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


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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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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Dec.)
The authors, editors of the journal PR Watch, show how the public relations (PR) industry helps corporations and the federal government manipulate the institutions of democracy, and detail the workings of phony grassroots campaigns, video spots broadcast as news, and other tools of America's private-sector ministries of propaganda. They look at cases, and offer guidelines for recognizing the presence of PR in the news and examples of effective citizen's campaigns. Paper edition (060-4), $16.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Industrial Ecology
The author's prove themselves to be well versed in the subject matter and write with a comfortable, if not opinionated, style that makes reading the book enjoyable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567510607
  • Publisher: Common Courage Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 700,232
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Torches of Liberty 1
1 Burning Books Before They're Printed 5
2 The Art of the Hustle and the Science of Propaganda 17
3 Smokers' Hacks 25
4 Spinning the Atom 33
5 Spies For Hire 47
6 Divide and Conquer 65
7 Poisoning the Grassroots 77
8 The Sludge Hits the Fan 99
9 Silencing Spring 123
10 The Torturers' Lobby 143
11 All the News That's Fit to Print 179
12 Taking Back Your Own Backyard 197
App. PR Industry Leaders 207
App. The Clorox PR Crisis Plan 209
Suggested Reading 213
Notes 215
Index 227
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2000

    A very informative book

    This is one of the most informative and well-researched books I have ever read. It amazes and enrages me to think that US-based PR companies are allowed to work for foreign governments in order to influence our own policymakers. This book shows that we are not free thinkers(no matter how much we think we are) and that we are constantly bombarded with well orchestrated government and corporate PR campaigns in the war to shape public opinion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2009

    Good, but way too slanted.

    This book sheds a lot of light on the types of questionable and downright un-ethical PR practices that have occurred in the United States. I did however feel it was overly biased. The authors relentlessly unearth the evils of the PR machine, but become guilty themselves of slanting the issues.

    I'm fairly moderate--being conservative one some issues and liberal on others. Stauber and Rampton don't even try to hide their far left leanings. I found it especially interesting in chapter 10 "The Torturers Lobby" the authors don't mention a single socialist/communist regime in their list of countries with severe human rights abuses and the propaganda that supported them. No mention of Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's Great Leap Forward in China, or Pol-Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia? Instead they list South Korea as one of the governments with severe human rights abuses (pg. 150) SOUTH KOREA??? Do they seriously think that South Korea deserves to be on this list before NORTH Korea or China or Cuba or Iran?

    The book starts out as a good critique of the PR business, but seemed to slowly digress into a mere diatribe about the socio-economic issues themselves and less on the PR issues. If one didn't know better, it would seem that the only people and entities guilty of PR abuses are Republicans, Christians and big business.

    We can all agree that the examples in the book are despicable, and that the public has a right not to be deceived. The authors seem to think however that if PR would just stop covering up for big business; the Republican Party; Christians; and our evil government, that war, poverty, pollution, disease and torture would simply vanish into thin air. In my opinion they fail to realize at a fundamental level, these are ethical issues that go far beyond the scope of PR.

    Humans have wrestled with these issues since the dawn of time, let alone since the founding of Burson-Marsteller or Ketchum. While it's easy to naysay and blame the "system", it's not so easy to propose a viable solution. Do we tear down civilization and go back to a hunter/gatherer society? It's easy to complain about big business, yet we all like our indoor plumbing, cars, laundry detergent, IPods, cell phones, diet cokes and cable TV. We don't want to know how any of or modern conveniences are provided just so long as we can flush our toilet. Unless Stauber and Rampton's book was printed on 100% recycled paper with only water based coating and with soy and vegetable based inks in a factory run on 100% wind power...well you get the point.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2002

    Must Read Book!

    This book is a must read for anyone! Very informative, great research has been done for his book. Amazing book and brilliant authors.

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