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Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and gambles with Your Future Hardcover – December 28, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fearless investigative journalists Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber (Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! and Mad Cow U.S.A.) are back with a gripping exposé of the public relations industry and the scientists who back their business-funded, anti-consumer-safety agendas. There are two kinds of "experts" in question--the PR spin doctors behind the scenes and the "independent" experts paraded before the public, scientists who have been hand-selected, cultivated, and paid handsomely to promote the views of corporations involved in controversial actions. Lively writing on controversial topics such as dioxin, bovine growth hormone, and genetically modified food makes this a real page-turner, shocking in its portrayal of the real and potential dangers in each of these technological innovations and of the "media pseudo-environment" created to obfuscate the risks. By financing and publicizing views that support the goals of corporate sponsors, PR campaigns have, over the course of the century, managed to suppress the dangers of lead poisoning for decades, silence the scientist who discovered that rats fed on genetically modified corn had significant organ abnormalities, squelch television and newspaper stories about the risks of bovine growth hormone, and place enough confusion and doubt in the public's mind about global warming to suppress any mobilization for action.

Rampton and Stauber introduce the movers and shakers of the PR industry, from the "risk communicators" (whose job is to downplay all risks) and "outrage managers" (with their four strategies--deflect, defer, dismiss, or defeat) to those who specialize in "public policy intelligence" (spying on opponents). Evidently, these elaborate PR campaigns are created for our own good. According to public relations philosophers, the public reacts emotionally to topics related to health and safety and is incapable of holding rational discourse. Needless to say, Rampton and Stauber find these views rather antidemocratic and intend to pull back the curtain to reveal the real wizard in Oz. This is one wake-up call that's hard to resist. --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

Recent surveys show that "national experts" are the third most trusted type of public figure (after Supreme Court justices and schoolteachers). Hard-hitting investigative journalists Rampton and Stauber (Toxic Sludge Is Good for You!) ask whether that trust is misplaced. They assert that, with highly technical issues like environmental pollution and bioengineered foodstuffs, "people are encouraged to suspend their own judgment and abandon responsibility to the experts." The authors examine the opinions of many so-called experts to show how their opinions are often marred by conflicts of interest. Peering behind the curtain of decision making, they catch more than a few with blood money on their hands. From spin doctors with dubious credentials to think tanks that do everything but think and scientists who work backwards to engineer desired experimental results, Rampton and Stauber present an astonishing compendium of alleged abuses of the public's willingness to believe. Particularly sobering is their summary of the historical use of "experts" by the tobacco and mining industries, which, they reveal, have suppressed and manipulated information in order to slow industrial reform. Their allegation that industry flaks may be purposely clouding the current debates swirling around "junk science" and global warming issues should provoke readers to reexamine these matters. Rampton and Stauber's impassioned call for skepticism goes beyond rhetoricAthey also offer practical guidelines for separating propaganda from useful information. Agent, Tom Grady. (Jan. 2) Forecast: The authors' gloves-off approach, which is effectively signaled by the pointed and irreverent cartoon-style jacket, will appeal to fans of Bill Moyers, Jeremy Rifkin and Barbara Ehrenreich (who all blurbed the book).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1st edition (December 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158542059X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585420599
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #800,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
...and only half of what you see. That's how an old friend paraphrased some public figure many years ago. And this book makes that statement far less cynical.
While "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" by the same authors was a fine book, this is somewhat of an evolution. It's even better.
So, let's see, you may have been impressed with the findings of a study that has been in all the major daily newspapers and network news. After all, the findings were applauded by the Association for Warm Cuddly Chemicals, they were endorsed by your favorite authors, and, after all, what would we do without the wonderful products available that were the subject of the study?
What the trusty newspapers and networks didn't tell you is that the aforementioned association--the list of such front organizations will boggle your mind--is a front for the manufacturers of the chemicals making up the product they're endorsing, and the "study" written up by professional PR flacks. (I took a writing course six years ago in which the instructor, who claimed to be well-informed, was astonished when I told her the percentage of column inches in the most well-read newspapers in the US have been composed by PR "professionals.")
As the structure of a text means a lot to me, this is one I endorse on that ground too. It starts with a history of the public relations industry. Of course, Edward Bernays--an old New Deal liberal, incidentally--was PR's patron saint.
The authors dissect the PR process brilliantly. For instance, PR professionals have their consultants to call upon. I was amazed and amused by the process our favorite software manufacturer used to minimize the allegations of monopoly. One of the "consultants" called upon was a former Supreme Court nominee who has vigorously argued against antitrust laws.
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Format: Hardcover
Having just finished "Trust Us, We're Experts" I was *astounded* to find the two reviews above saying (essentially) that it was bunk because it was anti-corporate and citing "cases" that the reviewers seem to think help their cause (when they actually just suggest that the reviewers are themselves either paid corporate PR drones or lobotomized "consumers" who abhor anyone actually peering behind the veil of monopoly media and showing that it is mainly about keeping the rabble in line).*****The most important thing about Stauber and Rampton's work from the point of view of a critical review is that it is extensively footnoted and sourced ... don't agree with their positions? Fine -- write a book even half as well sourced and you'll be far ahead of most of what passes for popular scientific literature.****Trust Us, We're Experts does, in fact, seem redundant to parts of "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" -- but that's not too surprising given that the same PR consultant/flacks are giving corporations the exact same advice on how to overcome public participation and avoid any real critical scrutiny.****These two books (and their newsletter "PR Watch") are among the most powerful deprogramming tools available today -- anyone interested in media, democracy, citizenship, public policy formation, or the environment should definitely equip themselves with them or, if only one, then "Trust Us!" because it's the most current.
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Format: Hardcover
The bulk of this book is given over to detailing the consistent patterns big money has used to manipulate the flow of knowledge from those who have it to those who need it. In practice, this means the book details how "industry" (a term used but never clearly defined) is standing in the way of public health, environmental concerns, and more. Perhaps this book was printed with soy ink on recycled paper? Or are publishers not an industry?
That quibble aside, Stauber and Rampton attempt to demonstrate, primarily through pattern recognition, how easy it is to see through PR-motivated lies and hucksterism if we simply know what to look for. Uncomfortably cozy relationships with "independent" third parties are an obvious example, as is a tendency to divert attention from the credibility of the statement to the credibility of who makes the statement. In fact, an elementary knowledge of the rules of formal debate are well rewarded in reading this book, since you quickly discover that, if an "expert" is defying these rules, that expert is probably trying to take you to the cleaners.
The book is patently left-leaning. The authors are idealistic about human nature, for example, believing people would do the greatest good for the greatest number if they knew how to do it. The authors also appear to believe that government regulation is the necessary answer to inevitable government excess. This seems awfully naïve in its sheer repetition at times. In Chapter Nine, the concession is briefly made that "public advocacy" groups will sometimes distort facts and figures to achieve their desired ends, but that assertion is ultimately deemed less important than the tendency of conservative forces to distort.
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Format: Hardcover
A lot of people know that the mass media spin stories, people, events, and opinions. But few of us can get an inside look at how the PR and opinion industries work with the mass media. How they use science, social science, and pseudo-science to sell toxic products, to ignore their devastating impacts, and to undermine democracy coldly, deliberately, and cynically.
This powerhouse of a book is first aid for those of us weary of all that, but still hoping for a sane, reasonable way to respond and arm ourselves with the real truth.
In /Trust Us, We're Experts/, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber continue as America's number one watchdogs of the PR industry. This book gives you permission to smell something stinky in the fishy proclamations of media-hyped experts who are wooing our wallets...even when it's packaged as roses, peddled in big showy bunches and enthusiastically delivered to your door using everything from direct mail to the Internet to letters to the editor of your local newspaper to products carefully and expensively placed in your supermarket. And the book leaves the reader with a sense of passion and hope, rather than feeling defeated. What an accomplishment!
/Trust Us, We're Experts/ is meticulous in detail, painstaking in its research, unrelenting in its patient disentangling of complicated issues. Yet it's hugely, easily, fabulously readable, the kind of book I kept quoting portions of out loud to anybody within earshot. The kind of book where you howl aloud on public transit, and people lean over and ask what you're reading, and before you know it, a cluster of folks are engaging in a spontaneous citizen-to-citizen democracy-building session.
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