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4.3 out of 5 stars
unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation
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101 of 114 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 13, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
At least I think it's a great book, but now I'm not so sure. The authors, Brooks Jackson, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson have done such an outstanding job of showing me why I bought the electric scissors I didn't need and how I was focusing so much on watching the healthy people on the television doing Tai Chi in the park, I completely overlooked the possible side effects of the drug the commercial was pedaling. Now that I've listened and found out that it may lead to complete loss of body hair, tailbone growth, swelling of the lips and tongue, excessive weight gain, webbed feet, tooth loss, emesis and leprosy, I've stopped taking the drug.

Starting out with the first snake oil salesman making outrageous claims, to political advertisements by republicans and democrats, by Bush and Kerry, we learn that virtually none of them can be trusted because they appeal to our biases, our perception, our experiences, and cynicism with words that are open to interpretation such as clinically tested, larger, better, more people trust or use..., on average, and other caveats that deserve closer scrutiny. (I've also added to the list: "Read with an open mind," and "Only for those who can be objective").

If that isn't bad enough, the authors show us how our personal experiences and eyewitness accounts can be manipulated by others and by our own biases. For example, when subjects were shown two lines of differing lengths, they often reported that the shorter one was longer, once they learned that everyone else (supposedly) had selected the shorter line. An even better one is the neighboring review: One, who has made his conservative feelings clear, felt that there was more "left favoring" bias to this book. A commenter said that he felt there was more "right-favoring" bias. This is a classic recommendation for the book.

The most fascinating thing I took from this short paperback is that people will cling to their beliefs more tenaciously in the face of overwhelming evidence that reveals their position is incorrect or invalid, that people will short-circuit their own brains and readily accept as fact that which conforms to their own beliefs, and that we must learn to question bias, sources, evidence, and our cynicism before parting with our money or accepting information as knowledge or fact.

So, I can guarantee that you will be 100% satisfied as were the people in my survey who read this book compared with another. Two out of three found this not only a better read, but reported that it killed the germs that cause bad breath, took inches off their waistline, and removed wrinkles. So, what are you waiting for? Get started today. Start reading. After all, you have everything to lose!

Guaranteed! Or, my name isn't Axel Schnookenhoffer!
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50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon December 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a lifelong skeptic I can get with books like this, in which you can learn the best uses of skepticism against an epidemic of misinformation. This one starts out with some recent scientific evidence on why people believe spin and stick to their beliefs so doggedly when contradictory information is ripe for the plucking. That's basically the most useful aspect of the book, and the rest is a parade of obvious examples of spin and some fairly useful prescriptions for immunizing yourself. The examples given of spin, unleashed by everyone from marketers to academics to politicians (big surprise), are likely to irk the thinking American. But the problem is that the authors assume that all types of public disinformation are equally harmful, from cheesy and harmless marketing like "new and improved" to the worst of political fearmongering. In one ridiculous example, a British commander ploy to keep secret some minor battle plans in the Falklands War is conflated to the same level of distaste as lies about the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq. Ironically, the thinking skeptics that the authors are trying to train would be able to parse the world of disinformation more usefully than this book does.

The authors also think that "bipartisanship" is the simple act of critiquing both major political parties, when it would be more useful to critique the system that creates partisanship altogether; while they often recommend that you look at "both" sides of a story, displaying the same systematic tendency of assuming that there are only two ways (left wing vs. right wing) of looking at any complex issue.. Also annoying is the specific recommendation not to assume that one example of spin is a widespread trend. This of course is a very good point, but the authors basically do the same thing in many of their examples, and appear unable to get around this simple logistical difficulty. In the end, the recommendations for immunizing yourself against disinformation are pretty reasonable, though predictable and a bit inconsistent (particularly regarding use of the Internet), and mostly amount to an endorsement of the authors' FactCheck.org service. Now that's a little bit of "spin" in itself. [~doomsdayer520~]
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book for the person who wants to understand how they are being lied to. It is difficult to make sure our biases don't creep in unless we label our comments as opinion. They did a scholarly job here. Nevertheless, their political bias came through. In my opinion this is one of the basic books we all should read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
Though it is mostly common sense, most people need to be reminded of their biases and the way they take in information as "fact". This gives excellent examples of bias, misleading info, and info that is "spun" into whatever a person wants. For example, the area on evidence based from research. Even though it may come from a reliable source, was the research peer reviewed? Did it have a reasonable sample? Who financed the research? Now reading through some many of these news articles (like one reviewer stated, the authors claimed that AP was fairly unbiased), I can pick apart the articles in a matter of minutes (using the internet) and go straight to many of the sources (as they instruct you how to do within the book).
Overall, this book is a staple on anyone's desk. It should be required reading for high school and college students.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I was shocked, *shocked*, to learn that advertisers and politicians had been lying to me.
Actually, no, I wasn't. But it seems too many people are unaware of the degree to which they are being "spun" and the ways in which the facts are being distorted to create a particular impression.
The authors have written a clear, concise, and direct treatise on the subject. This should be required reading for all citizens in this country, and probably also should be taught in the schools. They have organized their discourse into several sections:
* Warning signs of trickery - Seven key warning signs that one is being "spun."
* Tricks - Eight proven tricks used against the public.
* Rules for How to be Sure - Nine invaluable rules to follow when trying to sort fact from fiction.
Each of these signs, tricks, and rules is illustrated with revealing and amusing tales of successful flim-flam.
Between the Tricks and the Rules are excellent chapters on the psychological reasons we fall for such tricks, techniques for avoiding falling for hoaxes, and a clear argument that facts can save your life.
Some, such as William Lutz in "Doublespeak" (1989), have exposed the techniques used and inveighed against them.
Others, such as Farhad Manjoo in "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society" (2008), have addressed some of the psychological reasons and methods people manage to avoid reasoning based on the facts.
Jackson and Jamieson have cut to the chase and offered a clear and concise manual for understanding the techniques used and making oneself proof against them
This book is a must-read and a real "keeper."
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is written by Brooks Jackson, the head of factcheck.org. It explains how factcheck.org confirms or disputes "factual" claims and is a how to book for thinking people. Rather than accepting what the political, news or advertising folks want you to think, this book will give you the tools to question the "facts" and inform yourself on any issue. Several websites factcheck.org considers reliable are listed and I've bookmarked a few of them for easy reference. The book itself is setting next to my monitor. It's an easy read with lots of great tips, great advice and examples of spin to illustrate the tactics used. It will open your eyes and save you money.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I am a fourteen year old, freshman in high school, and I was assigned this book, UnSpun, to read for my Honors Literature class. When I first heard that we had to read this book, I was originally very skeptical and I just assumed that the book would be boring, and a waste of my time.

So when I first started reading UnSpun, I was not really into the book and I was not paying much attention because I was pre-disposed to believe that the book would be extremely dull. Then as I continued reading I was drawn in by the intriguing facts. I was amazed at all the tricks that were used and how easily the general public was fooled by these transparent promises made by many different companies and politicians. The first chapter got me interested by telling how even in the past salesmen would deceive their potential consumers.

Next, the authors, Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, started giving examples of some techniques that deceptive politicians and advertisers use. These deceivers have many tricks and they use them so well that a large percentage of people are easily fooled by their lies. Even some of the most intelligent people are "spun" by these lies.

Then, numerous examples were given about misleading stories that people were fooled by. Many of the examples had to do with politicians and their "promises." It is horrible to believe that our country is being run by corrupt politicians, but in most cases it is very true. While a politician is running for a government office, they are campaigning a lot. Although, in their campaigns they are selling themselves to the public by telling empty lies in a very cunning way so the public believes them and the politicians earn the population's trust.

Even though the book is sometimes repetitive, it holds very important information to allow you to free yourself from all of the lies spread through mass-media. After reading this book, I now feel very prepared to sort through all the lies and deception and actually find some truth in this "spun" world.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I thought that maybe I wouldn't learn anything new from this book,I'm skeptical of just about everything anyway, but obviously, I decided to see if I could learn something that would be helpful. I liked the book because it showed how and where to look to check information and where not to look, but more then anything it shows how to look at what is being said with a skeptical eye rather than a critical eye. I liked this book also because it helps you by telling you what questions to ask yourself when you receive information so you can tell when there is spin when it isn't all that obvious. I'm sick of books that tell me what the problem is without suggesting some ideas as to what can be done about it this is a book that not only speaks of the problem but shows ways to overcome it. It's only 188 pages so it isn't bogged down with repeated examples of the same thing. I enjoyed it and I think you will too if for nothing else than all the web addresses to start a search for the facts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
un.Spun gives insight into the world of the "spinners." This extremely reader-friendly book challenges the reader to consider both the said and the unsaid in making decisions in today's world. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to find the facts both in the politial and advertising worlds.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
"UnSpun" tells us that respect for facts isn't a major concern in the advertising industry, and is far too rare in politics as well. There is no federal law requiring truth in political advertising, and the few states that have tried have had their efforts overturned or proven ineffective. At the same time, lawsuits for defamation are rare, and move too slowly to do wronged candidates any good.

The authors then go on to provide a number of guideline rules to alert us to likely disinformation - eg. "If it's scary, be wary," and offer simple rules to also assist - eg. beware of stories that are too good, the dangling comparative (eg. longer than what?), weasel words (eg. "up to 50% off"), the blame game, glittering generalities, misuse of the term "average," baseline bluffing ("cuts" measured against alternative programs, instead of current spending), and use of value-laden words (eg. death tax, instead of estate tax).

"UnSpun" ends by offering some helpful rules for information consumers; unfortunately, it still is too easy to play games with words.
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