From Ethical Politics
Spin is the obfuscation of information to guide public opinion in a specific and predetermined direction. It is employed by those with significant financial resources and ready access to mass means of communication, including powerful politicians and elected officials in federal and local government; multimillionaire investors and heads of large corporations; and, heads of mainstream media, particularly conglomerates.
Spin turns right or left, pro or con. The cadre can either be supportive or destructive. The common objective is persuading the general public to a particular perspective, frequently in opposition to the ambitions of another, or many other, elites. Spin has a pejorative connotation often discussed in terms of spin doctors, handlers, image consultants and other unflattering language.
Spin techniques include but are not limited to:
- Begging the question or phrasing statements in a way that assumes unproven truths
- Lying by omission
- Cherry picking: selectively presenting facts to support one position or undermine another, selectively presenting quotes that support one position or undermine another
- An equivocal denial (i.e., the “non-denial denial”) or confirmation: characterizing a statement as “outrageous” without addressing the truth; not “dignifying” a response; denying an alternative version of allegations rather than addressing the specific allegations
- Ad hominem attack: impugning the reliability of a source without addressing the facts presented by the source
- Using euphemisms to disguise or promote an agenda
- Burying the news: announcing a controversial item in the midst of a larger news story, announcing a controversial item when low media coverage is expected, i.e., Friday evening
Dr. Alan F. Kay, a leader in public interest polling and author of Locating Consensus for Democracy (1998), argues that an insidious use of spin exists when polling data is manipulated (cherry picking) or, worse, when polls themselves are crafted to elicit a particular response (cherry planting).
Same story, different spin objectives
Spin filters through layers of those with an interest in presenting the message, obscuring the factual content of the situation (1). A company may put out a press release announcing a new product. A senator begins campaigning to get production in her or his state, whether such production is likely or not, increasing the politician’s image as state advocate. The media scoops speculation as to the potential job hires, increasing readership and return readership for future updates. All of which can escalate the impact of the original press release which may or may not have stated or even implied political or economic ramifications.
When applied to situations of even greater import, such as supporting a war, the ramifications of spin cannot be overstated, keeping in mind that spin, by definition, promotes the agenda of a few to rally the support of many.
1. Spot the Spin. Alan F. Kay. Trafford Publishing, 2007. p. 6.
Author: Rosalinda Sanquiche