A terrifying book, first published in 1995, about the public relations
industry, cowritten by John C. Stauber
and Sheldon Rampton
, coeditors of the quarterly journal PR Watch
. Subtitled "Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry," the book details the means by which corporations control the media, via PR
firms. The book takes its title from a Tom Tomorrow
cartoon (included in the book, and echoed on the Tomorrow-drawn cover) which was itself inspired by a real-life sequence of events.
From the book's eighth chapter ("The Sludge Hits The Fan"), in which a PR professional contacts the authors:
Nancy Blatt is an aggressively perky woman who serves as Director of Public Information for the "Water Environment Federation" (WEF). She phoned to say that she had seen an advance notice mentioning our book, and she was concerned that the title might interfere with the Federation's plans to transform the image of sewage sludge. "It's not toxic," she said, "and we're launching a campaign to get people to stop calling it sludge. We call it 'biosolids.' It can be used beneficially to fertilize farm fields, and we see nothing wrong with that. We've got a lot of work ahead to educate the public on the value of biosolids." Blatt didn't think the title of our book would be helpful to her cause. "Why don't you change it to Smoking Is Good For You?" she suggested. "That's a great title. People will pick it up. I think it has more impact. You can focus in on all the Philip Morris money. I think it's a grabber."
Stauber and Rampton spend the rest of the chapter following the chain of PR firms, clients, organizational name changes and whistleblowers
that adds up to "a coverup of massive hazards to the environment and human health." Other chapters detail TV news agencies' dependence on PR firms, the huge lengths to which PR agencies will go to ensure that a book which threatens their corporate clients' interests gets little media coverage, the Colombian government
and their media consultants
, and other true horror stories.
Toxic Sludge Is Good For You is a book that every budding activist, WTO protestor, earnestly political puppet-maker and young anti-globalization zealot should read, if only to learn how inadequate the American left's traditional tactics have become since the sixties, in the face of corporate wealth.
The publisher is:
Common Courage Press
Monroe, Maine 04951