UnSpun - Wivine Ngongo and Edessa Brown
Chapter 1: From Snake Oil to Emu Oil

We as consumers and citizens today are constantly deceived by the spin that surrounds us, whether they are political, commercial, or ideological. These spins are the information that leads us to believe one thing and not the other; and worse yet, they are hard to recognize. To not fall as a victim to these spins, we must first recognize that its there. Two most common spins that we obliviously seem to overlook are commercial and political. Spins aren’t always necessarily direct, but can be intended. Unfortunately, a lot of these spins exist among the public life in general, and it is up to us as consumers and voters to not only recognize and question, but take action.

Commercial deception is currently all around us, filling our advertisements with claims and promises that seem too good to be true. With such claims at hand, one must assume that it may in fact not be all that it says it is. Companies and businesses that tend to use such deceitful methods all share a common goal: to make a profit. In other words, deception is highly profitable. An example of this would include the case of Dr. Alex Guerrero, who came up with a remedy, Supreme Greens, claimed that it could cure or prevent cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, diabetes, heartburn, fatigue, and the “everyday ravages of aging,” and made thousands off of it.

Such profit is also made by businesses and some major corporations that are built on this same system of deception and false advertisement. Companies we all know and rely on for everyday products, such as Listerine, had fallen guilty on pursuing this practice in the past. What most companies tend to do nowadays is that they tend to present true facts that are misleading. For example, Listerine “kills the germs that cause bad breath,” but the germs always come right back, defeating the purpose of the product. If you consider extreme cases in false advertisement and commercial spins, commercial deception can cost lives. Examples of this would include Discreet, a supposedly home test for HIV that has been proven wrong in the past. Certainly, we have all fallen under the deception of commercial products that we use daily, however, despite the problems that come from commercial trickery, politicians deliver even bigger doses of deception.

Often times with politicians, we are deceived with false information about current issues that we have the right to know the truth of. For example, it was claimed that 80 percent of the tax relief for upper-income filers went to small businesses when really, “small business” included all partnerships such as the nation’s biggest accounting firms, law firms, and real-estate partnership. Little may we know political deceivers often times imply their falsehoods rather than stating them outright; that way, politicians can’t say that they “lied” to the public. This is otherwise known as implied deception. Bush used implied deception when his campaign made a commercial stating that Kerry had voted to cut intelligence spending “even after the first terrorist attack on America.” In reality, Kerry was supporting regular increases in intelligence spending for several years prior to the attacks of September 11. Fortunately, when the elections are over, so are the deceptions, right? Wrong. Political deception doesn’t stop when elections are over. Millions of dollars are still spent on TV ad campaigns by interest groups on legislative and other policy debates, even in nonelection years.

Unfortunately, we are living in a society where there seems to be little respect for pure true facts in the advertising industry, in politics, and in the public life in general. Nowadays, it is almost asking too much to expect anything of the full truth. In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 1991 book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, she reports that Johnson sometimes claimed that his great-great grandfather had died at the Alamo and sometimes claimed that he died in the Battle of San Jacinto. Goodwin later learned that Johnson’s great-great grandfather died at home, in bed. According to Goodwin, Johnson was engaging in the old Texas tradition of the “tall tale.” One could argue that a lot of things that are presented to the public are solely composed of tall tales. Advertisement claims, campaign, and political statements more often than not tend to be stretched or suppressed, turning them into false statements, or in other words, tall tales. This sums up a lot of what we see in commercial advertising and political speeches.

Deceptions are all around us. They’ve always been around and they always will be around in the future to come. This should make us wonder how the deceivers get away with it. Take commercial ads for example. Today, there are truth-in-advertising laws that provide some protection from false claims in commercial advertising. But despite these active laws, a lot of false claims in advertising still manage to get through. Unsurprisingly enough, false ads could appear to the public for several months until they are actually spotted by regulators. Many product companies us weasel words, or intended deception, to present literally accurate claims, but misleading. The best thing we as consumers can do is recognize these deceptions and make better choices in the products we buy. As for politicians, they have a legal right to lie. When it comes to standing up to their false claims, there isn’t much we can do. The best thing we can do as voters is pretty much fend for ourselves.

In the following chapters, you will see ways in which you can fend for yourselves so that you don’t fall into the hands of deceivers and make poor choices.