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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading, 8 Mar 2014
By 
Charles - See all my reviews
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Lobbying is the face of the commercial influence industry.

England has the third biggest lobbying industry in the world, estimated to be worth about 2bn.

Politicians need information, expertise and advice from the outside world to inform their decisions, this can come from lobbyists. If politicians need outside advice then what is the problem with lobbying? The problem is that lobbying is done for the particular narrow interests of the people that pay for it e.g environmental protection groups cannot compete in lobbying with huge well financed groups that damage the environment like the oil industry. Thus the government is bent to perform the will of the most powerful not the will of the people, this results in lobbying becoming a corrupting force that can control our government.

If this was not bad enough there is also a even darker side to lobbying, selective approach to the truth, media manipulation, undermining of critics and other questionable tactics.

If you think that lobbying is a case of brown envelopes of money being handed to MPs, well not anymore, those days are largely gone thanks to scandals of the past. Modern lobbying is dinner parties, expert advice and cushy jobs when the MP leaves government.

Some Lobbyist are loaned to work for the government for free, keeping a eye on the government, figuring out how the government works, see what new laws are coming that may effect their clients and increasing their influence in government. Even more worrying 15% of MPs elected in May 2010 came from lobbying backgrounds. And many former MPs become lobbyist themselves.

The big four tax firms (who are accused of manufacturing tax avoidance schemes on a industrial scale) are invited to the government to help shape tax policy, they then use their insider knowledge to advise their clients on how to avoid those same tax laws. Ernst & Young openly claim to use lobbying to lower clients' tax bills.

Politicians and the country can be influenced by independent sources like newspapers or academics. This has led to lobbyist getting fake independent voices to get their message across. They try to control debate by framing the subject in a way they can win e.g the opening of a waste incinerator is framed in terms of creation of jobs and the environmental damage is ignored. Even if a journalist is not in the pockets of PR or lobbyist many journalists just copy and paste stories from PR because they don't have the time to check the claims to see if they are correct. Threats of libel and the use of super injunctions can be used to get journalists to shut up.

Fake grassroots groups (know as astroturfing) is common in the USA is now spreading here. These groups pretend to be local groups but are in fact pushing a corporate agenda. One example would be a proposed laws to the sale of cigarettes that would introduce a display ban and allow only plain packaging, astroturfed small business groups complained about the hypothetical impact on local business. Some astroturfers have been caught doing dubious things such as faking signatures on petitions or lying to people about what the petition is about.

Corporations controlling think tanks and using them to pump out propaganda is also common.

The internet has created new problems to controlling information, lobbyists now whitewash their client's Wikipedia entries and create fake websites to drown out any criticism.

When arguing with critics divide and conquer tactics are commonly used against citizen activism and social change groups. They try and appeal to the more moderate groups and get them to change their mind, thus breaking the groups apart without having to talk to groups that are unlikely to be persuaded.

Infiltration of critical groups is a common strategy in order to gain intelligence on how to deal with those groups. One example is a spy from one of Switzerland's largest private security firms Securia ( working for Nestle ) infiltrated activist group ATTAC . Five years later the spy was exposed and ATTAC successfully sued Nestle but was awarded a paltry 27,000 Swiss francs (about 18,570) Meanwhile, ATTAC found another Securia spy in the group! Another case involved Campaign Against the Arm Trade (CAAT) getting infiltrated by 8 spies for BAE.

Intimidation against critics is not common in lobbying but it does happen, Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten created a documentary called 'Bananas" about a dozen banana workers from Nicaragua that had brought a lawsuit against the Dole Food Company which they claimed used a pesticide that caused the workers to become sterile. Dole attempted to block the film release, made threats of legal action, then unleashed lobbyist and PRs on the filmmaker. Fredrik filmed what happened and released it as the documentary "Big Boys Gone Bananas". Climate scientists around the world are getting vicious and hate filled emails, there is no proof that the threats are coming from the climate change deniers such as the oil industry but think tanks funded by the oil companies have participated.

This book covers many examples of lobbying, the most important being how the cigarette industry handled the news that smoking causes cancer. They deny the evidence, manufacture controversy, create doubts and shift the blame elsewhere with the goal of delaying government action to curb smoking. By the late fifties internal documents from the industry showed they knew smoking caused cancer but they still denied it in public. By the sixties scientists had become even more vocal that smoking causes cancer but the tobacco PR campaign had worked, only third of smokers believed smoking caused cancer.

Realising that they were not going to win the argument on heath grounds, the tobacco industry reframed the argument on the subject of liberty and the freedom to smoke. They claimed restriction on tobacco was a step on the slippery slope to the government controlling all aspects of life. Law suits against the tobacco companies in 1998 caused internal documents from them to be released showing the extent of their deception. The tactics pioneered by the cigarette industry have been copied and refined by other groups like sugar, alcohol and oil.

Lobbying remains a secret hidden industry, the authors suggest that things could be improved by getting lobbyist to disclose who they are lobbying ( this is done in other countries like Canada)

This book is about far more than government lobbying, it cover media manipulation, spying on and intimation of critics and has many currently relevant topics like NHS privatisation. It is a rare glimpse into the power that corporations have to undermine our democracy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OUR DEMOCRACY IS BROKEN, 8 May 2014
By 
S. Prokop "smogbad" (Sutton,Surrey,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain (Hardcover)
Perhaps for the first time,in an organised way,the lid has begun to be taken off how "political"decisions come to be made.The historical roots of deliberate post-depression pro-capitalist propaganda are explored.The dark side of psychoanalysis (Freud's nephew is seen as the spiritual founder of PR) is that the unconscious irrational may be more influential than the rational is shown to be exploited (dog whistle politics,anyone?)It is no accident that the early post WWII exponents of advertising and PR came from military backgrounds.The campaigns they created (e.g.Gove's education reforms) are not conspiracies,they are of the complexity of a D-Day invasion.
The point is a secret,multi-disciplinary preparation which can involve think-tanks,PR and advertising agencies,global companies,Billionaire'sBoysClub funding,revolving door civil servants,big legal firms,SPADS,parliamentarians and best of all "third- party independent voices"

You won't look at the Pfizer/AstraZeneca deal in the same way again!

Isn't all this so last year? The whole point is to destabilise and "free".

$4 trillion world-wide
$600 billion USA
40 billion England
That's the (reform for profit) market Google,Microsoft,NewsCorp,Dell are going for.

Digital,Virtual,Teacherless,Schools-in-a-box.

Michael Gove has whole battalions of advisers,lobbyists,billionaires and "independent third party voices" (that's you,Toby) helping him with his campaign.
All we see is fog (which is the point)...fragments of a concerted campaign.This new generation of teachers are going to have a whole new experience...a cheaper, enabler experience...
Good luck!
Now for the Universities!

With many other sickening,topical examples (from the BSKYB sale and Leveson to helicopters) the book makes a series of
devastating points.
An essential read for anyone interested in how governments put themselves up for sale,and who buys them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russell Brand has a point it would seem., 6 May 2014
By 
S. H. Mason (UK) - See all my reviews
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If you really want to get an insight into how UK ' democracy' really works this book is a must read. Voters and even ideology count for little, the network of lobbyists, PRs and think tanks determine what our representatives actually do.
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