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Trust Us, We're Experts!: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future [Paperback]

Sheldon Rampton , John Stauber
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2002
The book that unmasks the sneaky and widespread methods industry uses to influence opinion through bogus experts, doctored data, and manufactured facts.

"Finally a long-overdue exposé of the shenanigans and subterfuge that lie behind the making of experts in America." (Jeremy Rifkin)

"If you want to know how the world wags, and who's wagging it, here's your answer." (Bill Moyers)

"Meticulously researched . . . Rampton and Stauber's documentation of PR campaigns proves that they are the real 'experts.' " (Brill's Content) AUTHOBIO: John Stauber is the founder and director of the Center for Media & Democracy. He and Sheldon Rampton write and edit the quarterly PR Watch: Public Interest Reporting on the PR/Public Affairs Industry.

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Trust Us, We're Experts!: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future + Toxic Sludge is Good for You!: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry
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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Jeremy P Tarcher; New edition edition (1 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585421391
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585421398
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 13.7 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 701,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Fearless investigative journalists Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber (Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! and Mad Cow USA) are back with Trust Us, We're Experts--a gripping exposé of the public relations industry and the scientists who back their business-funded, anti-consumer-safety agendas. There are two kinds of "experts" in question--the PR spin doctors behind the scenes and the "independent" experts paraded before the public, scientists who have been hand-selected, cultivated and paid handsomely to promote the views of corporations involved in controversial actions. Lively writing on controversial topics such as dioxin, bovine growth hormone and genetically modified food makes this a real page-turner, shocking in its portrayal of the real and potential dangers in each of these technological innovations and of the "media pseudo-environment" created to obfuscate the risks.

Rampton and Stauber introduce the movers and shakers of the PR industry, from the "risk communicators" (whose job is to downplay all risks) and "outrage managers" (with their four strategies--deflect, defer, dismiss or defeat) to those who specialise in "public policy intelligence" (spying on opponents). Evidently, these elaborate PR campaigns are created for our own good. According to public relations philosophers, the public reacts emotionally to topics related to health and safety and is incapable of holding rational discourse. Needless to say, Rampton and Stauber find these views rather antidemocratic and intend to pull back the curtain to reveal the real wizard in Oz. This is one wake-up call that's hard to resist. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener, well researched, but lacks oomph 29 Jan 2001
By A Customer
After reading the book, I had once again lost the faith in the human (or rather, corporate) goodwill. The book is basically a neverending list of exploits, PR stunts, and stories of ruined careers. Almost none of the stories have a happy ending, so you will be left angry - which, I assume, is the whole point of this book.
The book seems to be well researched, and you can find a reference for every claim made, which adds credibility. Many cases are documented in detail, and contain dollar amounts, lists of corporation names, and names of individuals. Obviously, stuff that you need to write down exactly in order to survive the potential legal harassment that authors of this kind of book might face. But, from a casual reader's point of view, this can be also discouraging. The authors have crammed the book full of case studies that might have benefited from a more verbose discussion.
However, if you are accustomed to reading straight facts, this book will surely give you a couple of new issues to be paranoid about. It's got all the stuff what nightmares are made of: frankenfood and other food scares, DDT and PCB, global warming, and bribed magazine editors. To someone who works with company press releases (editors, PR people), the book can function as a field guide on how one can be mislead - or, if you are sinister enough, how you can lead people astray and save your, and your company's, butt.
Of course - what kind of experts are these authors, anyway? Should I trust them? Well, I would be tempted to believe them and their claims. The book is not company-bashing all the way.
The point that the authors try to drive home is that the more people are aware of these issues, the harder it is for spinmeisters of either side (the corporates or the activists) to mislead anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cautionary Tale of How Expert Views Can Mislead 14 May 2004
This book looks at the intersection of science, influencing opinion, and our respect for authority to identify what can and does go wrong in the mass media and our own minds. Trust Us, We're the Experts! gives you a behind-the-scenes view of how persuasion techniques are often amorally pursued by their practitioners and their clients. The book concludes with helpful advice for becoming a more skeptical and knowledgeable consumer of "expert" information.
Most people assume that when a third party endorses something, they can rely more on that third party's opinion than on their own knowledge and thinking. Wrong! In our system of law, there is no obligation for the third party to disclose connections to the interests being reported on. In many cases, the third party organization was created simply to advance a parochial view of a subject . . . sometimes even one at odds with scientific facts.
The book contains many examples of such a manipulative approach, beginning with efforts by Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations, to recruit doctors to describe the health benefits of smoking. Case histories show this kind of practice with regard to trying to stop the antitrust suit against Microsoft, and diffusing apparently-valid conerns about the potential dangers of bio-engineered foods, dioxin, lead, silicon dust, asbestos, cotton dust, chlorine, tobacco, and global warming.
There are two kinds of "experts" involved in this process. The unseen ones are public relations practitioners who devise strategies for influencing perceptions in ways that favor their clients. The book has many quotes from these practitioners that will leave you wondering why ethics are not centered in this practice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Whores Of Deception 26 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Trust Us, Were Experts" is one in that pair of intrepid reporters (John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton) remarkable series of books on the Public Relations industry and the manipulations and deceptions that go on in so-called Democracies. In this outing they don their white coats, enter the lab and firmly fix the genus Impartialis Expertis under the microscope. The results are not edifying.

The idea of scientists being full of integrity, "scientific", rigorous and impartial in the search for the truth that is out there is shown to be problematic, especially when Corporate interests become involved. The authors cite a number of examples (Tobacco, Asbestos, Organochlorines, Pesticides, Lead, etc) where people with scientific credentials have pimped their expertise to Corporations to either derail regulation, cast doubt on scientific evidence, or mislead the public in ways that have often been grotesquely harmful to society. One of the examples that I was completely unaware of was the "Hawks Nest" tunnelling project. Anything from several hundred to two thousand black workers (like Iraq no-one was counting) died of the then well known condition Silicosis while drilling a two mile tunnel through quartz rock. Stauber and Rampton detail the efforts of Corporate interests and their "experts" to derail regulations designed to prevent silicosis, their failure to provide safety equipment to the workers or even to inform them of the known risks (a company expert is quoted as saying "We expected them to die but not that quick"), and the lengths the Corporation involved and their experts went to fight of demands by the surviving workers and their families for compensation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe none of what you hear.... 14 Jun 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on
...and only half of what you see. That's how an old friend paraphrased some public figure many years ago. And this book makes that statement far less cynical.
While "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" by the same authors was a fine book, this is somewhat of an evolution. It's even better.
So, let's see, you may have been impressed with the findings of a study that has been in all the major daily newspapers and network news. After all, the findings were applauded by the Association for Warm Cuddly Chemicals, they were endorsed by your favorite authors, and, after all, what would we do without the wonderful products available that were the subject of the study?
What the trusty newspapers and networks didn't tell you is that the aforementioned association--the list of such front organizations will boggle your mind--is a front for the manufacturers of the chemicals making up the product they're endorsing, and the "study" written up by professional PR flacks. (I took a writing course six years ago in which the instructor, who claimed to be well-informed, was astonished when I told her the percentage of column inches in the most well-read newspapers in the US have been composed by PR "professionals.")
As the structure of a text means a lot to me, this is one I endorse on that ground too. It starts with a history of the public relations industry. Of course, Edward Bernays--an old New Deal liberal, incidentally--was PR's patron saint.
The authors dissect the PR process brilliantly. For instance, PR professionals have their consultants to call upon. I was amazed and amused by the process our favorite software manufacturer used to minimize the allegations of monopoly. One of the "consultants" called upon was a former Supreme Court nominee who has vigorously argued against antitrust laws. Once hired by the corporation, though, he issued a 7,000 word tirade against federal prosecutors in favor of the company. Various other politicians, also getting paid by the company, were also enlisted as spokespeople for the company. Shocked, huh?
There's a valuable analysis of how industry has taken the route of "risk analysis" rather than a principle of precaution, i.e., go for it because the consequences are likely minimal vs. let's wait until we find the product is safe before we release it. Industry pushes the former, though you think they--and we--would learn what with the number and amount of settlements in law suits against drug manufacturers, for example.
In addition to that level of commentary, the text reminds the reader of the perils of things like global warming. These are items industry goes out of its way to deny. After all, were we to face the consequences of our excess consumption, we might buy less! Oh, and there?s lots in the text to be learned about bovine growth hormone and its manufacturer/promoter. You'll learn a lot about things we've been prodded to take for granted.
A further complication of our perception is that there is a genre of commentator that a fellow skeptic refers to as "crank skeptic," i.e., an author or commentator who claims to challenge norms or speak for reality but who actually has an ideological motive. This text mentions a few of them whose names I'll let you get from the text.
The only thing I wish the book had covered more of is how the PR industry has infected the electoral process in the United States. In contemporary elections, ISSUES are meticulously avoided so that we can discuss the essentially meaningless (e.g., "character," whatever that is.) But I must admit that's probably the subject of a dozen books, and a slightly different focus than that of this book.
Were I taking notes while reading the book, there is far more I could have written. But I'd rather you take the time to read the book than my comments thereon.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. We MUST know how the PR process works, how we are influenced by it, and who controls the media by which we are ostensibly "informed."
69 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trust Us, We're Experts! 17 Feb 2001
By J. Gear - Published on
Having just finished "Trust Us, We're Experts" I was *astounded* to find the two reviews above saying (essentially) that it was bunk because it was anti-corporate and citing "cases" that the reviewers seem to think help their cause (when they actually just suggest that the reviewers are themselves either paid corporate PR drones or lobotomized "consumers" who abhor anyone actually peering behind the veil of monopoly media and showing that it is mainly about keeping the rabble in line).*****The most important thing about Stauber and Rampton's work from the point of view of a critical review is that it is extensively footnoted and sourced ... don't agree with their positions? Fine -- write a book even half as well sourced and you'll be far ahead of most of what passes for popular scientific literature.****Trust Us, We're Experts does, in fact, seem redundant to parts of "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" -- but that's not too surprising given that the same PR consultant/flacks are giving corporations the exact same advice on how to overcome public participation and avoid any real critical scrutiny.****These two books (and their newsletter "PR Watch") are among the most powerful deprogramming tools available today -- anyone interested in media, democracy, citizenship, public policy formation, or the environment should definitely equip themselves with them or, if only one, then "Trust Us!" because it's the most current.
56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patterns Give Away Deceit 11 Sep 2002
By Kevin L. Nenstiel - Published on
The bulk of this book is given over to detailing the consistent patterns big money has used to manipulate the flow of knowledge from those who have it to those who need it. In practice, this means the book details how "industry" (a term used but never clearly defined) is standing in the way of public health, environmental concerns, and more. Perhaps this book was printed with soy ink on recycled paper? Or are publishers not an industry?
That quibble aside, Stauber and Rampton attempt to demonstrate, primarily through pattern recognition, how easy it is to see through PR-motivated lies and hucksterism if we simply know what to look for. Uncomfortably cozy relationships with "independent" third parties are an obvious example, as is a tendency to divert attention from the credibility of the statement to the credibility of who makes the statement. In fact, an elementary knowledge of the rules of formal debate are well rewarded in reading this book, since you quickly discover that, if an "expert" is defying these rules, that expert is probably trying to take you to the cleaners.
The book is patently left-leaning. The authors are idealistic about human nature, for example, believing people would do the greatest good for the greatest number if they knew how to do it. The authors also appear to believe that government regulation is the necessary answer to inevitable government excess. This seems awfully nave in its sheer repetition at times. In Chapter Nine, the concession is briefly made that "public advocacy" groups will sometimes distort facts and figures to achieve their desired ends, but that assertion is ultimately deemed less important than the tendency of conservative forces to distort.
The ultimate chapter actually goes into some pointers for seeing through distortion and arming yourself to stand up for your beliefs. At least one previous reviewer seems to have missed this fact. This isn't just a list of information, there are actual pointers for action in here. Don't be shy about standing up for what you believe in, that's the message of this book, and one worth repeating, since we Americans allow ourselves to forget it all too easily.
This book shouldn't be sought out by anybody too in love with their conservative beliefs, their love of mass manufacturing, or a belief that prosperity must come on the heels of pollution. Despite its leanings, it maintains no sacred cows. Those willing to allow themselves to be challenged, however, will be richly rewarded by going out on a limb. This sophisticated, well-documented book tries to show the point where truth and lies intersect, and it is a view you will not soon forget.
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A toolkit to save us all from the PR tar-pits 29 Dec 2000
By Misha - Published on
A lot of people know that the mass media spin stories, people, events, and opinions. But few of us can get an inside look at how the PR and opinion industries work with the mass media. How they use science, social science, and pseudo-science to sell toxic products, to ignore their devastating impacts, and to undermine democracy coldly, deliberately, and cynically.
This powerhouse of a book is first aid for those of us weary of all that, but still hoping for a sane, reasonable way to respond and arm ourselves with the real truth.
In /Trust Us, We're Experts/, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber continue as America's number one watchdogs of the PR industry. This book gives you permission to smell something stinky in the fishy proclamations of media-hyped experts who are wooing our wallets...even when it's packaged as roses, peddled in big showy bunches and enthusiastically delivered to your door using everything from direct mail to the Internet to letters to the editor of your local newspaper to products carefully and expensively placed in your supermarket. And the book leaves the reader with a sense of passion and hope, rather than feeling defeated. What an accomplishment!
/Trust Us, We're Experts/ is meticulous in detail, painstaking in its research, unrelenting in its patient disentangling of complicated issues. Yet it's hugely, easily, fabulously readable, the kind of book I kept quoting portions of out loud to anybody within earshot. The kind of book where you howl aloud on public transit, and people lean over and ask what you're reading, and before you know it, a cluster of folks are engaging in a spontaneous citizen-to-citizen democracy-building session. Just the kind of thing the big PR firms fear, because citizens armed with the truth stop listening to spinmeisters paid handsomely to tell them what and when to buy.
What I liked best about /Trust Us, We're Experts/: it's immediate and concrete-not a heady bunch of theory. The authors' examples come from today's news-global warming, genetic engineering of food, big tobacco, pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, and more. Never mind what you've heard about conspiracies or subliminal programming-Rampton and Stauber show how the most powerful engineering of consumer awareness operates right under our noses, but cloaked in wiggle words, misinformation, and outright lies.
How can we get clear of the tar-pits of opinion, packaged as fact, that "neutral" "third-party" "experts"have flung us into? Read this book, and you will walk away with a tar-pit-rescue toolkit that the La Brea Coast Guard would envy. I give it five stars, though want Rampton and Stauber to know they're not finished yet, and must keep writing for years and decades to come! Thank you, authors, for this book.
Michele Gale-Sinex
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Am Happily Aghast -- My 18-Yr-Old Loves It -- Great Gift! 6 Dec 2003
By Avocadess - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You might call me the "aging hippie mom" wondering when and if my teenaged son would *ever* get passionate about, and see, some important truths of what is happening in the world today. He's a great kid, but frankly he's pushing eighteen and I had given up hope of his ever "seeing the light" if he didn't by now -- the "light" in this sense meaning a lot of the truths that were important to me at his age and that are pressingly important more and more for the world at large.
A huge *spark* happened when he read some articles on, especially an article that cited this book. When he said, "I'd like to get that book," I was happily astounded in his interest and purchased him a copy as soon as I could. He's been reading it now for weeks and several times has commented on how much he appreciates the book, has used facts from the book for arguments in his high school debate class (with great results -- he won the debate "hands down") -- and better yet, he is now "turned on" to learning more.
Shoot, because of this book, "Trust Me, We're Experts" my son has also gotten turned on to reading again for the first time in years. Said so himself! When he saw my fresh-off-the-press copy of "Our Toxic World: A Wakeup Call" by Doris J. Rapp., M.D., sitting on the coffeetable -- where before I would have gotten from him a distinterested "Hum," he said, "I'd like to borrow that book sometime!" WOW.
It's today's youth that will gain the mantle and have to deal with this world and all the problems of corporate greed/control. I strongly feel that becoming aware of the kinds of things this book delineates is a very, very hopeful sign for our future and the future of this planet. This book is a radical TURN-ON, and for that I give it a big two hands up! (Hey, he's even gaining interest in organic food now!)
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