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Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry [Paperback]

John Stauber , Sheldon Rampton , Mark Dowie
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 1 2002

Common Courage’s number one seller blows the lid off of today's multi-billion-dollar propaganda-for-hire PR industry, revealing how public relations wizards concoct and spin the news, organize phony "grassroots" front groups, spy on citizens and conspire with lobbyists and politicians.

Frequently Bought Together

Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry + Shallows, The + Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Price For All Three: CDN$ 41.47

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Sure, many of us in this modern world are cynical. The most cynical may even suspect that the news is manipulated and massaged by sponsors, that corporations act in their best interests, that political campaigns are determined not by votes, but by bucks, and that we don't get "all the news that's fit to print" but instead, "all the news that gets the ink". But even the most media-savvy amongst you will be awed by the behind-the-scenes descriptions of the Public Relations industry in action so masterfully described in this book. If you want your eyes to be opened, open them upon the pages of this book. (But remember: there are some very important people counting on you, and they really would prefer that you didn't ever hear about this book, much less buy it.)

From Publishers Weekly

Stauber and Rampton cite a classic example of image manipulation in this chilling analysis of the PR business. During the aftermath of the 1975 Three-Mile Island nuclear accident, a company spokesman said that a spark in the accumulated hydrogen bubble could result in a "spontaneous energetic disassembly"?otherwise known as an explosion. The authors trace certain specious practices of the $10 billion PR business to P.T. Barnum, who in 1836 wrote anonymous pro and con letters to editors about himself, generating heated interest. Modern public relations has evolved "crisis management" and "anti-" PR campaigns including sabotaging the tours of authors who challenge industry clients, for example, Jeremy Rifkin, author of Beyond Beef. The new euphemism for sewage sludge, "biosolids," is part of a campaign to convince the public that municipal sludge, replete with an astounding array of toxic substances, is good for farm soil. The authors point to Business for Social Responsibility, an organization that includes The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry's and others, as now containing "some of the most environmentally destructive corporations on the planet." Giant agencies extend their contracts to selling national policies, as Hill & Knowlton did in selling the Gulf war to the American public. Although most large news organizations at least rewrite PR materials, many smaller markets "rip and read" prepackaged video news releases. This is a cautionary reminder that much of the consumer and political world is created by for-hire mouthpieces in expensive neckties.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Where oh where do I begin? Toxic Sludge... takes a jaded look at the public relations industry, and exposes more than a few objectionable practices perpetrated on behalf of (mostly) corporate America's pursuit of the Almighty Buck.
I say 'mostly' because, however distressing it may be to informed and intelligent citizenship, even the United States Government and more than a few foreign regimes solicit the services of these most nefarious snake oil salesmen. Let's face it, you really do not consume the services of PR firms in order to foster good relations with your customers, you go to them when you have done something bad, and you want it covered up, or at least 'spinned' in the 'right' direction. You solicit the help of PR flacks and keep them on juicy retainers in order to look good, and not to be good. When the doo-doo hits the fan, whose a corporate ne'er do well gonna call? The PR company, that's who.
Toxic Sludge... contains twelve chapters of absorbing reading. From countermeasures directed at censoring information thoroughly in the public domain, keeping books off the bookshelves and dissenting voices from being heard, to infiltrating shoe-string activist organizations, fomenting criminal insurgency and subverting (and ultimately perverting) any and all attempts to relay the facts, the authors provide example after example of very well-financed government and corporate interests actively frustrating (and quite often foiling) intelligent and inormed democratic participation in the political and economic process. As Mark Dowie, the author of the introduction says, in an environment rife with PR, facts can not survive, nor can the truth prevail.
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See, long ago (how long? More than one hundred years...) advertising, and not circulation (that small fee you pay when you buy a magazine or daily newspaper) was already the number one source of income for most newspapers. Is it too difficult to predict that advertisers can exert power over publishers?
And when you learn from this book that 10 out of the top 15 Public Relations firms (already back in 1994) are owned by advertising firms, and you do the math, I believe you'll then find easy to understand why some unpleasant news don't find their way through the "free" press...
This book is extremely well researched; it pushes you to think twice at problems; it is a good handbook on how to spot deceit; it is a source of hope.
It is also somewhat scary and somewhat difficult as well (many quotations save the authors from lawsuits but slow the reading speed; there are topics on international politics; there's some reasoning about chemistry...) so I don't recommend it to the average reader (choose "Trust us, we're experts" by the same authors and "Influence" by Robert Cialdini first, then come back and dig this one).
Quotations follow:
"The radioactive waste from nuclear power plants contains the deadliest substances known. It consists mostly of spent fuel which, although it is no longer suitable for generating power, will remain radioactive and lethal for over 100,000 years."
"The business class dominates government through its ability to fund political campaigns, purchase high priced lobbysts and reward former officials with lucrative jobs."
"When an issue is actually coming up for a vote, [this direct-marketer] turns to his phone banks: 'Phones are for speed. Another advantage of phones is that it's really flexible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Be Put Off By the Cover May 25 2002
By J.W.K
Taken from PROPAGANDA by Edward Bernay, the father of modern public relations:
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of."
As the now-famous organization, Disinformation, has asked: "Do you ever get the feeling you are being lied to?" Perhaps better than any other book I have read on the subject - including Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman's "Manufacturing Consent" - this books explains the lies we are fed by PR industry, how they are perpetuated, what it is costing the public, and how we might avoid being being duped by "the science of balyhoo" in the future.
Most of us don't realize the extent to which PR influences our daily lives. In the United States, PR practicioners outnumber reporter by a ratio of 15:13, and about 40% of all "news" flows virtually unedited from public relations offices. In other words, much of what you read as "news" is in fact a paid advertisment with no committment to objectivity. The next time you read an op-ed piece in your local newspaper, a little healthy skepticism is definately in order. The chances of it being a Madison Avenue publication are quite high.
Although profoundly insightful, the beauty of this book does not lay in its statistical prowess or its understanding of PR philosophy. The beauty of this book is in the actual stories of how the multi-billion dollar PR industry has helped corporations escape the threat of an informed public.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
I am studying this with my PR students, but everyone should read this book. It's amazing how brainwashed we all are. And very scary that we are so manipulated by PR. Read more
Published 8 months ago by F. Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential info on advocacy groups!
This is the sort of book that should be essential reading for everyone. Even if you are aware to some extent that our media (and government) plays to the tune of the corporations... Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2012 by Jodi-Hummingbird
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast Response
The seller was very quick to mail my purchase. When I got the book it was the exact condition that they specified it was online. Very happy with the seller.
Published on Oct. 7 2009 by Ashton Friesen
4.0 out of 5 stars open up and say ahhhhh
an enlightening collection of articles that expose the PR scandals and ongoing campaigns of misinformation that cover our brains like so much toxic slime. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2003 by Brian Wallace (Co-author of It's Not Your Hair)
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but a little annoying
As a public relations major, I must say that I did not really appreciate the attack Stauber and Rampton have launched against PR. Read more
Published on March 20 2003 by Kcheval
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening
Definately worth a read.
I picked this up ...when I was seventeen. (Summer of '96) I couldn't put it down, and have gone back and read it again since. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is an eye opener
After reading Toxic Sludge, I am much more aware of what is really being sold to us on the evening news. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2003 by Barbara Spring
2.0 out of 5 stars Toxic writing
This book is so one sided that it's nearly worthless. Stauber and Rampton accuse the PR industry of presenting cooked facts to convince the public. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2002 by J. Franco
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This book is abolustely amazing. It details the lengtsh to which the Public Relations (PR) industry has encroached itself into our lives, and the lengths to which they are willing... Read more
Published on July 29 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the top 5 most important books in my lifetime.
I borrowed this book from a friend and one chapter into it, I had to purchase a copy for myself. It is one of my favorite books and I often refer back to it. Read more
Published on May 10 2002 by KS
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