandist.
As information technology has increased dramatically since the end of the 20th century, commentators like Joe Trippi have advanced the theory that modern internet activism spells the end for political spin. By providing immediate counterpoint to every point a "spin doctor" can come up with, this theory suggests, the omnipresence of the internet in some societies will inevitably lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of spin.
The techniques of spin include:
- Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one's position (cherry picking)
- Non-denial denial
- Non-apology apology
- Mistakes were made
- Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths, or avoiding the question
- "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.
- Misdirection and diversion
For years businesses have used fake or misleading customer testimonials by editing/spinning a customers clients to reflect a much more satisfied experience than was actually the case. In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission updated their laws to include measures to prohibit this type of "spinning" and have been enforcing these laws as of late. Additionally, over the past 5 to 6 years several companies have arisen that verify the authenticity of the testimonials businesses present on the marketing materials in an effort to convince one to become a customer.
Another spin technique involves a delay in the release of bad news so it can be hidden in the shadow of more important or favorable news or events.
- Spin 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. When this email was reported in the press it caused widespread outrage for which Moore was forced to apologize. She was later made to resign when it was claimed she had sent a similar email following the death of Princess Margaret.
- In the United States, public affairs dealing with U.S. military contacts during the beginning of the War in Iraq used a spin tactic. Several parts of U.S. military wanted to hire public relations 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 undermining the military's credibility. This form of spin uses the tactic of blowing small circumstances out of proportion to get a certain reaction from the public.
- In light of much criticism about the detention center for terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay, the Bush administration sent a planeload of prominent ex-military officers, many of whom were either lobbyists or consultants, or affiliated with prominent television networks or radio stations to the detention center for a carefully orchestrated tour. The field trip was an effort by the president's administration to influence the spin media would apply to their reports about the detention centers.
Fictional spin doctors
- Malcolm Tucker – Number 10 Director of Communications and Strategy in the BBC comedy The Thick of It and the film In the Loop. Portrayed by Peter Capaldi.
- Nick Naylor – Protagonist of Christopher Buckley's bestseller Thank You for Smoking.
- Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty in the American sitcom Spin City.
- 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.
- Dick Harper – Protagonist in Fun With Dick and Jane.
- Jeremy Slank in Fat
- Kasper Juul in Borgen
- Olivia Pope in Scandal
- Squealer in Animal Farm
- The Courtier in The Courtier's Reply
- Russ Duritz in The Kid
- Tony in The Hollowmen
- William Safire, "The Spinner Spun", New York Times, December 22, 1996.
- Michael, Powell. "Tit for Tat on a Night Where Spin Is Master," New York Times. February 22, 2008.
- Stauber, John and Sheldon Rampton. "Book Review: The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & The Birth of PR by Larry Tye," PR Watch (Second Quarter 1999). Vol. 6, No. 2.
- Branigan, Tania, "Internet spells end for political spin, says US web guru", The Guardian. 12 June 2007.
- Staff. "Are these examples of political spin?". BBC Learning Zone. Clip 7265. 2013.
- Weissman, Jerry. "Spin vs. Topspin". The Huffington Post. 19 June 2009.
- Sparrow, Andrew. "Sept 11: 'a good day to bury bad news'", Telegraph (London). October 10, 2001.
- McSmith, Andy. "Sorry mess as Jo Moore makes her apology", Telegraph (London). October 17, 2001.
- Sparrow, Andrew. "'A good day' for No10 to bury Jo Moore's career," Telegraph (London). February 16, 2002.
- "Just What Iraq Needs: More U.S. Propaganda", Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2007.
- David Barstow, "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand: Courting Ex-Officers Tied to Military Contractors", New York Times, April 20, 2008.
- Roberts, Alasdair S. (2005). "Spin Control and Freedom of Information: Lessons for the United Kingdom from Canada". Public Administration 83: 1–23. doi:10.1111/j.0033-3298.2005.00435.x.
- 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
- SPIN (documentary): 
- Booknotes interview with Bill Press on Spin This! All The Ways We Don’t Tell the Truth, January 6, 2002.