The term spin doctor refers to a person who favorably interprets the words and actions of prominent public figures such as politicians. The term “spin doctor” was first used during the 1984 presidential election in the US. A spin doctor is one who cleverly manipulates news. Politicians are often accused of using ‘spin’ or manipulative strategies to persuade the public opinion in their favor. The persons hired to do this work are called spin doctors.
The word ‘spin’ is taken from baseball or other ballgames wherein by spinning a ball properly, the player can direct the ball in a favorable direction. The noun ‘doctor’ refers to an expert while the verb, ‘to doctor’ means to falsify or tamper. The term “spin doctor” first originated in America during the 1980s with a printed reference appearing in “The New York Times” (October 1984): "A dozen men in good suits and women in silk dresses will circulate smoothly among the reporters, spouting confident opinions. They won't be just press agents trying to impart a favorable spin to a routine release. They'll be the Spin Doctors, senior advisers to the candidates."
Recently the term spin doctor is used rather frivolously to refer to people in other professions such as vertigo specialist, disk jockey or a bicycle mechanic. The word may also refer to players who can deftly spin a ball in games such as tennis, cricket or billiards.
Spin Doctors use several techniques to manipulate public opinions. They may:
Edward Bernays, a skilled propagandist, was recognized as a spin doctor. He describes the various techniques used by alcohol and tobacco companies in 20th century America to present certain actions in a socially favorable light. Alastair Campbell was Tony Blair’s spin doctor, responsible for public relations, from 1994-2003. Karl Rove was regarded the spin doctor of the Bush family in the United States.
Spin doctors have a vital role to play in the corporate or state run media in a number of countries. The function of such spin doctors would be essentially to present news that presents the reigning government in a favorable light. They also engage people in fierce debates over trivial issues while leaving the more pressing issues in the shadow.
Examples of famous fictional spin doctors could include the protagonist Nick Naylor in Christopher Buckley’s fiction “Thank You for Smoking”, Mike Flaherty ,the Deputy Mayor in ‘Spin City',the American sitcom and Conrad Brean, in Wag the Dog, who is hired as a spin doctor to save the presidential election.