OPINION: The very real danger of Goebbelsdigook

Readers of the Times are having a splendid February dreaming up a collective noun for spin doctors. The most obvious are a ’surgery’ or a ’theatre’.

Readers of the Times are having a splendid February dreaming up a

collective noun for spin doctors. The most obvious are a ’surgery’ or a


These are also the most complimentary collective nouns advanced so


The Thunderer’s readers have variously dubbed them as a ’spout’, a

’dissembly’, a ’dissimulation’, a ’spiral’ and a ’yo-yo’ of spin doctors

on the basis that they ’go round and round, up and down, are at the end

of a string and serve no lasting purpose’.

A yo-yo would serve admirably were it not that Donald Brown, of

Weston-Super-Mare, and I had, more or less simultaneously, suggested a

’Goebbels’ of spin doctors. The idea came to me when I was discussing

these blots on the communications landscape with an Israeli journalist

over here on a scholarship. I thought likening them to Goebbels would

really bring home to him what is going on. The term certainly raised his


He also got the message: I regard spin doctors as an abomination.

I am, of course, aware that some misguided people see me as the

’original spin doctor’. But everybody connected with communications,

media management or PR is a spin doctor now. The term is so much more

dramatic and sinister than the more prosaic press or information officer

or PRO. Yet all self-respecting press officers argue that there is a

fundamental difference between them and a spin doctor. And the more spin

doctors warm to their task the more important it becomes for press

officers and indeed PROs to avoid guilt by association.

Let me give you just two recent examples of spin doctoring. Take first

the ridiculous Express front page lead suggesting that up to eight

million could lose their jobs if Britain left the EU. The author of the

research from which this Europhile fantasy was spun actually described

it as Goebbelsian in his anger at the distortion of the truth. Then

there is the mounting evidence of endless recycling of initiatives by

minister after minister involving the same allocation of money and not a

penny more. This has led the BMA to complain that NHS planners haven’t a

clue how much money is actually available since so much of the same,

they fear, keeps raining down on them via press notices.

Dr Goebbels was a master at continually raising hopes in Nazi Germany by

manipulating the facts. He was also greatly assisted in telling people

what they should think by the SS. Fortunately, today’s spin doctors are

not supported by a reign of terror. They are thus unable to fool all of

the people all of the time. They seem to be fooling fewer and fewer

people for less and less of the time through their failure to understand

that in a free society credibility - a press officer’s stock-in-trade -

is all. Let it be a warning to spin doctors: Dr Goebbels committed

suicide in the bunker

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