Saturday, October 04, 2008

Unspinning the Spin

This is probably one of the most timely books that I've ever read. UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation is written by two of the editors for I've been a fan of Factcheck for several years. I really enjoy their non-partisan analysis of the factual claims made by politicians. This book details the steps they take to get to the truth behind the deceptive claims made by advertisers and politicians. I'd recommend this book to anybody who is interested in learning how to find the truth. If, on the other hand, you are comfortable in just accepting that what you already believe has to be true then you might take issue with this book. It challenges the reader to evaluate the claims that they believe in even more than the ones that they disagree with. So if you are comfortable with voting for someone just because of the letter that the TV station puts behind their name then you might just want to leave this one alone.
Shortly after finishing the book I went down stairs and began watching the vice-presidential debate between Palin and Biden. Sure enough, both of them jumped into the same spin and deception that the book had cautioned against. One candidate spun the opponents position as voting for a tax increase when the facts behind the vote clearly show voting for a decrease, just not as big of a decrease as their side was asking for. Only in the twisted world of Washington spin-doctors is an vote for a decrease considered a vote for an increase. This book gives the reader the tools to identify such deception.
During the debates the deception was not limited to one side or the other. Neither side had a sincere allegiance to the truth. They just wanted you to believe their interpretation.

On the subject of debates: I was on the Debating team in high school. So, I'm familiar with what a real debate is intended to be. These political debates are nothing more than joint press conferences. I don't really understand the role of the moderator. The candidates just talked about whatever they wanted to after the time was turned over to them. Palin was asked a question on the mortgage crisis. She talked for 5 minutes on her energy policy. Biden was asked about Pakistan and he talked about Afghanistan. Palin was asked what programs she would scale back because of the Wall street bailout bill. She talked for another 5 minutes about the problems she saw with Obama's Plan and never even approached answering the moderator's question. Gwen Ifill might have well said, "I know you're both just going to ignore the question anyway so each of you talk for 5 minutes about whatever floats your boat". In my debate competitions if I've have pulled this type of diversion I'd have simply lost all my points for that question. As correct as the information I had given about the energy policy I'd have gotten a big whoppin' zero since the question wasn't about energy policy.
Both of the the major parties are trumpeting "change" as a major part of their platform. So far all I have seen in the ads and the first two debates is just more of the same, distortions, spin and propaganda. I want to thank and other organizations like them for helping me to see the facts behind the political nonsense that is shovelled out by those who want to represent me in Washington.

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