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Spin (again)

Posted by ESC on October 17, 2004

(We covered this earlier this month but I can't find the thread. Starting anew here.)

On "Sunday Morning" on CBS-TV today (October 17, 2004) in the U.S., there was a segment on the "spin room." According to Sunday Morning, the spin room had its beginnings after the Gerald Ford vs. Jimmy Carter debate when President Ford said Poland was not under Soviet domination.

From the Museum of Broadcast Communications site at Accessed October 17, 2004.
"Ford's Remarks Startle Europeans; Poles Among the Most Bemused"
Washington Post, Oct. 8, 1976; A8; By Peter Osnos
The media made much of the foreign policy "gaffe" President Ford committed in his second debate with Jimmy Carter. In his remarks, Ford stated that the Soviet Union was not politically dominating the countries of Eastern Europe. The media interpreted this statement as completely contrary to the accepted view, which saw the countries of Eastern Europe, especially Poland, as being well within the Soviet sphere of influence.

The spin room is where political types clean up after the politicians and explain what they really meant to say.

From Buzzwhack at
Spin Room: The room backstage following last night's presidential debate where "spokesmen" for each candidate were readily available to the media to explain what each candidate "really" said.

From Word Spy at
spin -- verb and noun. To convey information or cast another person's remarks or actions in a biased or slanted way so as to favorably influence public opinion; information provided in such a fashion.

Example Citation:
"Spin is the perspective that newsmakers and their minions put on a story to minimize any damage it might cause. As defined by political columnist and word maven William Safire in his New Political Dictionary, spin is 'deliberate shading of news perception; attempted control of political reaction.' "
-Jill Lawrence, "Spin: Behind the walkout that wasn't," USA Today

This stalwart member of the political lexicon probably came from phrases such as "putting a positive (or negative) spin on" something. In turn, this notion of influencing direction almost certainly came from sports such as baseball and billiards where players impart spin on a ball to change its course.

Earliest Citation:
"What Pertschuk is accused of is being too ardent a consumer advocate, of 'lobbying' members of the committee on behalf of things he thinks are good, of putting his own philosophical 'spin' on options, of having excessive influence on Magnuson; in short of acting like the '101st senator.'"
-Spencer Rich, "An Invisible Network of Hill Power," The Washington Post, March 20, 1977