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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Common Courage Press (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567510604
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567510607
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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.

Customer Reviews

It's a quick read and worth everyone's time to explore.
The book contains a veritable smorgasbord of eminently quotable quotes and delightful (and very distressing) anecdotes.
Gregory McMahan
After reading Toxic Sludge, I am much more aware of what is really being sold to us on the evening news.
Barbara Spring

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
Must reading for everyone. I bought a bunch of copies and am giving them as gifts to my friends.
I used to wonder why I heard so much contradictary news in the major media pertaining to health and the environment. First, a news item quotes an authority saying a food is safe, the next year the same newspaper says it's dangerous, and the next year after that they claim it's good for you. After reading this book, I know why. There are thousands of environmental and health , and scientific organizations. According to this book, many (but not all) of these organizations are not much more than clever PR fronts, funded mainly by industry. For example, I have often seen and continue to see information provided by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) in the major newspapers and magazines. The media usually takes this organization at its word as a credible scientific source.
According to this book: The ACSH is an industry front group that produces PR ammunition for the food processing and chemical industries. They praise the nutritional values of fast food and receive money from the fast food industry. They claim pesticides are very safe and take money from a host of pesticide manufacturers. The list goes on and on.. Yet the journalists usually take the ACSH words almost verbatim as fact and print it in their newspaper. Most journalists don't check their sources, or they're puppets of industry. Then the public reads this stuff as if it were scientifically proven fact. Public policy and law often gets decided on the basis of this "knowledge." Of course, some readers of these "facts" are skeptical, but no one seriously challenges the ACSH's credibility.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Gregory McMahan VINE VOICE on June 9, 2004
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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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the most eye-opening things I have ever read, and given how much I read that is saying a lot! As a person who has worked in PR as a lobbyist (in my case for a state university), I was already somewhat acquainted with, and disgusted by, the general processes used by the industry. This book, however, put a whole new spin on things. The concrete examples of some of the PR fiascos that have been used on the American people were depressingly explicit. Yes, this book is one-sided. It never pretends not to be. It is also a must-read for anyone who views the media. If you read this book, you'll never read a newspaper the same way again. Does the book add to one's cynicism? Yes, but sometimes cynicism is a preservational force. This is one of those times.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wylie on November 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton have set themselves a crucial task. As editors of the quarterly PR Watch, they regularly report on the often negative influence that the public relations industry has on the debate on public issues, especially PR firms' efforts on behalf of corporations which are battling public interest activists. This superb and concise book is largely based on that reporting.
The ills documented in "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" are too numerous to give any kind of complete summary here--a few examples must stand for the whole:
-One approach is the "divide and conquer" method of splitting a coalition of activists, by finding ways to buy some of them off. For example, Candy Lightner, the fonder of MADD, was taken out of the fray when she became a lobbyist for the American Beverage Institute.
-Another fruitful method is the "astroturf" tactic, which involves the creation of a carefully controlled, phony grassroots group to front for corporate interests. An example is the "National Smokers Alliance," created by PR giants Burson-Marsteller on behalf of Philip Morris.
-We also learn about attempts to cloud debate on scientific and technical issues. Many corporations have benefitted from the "expertise" of the American Council on Science and Health, a deceptively-named industry front group which can be counted on for pronouncements on the perfect safety of all sorts of chemicals and food additives, and on the nutritional benefits of eating fast food. Stauber and Rampton document a particularly duplicitous attempt by the ACSH to fudge cancer statistics and make it appear that cancer rates are falling, not rising.
-Worst of all are the outright fabrications.
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