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Spin Doctor

Frank Esser


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The term “spin doctor” is an amalgam of “spin,” meaning the interpretation or slant placed on events (which is a sporting metaphor, referring to the spin a pool player puts on a cue ball), and “doctor,” derived from the figurative uses of the word to mean patch up, piece together, and falsify. The “doctor” part also derives from the employment of professionals rather than untrained amateurs to administer the spin. The term “spin doctor” was coined by American novelist Saul Bellow, who spoke in his 1977 Jefferson Lecture about political actors “capturing the presidency itself with the aid of spin doctors.” The word “spin” first appeared in the press on January 22, 1979, in a Guardian Weekly article; the phrase “spin doctor” first appeared in the press on October 21, 1984, in a New York Times editorial commenting on the televising of presidential debates. It took another decade until it was picked up by academics: Maltese (1994 , 215–216) discussed the significance of spin doctoring for political communication, and Sumpter and Tankard (1994) for public relations. Theoretical concepts most closely related to spin are priming and framing (→  Framing of the News ; Priming Theory ). Medvic (2001) , for example, considers “deliberate priming” as the main responsibility of spin doctors, by which he means producing campaign messages that focus on issues that are to a politician's ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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