unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation (2007) by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson is a short guide to finding the facts when confronted by “mixed messages, half-truths, misleading statements, and out-and-out fabrications masquerading as facts” in advertising and politics. A lot of their advice initially seems obvious (“No duh we should verify our sources”), but upon further reflection it’s very easy to be taken in. I’m reminded of a bar I went to with some friends that served their own special beer on draft for a low price. We were impressed that we were getting such a good deal on a tasty home-brew. My friend later discovered that bar was actually selling Pabst’s Blue Ribbon under another name. I don’t know if thinking it was a home-brew somehow made PBR taste better, or if PBR’s reputation as a cheap commercial beer makes it taste worse?
The scariest thing about disinformation is how it plays upon our natural human tendency for self-deception. Politically speaking I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of accepting “facts” that support my political belief without evaluating them although I would really wish that I didn’t. In addition to tips on how to evaluate and test information for factual accuracy, the authors provide a number of internet sites that are useful in finding the facts. FactCheck.org is of course an obvious start since that’s the organization behind this book. Snopes.com is a personal favorite of mine for debunking internet hoaxes and rumors.
Other resources include:
- Centers for Disease Control
- Consumer Reports
- Center for Responsive Politics
- Congressional Budget Office
- Kaiser Family Foundation
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- US Census Bureau
- Energy Information Administration
- Government Accountability Office
This is a good little book to check out if you want to learn how to avoid deception.
Author Jackson, Brooks.
Title UnSpun : finding facts in a world of disinformation / Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson.
Publication Info. New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, c2007.
Description xii, 195 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.