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Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry Paperback – Jul 1 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Common Courage Press; 1 edition (July 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567510604
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567510607
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.8 x 19 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #136,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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

4.5 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jane Wiseman on Sept. 16 1998
Format: Paperback
This scurrilous attack on the entire public relations profession for the misdeeds of a few is a sophomoric trip through every logical fallacy from the ad hominem attack to the sweeping generalization. Its authors dare to call themselves journalists-"media watchdogs," even! Back to J-School, guys. Surely they taught you the journalist's responsibility for fairness and objectivity there? Too bad, because before I threw this book down in disgust, I was hoping it was the critique of public relations ethics I was looking for. I'm searching for good books to recommend to my public relations students, lest they turn out like the rapscallions this book describes.
The trouble is, the authors-and the even more vituperative and sanctimonious person who wrote the book's introduction-indict all public relations practitioners as spin doctors and flacks. Using a long-ago discredited model of the profession, the authors suggest that every act of public relations is a slick and cynical ploy to manipulate a trusting public, conveniently forgetting that for every case of distortion by video news release, there are lazy journalists and lazy media outlets who help conspire to package it as news. It's no different than suggesting all photojournalists are the papparazzi who chased Princess Diana through Paris, or that all TV journalists rig up trucks to explode so they can do a more dramatic expose of the automobile industry, or that all print journalists manufacture quotes or present composites as real subjects in order to sell newspapers. Sure, some public relations practitioners succumb to the temptation to commit sleaze, just as some journalists succumb to the temptation to distort the truth because they sound more dramatic that way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Feb. 28 2000
Format: Paperback
Overall, the book is a great read with a lot of great examples and case studies. But, the more I read, the more I thought the book was doing what it hated PR people for doing. I'm all for the environment, but as you get into this book, I felt that the author himself fell into the "practice" of spreading propagranda for the environmental coalition. PR just like advertising and marketing are there for hire, and it's a tool of persuasion. In the end, you get the impression that Toxic Sludge belongs under the same category--different perspective, same motivation.
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By Jodi-Hummingbird TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 29 2012
Format: Paperback
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 with the most financial power, and is anything but a source of actual unbiased news, this book is an enlightening and fascinating read.

This book explains that 40% of all news flows virtually unedited from PR companies, that there are more people working in PR than in journalism, and that most of what you see on the news is not news. It explains that those making US health care reform so difficult are lobbyists for the insurance and drug industries (obviously!). It also explains that there is no limit to how low corporations will go to protect their bottom line, subvert genuine activism and the state of knowledge in the general population on a topic.

There are also interesting parts in this book which discuss the way in which polluters and other groups organise campaigns against genuine advocacy efforts, such the book 'Silent Spring' and others. Negative articles and reviews may often even be written before the books are released. Nothing is left to chance. The books are systematically rubbished and denigrated and so are their authors.

It also writes brilliantly about the worrying rise of pretend 'grassroots' activist groups, AstroTurf groups, and how they are manipulating and subverting genuine advocacy attempts. It also discusses some of the shocking ways in which groups have planted fake members into real groups, with sometimes devastating personal effects for the individuals involved and also worked to co-opt genuine members of groups to completely turn against what they stand for.
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Format: Paperback
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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