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Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! (1995)

af John Stauber, Sheldon Rampton

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362553,172 (4.1)3
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.
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The cover caught my eye as I'm sure it did many others and the title instantly describes in just a few words the reality of the world we live in today, bombarded by propaganda as we are. I thought it might be a little dated as it was written before the internet was impossible to escape, but I was pleasantly surprised by the significance of the story being told while pondering the acceleration of such practices as a result of internet dominion and mass/social media control over us. We live in a world where "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" (thank you Mr. Blair, aka Orwell), where information has become weaponized and the news is manufactured by public relations firms, for corporations and governments alike. This book lays out the beginnings and the history of a completely amoral and sometimes (more often than not?) sinister industry that influences the products we buy, the causes we support, the actions of the powers that (should not) be, and more. We are taken on a journey with the early PR/propaganda practitioners like Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays, the bogus campaign for support of the first Iraq war, a few environmental and occupational disasters, the spin that was put on those stories, as well as an ironically true story about a PR campaign to convince people that, wait for it... "toxic sludge is good for you!" Includes some interesting stories and forgotten history about PR campaigns for politicians and celebrities still in the news today, e.g. Clintons and Trumps. Despite the comedic cover and title, 'Toxic Sludge' is certainly a serious, well researched and documented, informative and interesting read, even from 1995. A book still relevant today as relentless PR and media explode. They "inform" our perceptions of the world in which we live as media continues to consolidate, sanitize information and limit its access.

One of the most revealing quotes from this book is found in the introduction by Mark Dowie:
"Academicians who study media now estimate that about 40% of all "news" flows virtually unedited from the public relations offices, prompting a prominent PR exec to boast that "the best PR ends up looking like news."

And that was in 1995! It's a brave new world, indeed.

"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." Edward Bernays, Propaganda, 1928

Now onto 'Trust Us, We're Experts' by the same authors. ( )
  ThoughtCriminal13 | Jul 2, 2020 |
Excellent book on the marketing/PR spin! I am currently fighting sewage sludge fertilizer in my area an this book was extremely helpful in our fight!Each chapter is abt a product or type of company and how they spin the "bad" to promote product and companies. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
Think that you're too intelligent, too sophisticated to fall for obvious PR scams? Think again; Toxic Sludge goes into the history, art and science of manipulating public opinions, and shows just how easily a good PR firm can make a corporate faux pas into an asset. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Jan 18, 2014 |
Investigative journalist Nick Davies has chosen to discuss John Stauber's Toxic Sludge is Good for You, on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - Investigative Journalism, saying that: 



“When I started out in journalism, 30-odd years ago, PR copy was a real rarity. If you were writing about crime, you’d call the police station and speak to an officer. If you were writing about healthcare you’d probably speak to a doctor. What’s really alarming is that often a good press officer can pick and choose what is printed about their organisation. They send out press releases, hold a press conference, and what gets said there is what gets printed.”



The full interview is available here: http://five-books.com/interviews/nick-davies ( )
  FiveBooks | Mar 29, 2010 |
A shamelessly biased, yet relevant read about media manipulation and the public relations industry. I am a MA Public Relations student, so this was required reading. However, this is good for anubody who wants a better than average awareness of media.

I highly recommend, plus I don't have to warn you to take the info with a whole heap of salt. The authors are so blatant in their condemnation of PR, you'll have no other choice. But still, what they say is (I believe) true and very important. ( )
  MsNikki | Dec 13, 2009 |
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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.

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