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Bunk Busters Unravel the Art of Spin

May 26, 2007 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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The presidential election is more than a year away, but political candidates and their spin doctors are already bombarding the American public with their messages.

As Washington gears up for a new season of political doublespeak, the founders of the Web site FactCheck.org are offering a decoder ring for separating fact from disinformation.

In their new book, unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, authors Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson offer tips on how to cut through the haze of media reporting to be a savvier consumer and a better-informed citizen.

Spin, they say, "is a polite word for deception," and deception is everywhere — from the cosmetics counter to the presidential podium. Jackson and Jamieson review warning signs everyone should know and delve into Washington's use of "fear, uncertainty and doubt" or "FUD" to gain support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"If it's scary, be wary" they warn, citing an ad aired from the 2004 Bush campaign that used ominous music, scary images of wolves, and a World Trade Center reference to convince viewers that if John Kerry became president, he would leave America defenseless against terrorists. In their research, the authors discovered that the ad referred to the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and that before Sept. 11, 2001, Kerry had repeatedly voted to increase intelligence spending.

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