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Small Print, Large Lies
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Carl Hausman

      . . . is a journalist. He is critical of the half-truths, deceptions, double-talk and ambiguities which infect today's advertising, politics and media,.Mr. Hausman holds a Ph.D. in journalism. He has worked in television, radio, as a newspaper writer, magazine publisher and online content developer. He teaches journalism at Rowan University is Glasssboro, NJ. Author of 20 books ranging from ethics and science to business, Mr. Hausman's latest is Lies We Live By.

Excerpts3:35 secs

      Statistics are like bikinis, according to Carl Hausman. They reveal what is enticing but conceal what is vital. Mr. Hausman is a journalist who has worked in television, radio, magazines, publishing, politics and and public relations. He's particularly interested in complex social issues -- of the 20 books he's written, Mr. Hausman's latest is Lies We Live By. Statistics have a featured role -- in advertising, politics and the media. People who play with statistics have a lot to conceal, he reports.

      Deception is pervasive, according to Mr. Hausman. And it's corrosive. Mr. Hausman's quick to assign responsibility to the people and institutions who manipulate us. But they can't do it without us, Mr. Hausman reminds us. We all tend to accept things a little too easily. We don't ask the next question of news reports or of come-on advertising or of telephone solicitations or of politicians. We're content with good visuals on television when we'd be better served to find out what's behind the story. The same goes for small print. Read it.

      Hausman has other tactics for separating truth from deception. Use common sense. Read magazines and newspapers which take an opposing view. (People on vastly different parts of the political spectrum often find themselves in agreement on particular issues -- far left liberal feminists agree with the far conservative right about pornography.) When Mr. Hausman reads opposing points of view, he says it makes him uncomfortable. But it also helps him find new ways to look at things that don't rely on statistics.

      Deceit and deception are common currency. Another Hausman prescription: Complain! Share your dissatisfaction with the authorities who regulate the industry or the advertising or the activity you find distasteful or objectionable. Recruit local newspaper/television/radio reporters.

      Telephone solicitors drive you nuts? Mr. Hausman just refuses to do business with any of them. Instead, he urges US to get on the ╬phone. When he worked in newspapers and political offices, the assumption was one telephone call represented the 10,000 people who did not call. Make yourself heard when the airline service is bad, when the credit card fine print is unacceptable or if you're fed up with "veiled variables" in the advertising or editorial material in your newspaper, magazines or mailbox.

      The deliberate manufacture of disinformation is polluting the system for everyone, Mr. Hausman reminds us. It's takes particular advantage of unsuspecting elders and reduces too many of the rest of us to cynics. Mad as hell? Don't take it any more.

Conversation 1

Carl Hausman describes how deception has changed in the last century to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell. Mr. Hausman explains why it's hard to distinguish half-truths from the real thing. He describes both good and bad aspects of advertising, confident that legitimate advertisers also dislike half-truths. He uses politics to describe the complex issues around misleading ads.

Conversation 2

Examples of slippery language from Mr. Hausman's own experience lead to a consideration of the use and abuse of statistics. He calls them a symptom of a larger problem -- today's deluge of information -- with examples of "precision garbage." The use (and abuse) of language is explored. We're always editorializing in our own thinking, speaking, writing, Mr. Hausman assures us, pointing to the difficulties inherent in subtle distinctions. He uses crime statistics to explain how statistics are like bikinis (sic). He compares reactions today and during World War II to the manipulation of information. He declares willful naivete as the root of much of our problem, using college SAT scores as an example.

Conversation 3

Mr. Hausman concludes the SAT score example, congratulating an enterprising reporter for exposing mis-information. Television is what it is, says Mr. Hausman, who likes TV but is convinced it severely distorts both the political process and the news process. He uses both Republican and Democrat administration examples of how we all share complicity in this distortion. He declares that viewers are too quick to accept a good visual. He explains why we might all profit from paying less attention to statistics and using more common sense. He gives examples of "veiled values" and statistical distortion. He suggests reading from sources with which one disagrees and describes information overload/exhaustion.

Conversation 4

Advertising trends worldwide concern Mr. Hausman, who explains why today's "graphic garble" worries him. He notes the 9 US governmental agencies who share responsibility for regulating advertising. He declares them "reactive" and urges us to voice our complaints to authorities, confident it's the only way things change. He gives tips, using the airline and automobile industries as examples. Mr. Hausman tells us how to find deceit in ads, urging us to read all fine print, from credit card agreements to ads for Yellow Pages. He discusses telephone solicitations and why he doesn't do business by telephone any more. He sympathizes with elderly victims of get-rich-quick schemes.

Conversation 5

The issue of privacy takes center stage: Mr. Hausman considers how computerization allows organizations to sell our names, for charity as well as profit-based institutions. He distinguishes between "puffery" which is protected by law, and the deliberate manufacture of disinformation. ╩He gives examples from his personal experience and of fake charities. ╩He suggests how multiple sources, including the Internet, can help empower people. Car rental misrepresentations are discussed and solutions offered.

Conversation 6

Let people know what makes you mad, Mr. Hausman urges. He remembers how disgusted people were by the 1988 "Willie Horton" and Boston Harbor Presidential campaign tactics and voices his hope that politicians took that to heart. Mr. Hausman uses examples to remind us of the impact local reporters of all media can have in cleaning up advertising and political campaigns. He assesses the Internet's overall accuracy.

Related Links:
Lies We Live By: Defeating Double-Talk and Deception in Advertising, Politics and the Media is published by Routledge
Carl's website
offers consolation prizes for visitors who find pages still under construction.

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