A Bridesmaid’s Bad Breath
Warning Signs of Trickery
• If its scary, be wary • The Blame Game
• Glittering Generalities
• A Story that’s too
• The dangling
• The superlative
• The “Pay you
Tuesday” con
The FUD Factor
Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
• Pop-up messages such as WARNING:
(You all know this tactic, but it is still out there!)
• WMD!!!! Condeleeza Rice said," But we don’t
want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
(You all know what happened after this also. We
should have asked for more info, but images of
9/11 were too fresh and vivid so our judgment
was clouded.)
A Story That’s “Too Good”
• Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun
Culture by Michael A. Bellesiles, a professor of
history at Atlanta’s Emory University
• Contrary to what had been previously written, he
said that gun ownership was rare by colonial
• For those who favored gun control, Bellesiles
message was way to good to be true. But they
embraced it anyway.
• Other experts started looking at his book
and doing research. They found evidence
of “falsification” regarding vital facts in the
• He ended up resigning from Emory, but
insisted he just had faulty data. Those who
had jumped on his bandwagon (Guncontrol advocates) looked foolish.
• Be careful what and who you stand behind
without knowing all of the facts, especially
when they sounds too good to be true!
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
(watch out for “data in the service of ideology”)
• Wrote a book about women being victims of a
sexist society.
• Claimed that 150,000 women die annually from
anorexia nervosa. (Preposterously high number
and more than 5 times the number of Americans
who died of AIDS in 1991) However, this strongly
supported her premise and belief that women
were suffering because of impossible standards
of beauty imposed by society.
• In 1994, Christina Hoff Sommers, a critic of
the feminist movement, said “the correct
figure of women dying from anorexia was
less that 100”.
• When the research done by a reputable
National Institute, the number was actually
1,000 deaths per year (roughly).
• When the data squares too nicely with your
biases, always ask, “Is this dramatic story
really true? Am I buying this just because I
want it to be true? What is the evidence?”
The Dangling Comparative
• Watch out for any advertisement,
politician, or person advocating
something when they use the
• Larger, better, faster, better-tasting,
keeps you fresher longer, higher,
lower, voted against, voted for…
• Examples:
• G.W. Bush’s TV ads hammered away with
this line, “John Kerry supported high taxes
over 350 times.” Bush counted every vote
Kerry had cast against a proposed tax cut,
which meant voting to leave taxes
unchanged. He also padded the count by
including many procedural votes on the
same bills. He also counted some of Kerry’s
votes for Democratic tax cuts, reasoning that
those would still leave taxes higher than the
Republican alternative. So, by twisting the
use of the dangling comparative, a vote f or
cutting taxes became a vote for “higher
• We need to ask “higher that what?”
Let’s be fair!
• Another example:
• The democrats have also used the dangling
comparison. In 2001, Bush was accused of
trying to put “more arsenic” in drinking water. In
April the DNC ran a TV ad in which a little girl
asks, “May I please have some more arsenic in
my water, Mommy?”
• There was a disagreement about arsenic, but it
was over how much to reduce arsenic levels.
Bush had stopped a bill reducing levels that
Clinton had proposed, to study it to see if it
would be a hardship on small towns. He
concluded it wouldn’t be, and reduced the
arsenic at the levels had Clinton suggested.
WARNING SIGN: The Superlative
• Watch out for :”most”, “highest”, “biggest in
history”, “smallest ever”.
• Example: After 9/11 the Progress for America
Voter Fund ran a TV ad asking, “Has any
president been dealt a tougher hand?”
• Think about President Lincoln, The Civil War
President Roosevelt, Great Depression and
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor
• Another example: Republicans still persist in
calling Bill Clinton’s 1993 deficit reduction
bill “the biggest tax increase in American
history”. It wasn’t. It was 1/6th the size of
Roosevelt’s 1942 tax increase Let’s be fair:
Republicans have been victims of this tactic
as well. The Sierra Club accused Bush of
having the “worst” environmental record in
US history. By what measure?
• The Sierra Club accused Bush of having the
“worst” environmental record in US history.
By what measure?
• The air got cleaner during his tenure, the 1st
federal controls on mercury emission by
power plants were put into place.
Tuesday” Con
• In politics, both parties are responsible.
• In general, Democrats promise social
programs without mentioning future
costs, while Republicans promise
reduced taxes but are vague about
future deficits.
• (Examples are Medicare and Big tax
cuts for the rich)
• Bush promised to pay Tuesday for the
war in Iraq. He assured the nation in his
State of the Union Address in 2002:
“Our budget will run a deficit that will
be small and short-term”. It turned out
to be $412 billion in 2004, and I think
that we all know how that ended….or
hasn’t ended.
• To be fair, Democrats constantly
promise to preserve Social Security
without mentioning that it will require a
sizable tax increase to sustain it.
The Blame Game
• Bush blamed greedy lawyers for
rising health care costs. After
examination by many independent
groups, the CBO found no
evidence that caps on damage
awards of the sort Bush sought
would reduce medical spending.
• Blaming often occurs reflexively, out of
pure partisanship and with little regard
for facts.
• Example: A former Clinton aide, Sidney
Blumenthal, suggested that G.W. Bush
was to blame for the flooding in New
Orleans brought about by Katrina.
• The major cause of flooding were the
flood walls built before Bush took
office. An act of nature of this
magnitude cannot be blamed on one
person, even if he is the president.
Glittering Generalities
• Coke: It’s the Real Thing.
• US Army: “Path of Strength”

A Bridesmaid`s Bad Breath Warning Signs of Trickery