The founders of FactCheck.org teach you how to identify and debunk spin, hype, and fake news in this essential guide to informed citizenship in an age of misinformation.
Americans are bombarded daily with mixed messages, half-truths, misleading statements, and out-and-out fabrications masquerading as facts. The news media is often too intimidated, too partisan, or too overworked to keep up with these deceptions.
unSpun is the secret decoder ring for the twenty-first-century world of disinformation. Written by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the founders of the acclaimed website FactCheck.org,unSpun reveals the secrets of separating facts from disinformation, such as:
• the warning signs of spin
• common tricks used to deceive the public
• how to find trustworthy and objective sources of information
Telling fact from fiction shouldn’t be a difficult task. With this book and a healthy dose of skepticism, anyone can cut through the haze of political deception and biased eportage to become a savvier, more responsible citizen.
Praise for unSpun
“Read this book and you will not go unarmed into the political wars ahead of us. Jackson and Jamieson equip us to be our own truth squad, and that just might be the salvation of democracy.” —Bill Moyers
“The definitive B.S. detector—an absolutely invaluable guidebook.”—Mark Shields, syndicated columnist and political analyst, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
“unSpun is an essential guide to cutting through the political fog.”—Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent
“The Internet may be a wildly effective means of communication and an invaluable source of knowledge, but it has also become a new virtual haven for scammers–financial, political, even personal. Better than anything written before, unSpun shows us how to recognize these scams and protect ourselves from them.”—Craig Newmark, founder and customer service representative, Craigslist
According to Jamieson and Jackson, both of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, "spin is a polite word for deception," and deception is everywhere. As a remedy, they offer this media literacy crash course. The authors explore spin's warning signs ("If it's scary, be wary") and the tricks used to bring people around to a certain point of view ("The implied falsehood," "Frame it and claim it"), as well as the lessons to call on when confronted with conflicting or suspect stories ("Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence"). Although they tackle the checkered history of product pitches (from snake oil to Cold-Eeze), what stands out is their keen insight into Washington politics, where "deception is a bipartisan enterprise," as illustrated by Bush and Kerry in the 2004 presidential election (in which both fudged the facts of unemployment and taxation). September 11 and the run-up to Gulf War II give the authors their most convincing talking points, debunking myths and chronicling Washington's use of "fear, uncertainty, and doubt"-cited so often it gets the acronym "FUD"-to generate public support for the 2003 invasion. However, the rules to avoid these and other carefully enumerated tricks range from commonsensical ("You can't be completely certain") to labor intensive ("Check primary sources"), leaving one to wonder whether the spin doctors have already won out over energy- and time-deficient Americans.
This book certainly makes you aware of many techniques used to misinform and perhaps makes you more apt to notice them when in use. However there is nothing ground-breaking or life changing here. Most of it is pretty common sense. Any average adult should already be aware of these tricks.