RE: The Flack Catchers

From: Vincent Campbell (v.p.campbell@stir.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Apr 17 2001 - 14:51:05 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <v.p.campbell@stir.ac.uk>
    To: "'memetics@mmu.ac.uk'" <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
    Subject: RE: The Flack Catchers
    Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 14:51:05 +0100
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    This is soon to be a set text for our PR Masters' degree (which is going
    online in September- so spread the word!). I believe their previous book
    was called 'Toxic Waste is Good For You', and is equally entertaining.

    Vincent

    > ----------
    > From: Wade T.Smith
    > Reply To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    > Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2001 2:50 am
    > To: Memetics Discussion List
    > Subject: Fwd: The Flack Catchers
    >
    > The Flack Catchers
    > by Chisun Lee
    >
    > http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0115/lee2.shtml
    >
    > Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's Trust Us, We're Experts! How Industry
    > Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future delivers both delight
    > and dismay to the hypochondriacs and conspiracy theorists among us. "Ha!"
    > we can crow. "We were right!" The Fortune 500 do employ a vast
    > underground army of twisted manipulators and elite mercenaries to win
    > greater profit at the expense of our minds and bodies!
    >
    > "How far will people in power go to manipulate and control our
    > perceptions of reality?" the authors ask. The question is even more
    > ominous than it sounds. To Rampton and Stauber, the struggle for consumer
    > rights is no mere tussle over dollars and cents; at stake are the
    > fundamental principles of liberty and justice.
    >
    > Not even the most venerable institution is sacred as the authors uncover
    > how money trumps morals, and deception can be found even in the brightest
    > corners of scientific America. Some of the usual suspects<PR firms Hill &
    > Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds<are
    > pulling the strings. But dancing on the other end are the American Cancer
    > Society, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American
    > Medical Association, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
    > government agencies, network news media, university professors, and maybe
    > even your next-door neighbor.
    >
    > As a simple history resource, Trust Us touches on many of the 20th
    > century's most infamous industrial disasters and dilemmas: Hawk's Nest,
    > leaded gasoline, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, global warming, genetically
    > modified food, pesticides, and of course big tobacco. But with the aid of
    > previously unreleased internal corporate documents, insider PR
    > blueprints, other journalistic investigations, medical studies, and
    > hindsight, Rampton and Stauber also reveal how our understanding of these
    > crises has been shaped by the experts, and how these perceptions could be
    > harmful to our health.
    >
    > Alarmingly relevant now that supermarket meat aisles seem more like
    > minefields, a chapter on food biotechnology reveals just how far and wide
    > an industry will go to obscure the potential harm of their products. In
    > one example, biotech giant Monsanto<once a leader in saccharin, PCBs, and
    > Agent Orange production<successfully blocked negative news coverage of
    > the bovine growth hormone rBGH with the aid of a vast PR web and, of
    > course, talented lawyers.
    >
    > With innocuous-sounding groups such as the American Dietetic Association
    > and the International Food Information Council weighing in, Monsanto
    > managed to pressure, cajole, and mislead editors and reporters at such
    > prestigious outlets as USA Today, The New York Times, and The Wall Street
    > Journal. When two Florida television news reporters nevertheless put
    > together an exposť suggesting that rBGH had never been adequately tested
    > for its cancer-causing potential, that cows were getting sick from it,
    > and that supermarkets were not taking promised measures to screen
    > rBGH-using suppliers, Monsanto sent in the lawyers. The investigation
    > never aired, and both reporters were eventually fired.
    >
    > Trust Us, We're Experts! is an education in public relations from the
    > folks at the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy, which puts out the
    > quarterly PR Watch. The authors drop morbidly fascinating tidbits of
    > insider information. One of them: Companies can purchase software that
    > helps them gauge the tolerance level of shareholders for unsavory
    > business practices, like, say, environmental destruction or the ravaging
    > of third-world populations.
    >
    > The further you read, the greater the risk of paranoid fatalism. With
    > billions of dollars and some of the world's greatest minds working
    > against us, aren't we doomed? How can we ever again read the newspaper,
    > eat dinner, go for a swim, take a walk, swallow a pill, trust anyone, or
    > be sure of anything? We begin to question the most minor
    > assumptions<after all, the ones about oat bran as a cholesterol fighter,
    > red wine as a weapon against heart disease, and zinc as a shortcut around
    > the common cold apparently rest on shaky ground.
    >
    > The best defense, argue Rampton and Stauber, is active skepticism.
    > Skepticism of the experts, people who come at you from a position of
    > authority with a vast body of information and an agenda. And active
    > seeking of the truth, preferably in concert with others who are dedicated
    > to rooting out corporate evil.
    >
    > Of course, if you've really learned your lesson, your first question will
    > be: How much of this book is a crock? The authors aren't taking any
    > chances<they've provided extensive footnotes. If you're still skeptical,
    > why not do as they say and investigate them? Call up the Center for Media
    > and Democracy; demand a list of funders and their contributions.
    >
    > There isn't likely to be much corporate support there. These guys come
    > from the far side of liberal. Saying so is not to detract from their
    > exhaustively detailed reportage and calmly convincing tone; indeed, the
    > book is generally light on rhetoric, and there's hardly a radical quoted.
    > But the public stranglehold of corrupt experts is framed as a crisis of
    > "democracy," which the authors see as not just freedom from having your
    > mind messed with, but also a level of engagement that drives citizens to
    > become their own experts. And in their conclusion, Rampton and Stauber
    > reveal the depth of their colors: "Activism enriches our lives in
    > multiple ways. It brings us into personal contact with other people who
    > are informed, passionate, and altruistic. . . . It is a path to
    > enlightenment."
    >
    > Corny, yes. But by that point, we need something warm and fuzzy to cling
    > to.
    >
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    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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