Spin Over Substance


Senior Member
Japan - Japanese

Could you help me with the meaning of "spin over substance"? I found this phrase in an article from Time.

"Bush's global-democracy, uhhh, crusade, is yet another triumph of spin over substance, a broad-brush carelessness that feeds off emotional election-day highs, ..."[ref]

I consulted my dictionaries, but couldn't find the definition. Is this a cliche or something?

  • Le Pamplemousse

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Spin" refers to someone (in this case, the U.S. government) changing a story to make themselves look good. "Substance" refers to the actual facts of a story. The saying refers to the fact that in this case, the spin was showcased and the substance was left behind.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Spin does not change the story - sorry, in the beginning, spin did not change the story.
    In its more innocent days spin meant presenting a particular story or fact in the way most favourable to your own point of view by judicious use of context and emphasis on favourable aspects while ignoring but not denying the less favourable.

    Every report of every event carries some element of spin.

    But when the spun version begins to distort the truth of the event, that is a triumph of spin over substance.


    I agree with panjandrum that 'spin' doesn't change the story, it hides the real story by distraction with a non-issue, or by pushing a more favourable angle. This is done to sidetrack the press in a time-delimited press conference so that they don't get to harass the spokesperson on the real issues.