portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

corporate dominance | government | media criticism

How we are manipulated

Spin defined by Wiki
Spin (public relations)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
In public relations, spin is a usually pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one's own favor of an event or situation that is designed to bring about the most positive result possible. While traditional public relations relies more on creative presentation of the facts, "spin" often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics to sway audiences away from widespread (and often commonsense) perceptions.

"Spin" was originally an acronym, "Significant Progress In the News," used by public relations specialists in the SDI in the mid-1980s. SDI had come under criticism as technically impractical. "Spin" was a public-relations attempt to counter these claims by issuing news releases showing steady progress.

As an example of spin, when US President George W. Bush was running for his first term, the American public initially interpreted his stumbling and inarticulate way of speaking as a sign of low intellect. In response, Bush's team "spun" his awkward speech patterns as evidence of his "Aw, shucks," man-of-the-people personality. They were able to spin this trait in this way because then-President Bill Clinton had built up a reputation as an articulate intellectual who was himself quite talented at spin. His nickname was "Slick Willie," referring to the fact that he could talk his way out of almost any problem, even if it was his fault.

By the time Bush was a candidate for the presidency, he cultivated an image of being a good-hearted everyman whose sense of morality made up for any deficiencies in intellectual sparkle. So the Bush team contrasted their rough-around-the-edges candidate with the smart but "slick" Democratic Party by making their candidate's inarticulateness a distinguishing virtue.

In the UK, Prime Minister Tony Blair is a past master at the deceptive techniques which are an inherent part of spin. He employed intelligent, skilled spin doctors: Peter Mandelson and later Alastair Campbell, to mastermind his presentations. Both 'left office' however, coincident with the public understanding of their workings; though Mandelson was redeployed and sent to the European Commission.

The techniques of spin include:

Selective quotation
Selective use of facts
Non-denial denial
Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths
Euphemisms to disguise or promote one's agenda
Another spin technique involves the delay in the release of bad news so it can be hidden on the back of more important or favourable news or events. A famous reference to this practice occured when UK government press officer Jo Moore used the phrase good day to bury bad news in an email sent on September 11, 2001. The furore caused when this email was reported in the press subsequently cost her her job.

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."

homepage: homepage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin_%28public_relations%29

add a comment on this article

the amount of spin in the news is dizzying 27.Feb.2005 10:25

Maxwell Smart

I come from a blue state, and most people I talk to have no love for Bush. There are, however, quite a few who seem to think he is a down-home kind of everyman. This is no doubt the result of hours of t.v. news viewing. As a matter of fact, the few people I know who think Bush is the second coming of Christ, who is ridding the world of the "evildoers", are avid Fox snoose viewers. They really believe that he is a strong leader acting only in their best interests. One can only point out in vain all the suspicious inconsistencies in the official 911 explanation;unless these people see it on t.v. they will not seriously consider it.

No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq? No problem. We only went there to bring democracy to those poor downtrodden folks.

The Iraqi people were made to suffer and die in masses because of a decade of sanctions imposed by the U.S.? Hey, we had to punish that evil tyrant Saddam Hussein, so what if a few thousand innocent people died of disease.

Bush went into that elementary school and sat down to read a story about a pet goat knowing all the while that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and stayed for over half an hour smiling, and posing for pictures? Well, at least you can't accuse him of being rude, he sat there until the children were finished reading. We should praise him for his gracious manners, and besides, a reaction would have startled the children. Good thinking on the part of the president and his secret service.

I have to stop writing now, I'm getting dizzy.

all news has some spin 27.Feb.2005 12:43


Everything's going to have some amount of spin. There's no way to prevent some degree of "selective use of facts," for example. People are never going to be able to completely eliminate their biases. It only becomes a problem when all of the articles have the same spin, and this one-sided spin is consciously magnified and overused. When this happens, we know that there is not a fair, free press.