[FOUNTAIN]Spinning slowly in the windThe leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom spent the last weekend of March at Camp David together, after the attack on Iraq had begun. The purpose of the meeting was to draw up plans for the postwar administration of Iraq.
One figure who appeared frequently on television screens at the time was Alastair Campbell, 46, the chief press secretary of Prime Minister Tony Blair. He had a seat at every meeting the two leaders had with their key aides, including the heads of their foreign affairs, defense and national security teams.
The British call him a “spin doctor,” which means a public relations expert who skillfully deals with the press, putting things in the best possible light for his boss. “Spin” is not a positive expression; it implies some political maneuvering.
Mr. Campbell began as a journalist at the Daily Mirror after graduating from Cambridge University. In 1994, he accepted a job as an adviser to Mr. Blair, and successfully “spun” Mr. Blair’s “third way” and “New Labor” programs to the British public. Those campaigns contributed to the Labor Party’s victory in 1997.
In Mr. Blair’s government, he was regarded as the second in command, and the prime minister seems to trust him almost implicitly. Last year, when Mr. Blair won a second term, he offered to resign; Mr. Blair asked him to stay on.
But the spin specialist is now facing a problem brought about, paradoxically, by his skill in spinning the British to support the logic for the war in Iraq.
He published a report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in September. He is now facing criticism that he might have exaggerated the likelihood of such weapons.
The British Broadcasting Corporation aired complaints from an unnamed intelligence official that he fabricated assertions that Iraq had the ability to launch weapons of mass destruction on 45 minutes’ notice.
Mr. Campbell denied the charge and asked for an apology, a demand the BBC brushed off.
The stand-off between the government’s broadcasting arm, funded by public charges on radios and television sets, and the second most powerful man in the government has become a news story in itself. Most people seem to believe the BBC. Perhaps the spin doctor has indulged himself in power plays for too long?
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.