TRUST US, WE'RE EXPERTS!
How industry manipulates science
and gambles with your future
Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
Reviewed by Mira de Vries
"Trust us, we're impartial
!" would have been a more descriptive
title for this book.
The authors document in meticulous detail how Public Relations Firms
hired by wealthy parties, in particular big industries, manipulate
political opinion, public debate and private behavior. There is no
shortage of examples -- the book is crammed with them.
The PR firms pose as concerned citizen groups, grassroots activists,
independent think tanks, or scientific researchers, masterminding
campaigns that pretend to defend our interests but actually benefit
their clients. "Raw money allows the PR industry to mobilize ...
expensive, high-tech resources to outmaneuver, overpower, and outlast
true citizen reformers." Spin doctors train industry directors to dot
their speech abundantly with certain key words like natural
while avoiding words like chemical
Part of the propaganda free-for-all are scientists for hire: "A steady
stream of stories touting new medical breakthroughs and previously
unknown health benefits that researchers attribute to oat bran, garlic
bread, walnuts, orange juice, or whatever product the sponsoring client
happens to be selling."
Although not the main theme of the book, along the way we are told
about the thousands of toxic chemicals dumped by industry in the air we
breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Some are still there
though they were prohibited decades ago. These chemicals have been
demonstrated to harm our bodies and behavior, yet one never hears your
surgeon general or our minister of health refer to them as a possible
cause of afflictions proliferating today and driving up the cost of
The authors put their finger on the sore spot. Government regulatory
agencies are supposed to provide an important check on otherwise
unrestrained corporate power, but in fact collaborate. The same bigwig
names pop up alternately in lucrative positions on the boards of
industries and in the bodies that regulate them, like revolving doors.
"Far from being antagonists, government agencies and the ... companies
they regulate often appear to be a club of elite insiders."
The same government regulation also corrupts science.
Modern science considers itself
'scientific' because it adheres to a certain methodology. ... The myth
of a universal scientific method glosses over many far-from-scientific
pristine realities about the sway scientists work in the real world.
There is no mention, for example, of the time that a modern researcher
spends writing grant proposals; coddling department heads, corporate
donors, and government bureaucrats; or engaging in any of the other
activities that are necessary to obtain research funding. ... The idea
that all scientific experiments are replicated to keep the process
honest is also something of a myth. In reality, the number of findings
from one scientist that get checked by others is quite small. ... [T]he
practice and philosophy of science [has]
changed under the pressures of government bureaucracy... Instead of a
process for asking questions, it [has] become a dogma, a set of answers
imposed by what [is] becoming de facto state religion.
If you're a CEO or managing director in a global industry like oil or
pharmaceuticals, you won't like this book.