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In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, "spin" often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics.
Politicians are often accused by their opponents of claiming to be truthful and seek the truth while using spin tactics to manipulate public opinion. Large corporations with sophisticated public relations branches also engage in "spinning" information or events in their favor. 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. Public relations advisors, pollsters and media consultants who develop spin may be referred to as "spin doctors" or "spinmeisters" who manipulate the truth and create a biased interpretation of events for the person or group that hired them.
The term has its origin in the old American expression "to spin a yarn". Sailors were known for using their spare time on board making thread or string (yarn) and also for telling incredible tales when they were on shore. When someone fooled you, it was said that "he spun me an amazing yarn". Yarn also became a synonym for "tall tale" - "What a yarn!", means "what a lie". A coarser and more contemporary version of this expression is "bullshit", and, for anyone who seeks to deceive, "bullshit artist".
Edward Bernays has been called the "Father of Public Relations". 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). For example, a pharmaceutical company could pick and choose trials where their product shows a positive effect, ignoring the unsuccessful trials, or a politician's staff could handpick speech quotations from past years which appear to show her support for a certain position)
• Non-denial denial
• Non-apology apology
• "Mistakes were made" is an expression that is commonly used as a rhetorical device, whereby a speaker acknowledges that a situation was managed by using low-quality or inappropriate handling but seeks to evade any direct admission or accusation of responsibility by not specifying the person who made the mistakes. The acknowledgement of "mistakes" is framed in an abstract sense, with no direct reference to who made the mistakes. A less evasive construction might be along the lines of "I made mistakes" or "John Doe made mistakes." The speaker neither accepts personal responsibility nor accuses anyone else. The word "mistakes" also does not imply intent.
• Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths, or avoiding the question
• "Burying bad news": announcing unpopular things at a time when it is believed that the media will focus on other news. In some cases, governments have released potentially controversial reports on summer long weekends, to avoid significant news coverage. Sometimes that other news is supplied by deliberately announcing popular items at the same time.
• Misdirection and diversion
"EVERYBODY IS FAIR GAME, simply for being on the other side," Sid Blumenthal wrote in the New Yorker when the Clintons were moving into the White House. "Humiliating one's prey, not merely defeating one's foes, is central to the process." No doubt this nasty blueprint for political success struck a chord with Hillary. According to Carl Bernstein, who wrote the Hillary biography A Woman in Charge, "His was a message that Hillary could embrace, along with its author." She hired him.  Blumenthal helped write some of Clinton's speeches and, in 1997, went to work in the White House as assistant to the president.
And assist he did.
By the time Bill and Hillary were up to their necks in Whitewater and Jones and Monica and me, Blumenthal concluded and collected "copious research on almost every aspect of the political, professional, and private lives of Starr, his prosecutors, the Paula Jones gang, the Republicans in Congress ... and ... the individual mercenaries of the right."  He would eventually be questioned in detail as to how he went about collecting that "copious research."
When Monica's story came out, Blumenthal cheered blindly for his team. Like a cult follower, he blamed Hillary's vast right-wing conspiracy. "The right-wing politics that had forced the scandal were alien and unknown to much of the White House senior staff," Blumenthal wrote in The Clinton Wars, his eight-hundred-page account of his years in the Clinton White House. "To them, what the right was doing seemed far-fetched, so impossibly convoluted, that they couldn't quite credit it."  It was quite a stretch of the imagination that White House aides would swallow the story that my testimony -- and Monica's and Paula's and Gennifer's -- were creations of right-wing politics, but the Clintons' brainwashed minions chose to swallow it. And Hillary's boy Sid served up the bait.
-- Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, by Kathleen Willey
What will later be known as the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy begins on the left as a group of progressive students at the University of Arkansas form the Arkansas Committee to look into Mena, drugs, money laundering, and Arkansas politics.
-- Arkansas Connections, by Sam Smith
For years businesses have used fake or misleading customer testimonials by editing/spinning customers 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.
Fictional spin doctors
• Squealer in George Orwell's 1945 novel Animal Farm
• 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.
• Dick Harper – Protagonist in the film Fun With Dick and Jane.
• Jeremy Slank in Fat
• Kasper Juul in Borgen
• Major William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow
• Olivia Pope in Scandal
• The Courtier in The Courtier's Reply
• Russ Duritz in The Kid
• Tim Wattley in The Campaign
• Tony in The Hollowmen
• Borusa in Doctor Who
• Toby Ziegler in The West Wing
• Charm offensive
• Cognitive distortion
• Corporate propaganda
• Impression management
• Image restoration theory
• Just How Stupid Are We?
• Media manipulation
• Minimisation (psychology)
• Reputation management
• Sexed up
• Sound bite
• Spin (1995 film)
• Weasel words
1. William Safire, "The Spinner Spun", New York Times, December 22, 1996.
2. Michael, Powell. "Tit for Tat on a Night Where Spin Is Master,"New York Times. February 22, 2008.
3. 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.
4. Branigan, Tania, "Internet spells end for political spin, says US web guru", The Guardian. 12 June 2007.
5. Staff. "Are these examples of political spin?". BBC Learning Zone. Clip 7265. 2013.
6. Weissman, Jerry. "Spin vs. Topspin". The Huffington Post. 19 June 2009.
• 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.