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

by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber


Publisher: Tarcher/Putnam
Bookstore price: $24.95 U.S./$34.99 Canada
Available January 2, 2001
ISBN 1-58542-059-X

Ask for it in your local bookstore or order it directly. To order by mail,
send $27.95/book (includes postage & handling) to: CMD, 520 University
Avenue, Suite 310, Madison, WI 53703.


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"If you want to know how the world wags, and who's wagging it, here's your
answer. Read, get mad, roll up your sleeves, and fight back. Rampton and
Stauber have issued a wake-up call we can't ignore."--Bill Moyers
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We count on the experts. We count on them to tell us who to vote for, what
to eat, how to raise our children. We watch them on TV, listen to them on
the radio, read their opinions in magazine and newspaper articles and
letters to the editor. We trust them to tell us what to think, because
there's too much information out there and not enough hours in a day to
sort it all out.

We should stop trusting them right this second.

In their new book, Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates
Science and Gambles with Your Future, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
offer a chilling exposÚ on the manufacturing of "independent experts."
Public relations firms and corporations have seized upon a slick new way
of getting you to buy what they have to sell: Let you hear it from a
neutral "third party," like a professor or a pediatrician or a soccer mom
or a watchdog group. The problem is, these third parties are usually
anything but neutral. They have been handpicked, cultivated, and
meticulously packaged to make you believe what they have to
say--preferably in an "objective" format like a news show or a letter to
the editor. And in some cases, they have been paid handsomely for their
"opinions."

For example:

*  You think that nonprofit organizations just give away their stamps of
approval on products? Bristol-Myers Squibb paid $600,000 to the American
Heart Association for the right to display AHA's name and logo in ads for
its cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol. Smith Kline Beecham paid the
American Cancer Society $1 million for the right to use its logo in ads
for Beecham's Nicoderm CQ and Nicorette anti-smoking ads.

*  You think that you're witnessing a spontaneous public debate over a
national issue? When the Justice Department began antitrust investigations
of the Microsoft Corporation in 1998, Microsoft's public relations firm
countered with a plan to plant pro-Microsoft articles, letters to the
editor, and opinion pieces all across the nation, crafted by professional
media handlers but meant to be perceived as off-the-cuff, heart-felt
testimonials by "people out there."

*  You think that a study out of a prestigious university is completely
unbiased? In 1997, Georgetown University's Credit Research Center issued a
study which concluded that many debtors are using bankruptcy as an excuse
to wriggle out of their obligations to creditors. Former U.S. Treasury
Secretary Lloyd Bentsen cited the study in a Washington Times column and
advocated for changes in federal law to make it harder for consumers to
file for bankruptcy relief. What Bentsen failed to mention was that the
Credit Research Center is funded in its entirety by credit card companies,
banks, retailers, and others in the credit industry; that the study itself
was produced with a $100,000 grant from Visa USA and MasterCard
International Inc.; and that Bentsen himself had been hired to work as a
credit-industry lobbyist.

*  You think that all grassroots organizations are truly grassroots? In
1993, a group called Mothers Opposing Pollution (MOP) appeared, calling
itself "the largest women's environmental group in Australia, with
thousands of supporters across the country." Their cause: A campaign
against plastic milk bottles. It turned out that the group's spokesperson,
Alana Maloney, was in truth a woman named Janet Rundle, the business
partner of a man who did P.R. for the Association of Liquidpaperboard
Carton Manufacturers-the makers of paper milk cartons.

*  You think that if a scientist says so, it must be true? In the early
1990s, tobacco companies secretly paid thirteen scientists a total of
$156,000 to write a few letters to influential medical journals. One
biostatistician received $10,000 for writing a single, eight-paragraph
letter that was published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association. A cancer researcher received $20,137 for writing four letters
and an opinion piece to the Lancet, the Journal of the National Cancer
Institute, and the Wall Street Journal. Nice work if you can get it,
especially since the scientists didn't even have to write the letters
themselves. Two tobacco-industry law firms were available to do the actual
drafting and editing.

Rampton and Stauber reveal many more such examples of "perception
management"--all of them orchestrated to make us buy or believe whatever
the "independent expert" is pushing. They also explore the underlying
assumptions about human psychology--e.g., "the public must be manipulated
for its own good"--that make this kind of subliminal hard-sell possible.

Destined to be hated by P.R. firms and corporations everywhere, Trust Us,
We're Experts is an eye-opening account of how these entities reshape our
reality, manufacture our consent, get us to part with our money, even
change our lives. A whole new spin on spin, it will forever alter the way
we look at news, information, and the people who serve it up to us.

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING

"Stauber and Rampton have once again exposed the ugly underbelly of
corporate America's psychological war on our citizens. Trust Us, We're
Experts shows how giant corporations employ sophisticated psychiatric
techniques, unscrupulous public figures, junk science, tainted studies and
clever PR mercenaries in a relentless effort to market products that
routinely kill, maim, deform and poison consumers and our
environment."--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President, Water Keeper Alliance

"If you want to know how the world wags, and who's wagging it, here's your
answer. Read, get mad, roll up your sleeves, and fight back. Rampton and
Stauber have issued a wake-up call we can't ignore."--Bill Moyers

"Trust Us, We're Experts is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism
and a powerful vaccine against the stupifying effects of the corporate PR
machine. Spread it around!"--Barbara Ehrenreich

"If you've ever wanted to see a TV spin doctor hog-tied and dragged
through the streets, Rampton and Stauber do the next best thing. This book
is modern muckraking of the best variety, skewering hype and showing us
how to separate real experts from snake oil salesmen and hired corporate
know-it-alls."--Jim Hightower

"Finally, a long-overdue expose of the shenanigans and subterfuge that lie
behind the making of experts in America. Stauber and Rampton take us
behind the scenes, inside corporate boardrooms, where marketing chiefs
literally manufacture their own 'independent experts' to defend their
products and practices. This groundbreaking book gives us a first look
into the seamy side of corporate public relations, where academic experts
of every stripe and kind are bought in various ways. An
eye-opener."--Jeremy Rifkin

"Unlike many exposÚs, the book is a page-turner. Once you start, you will
want to read it all. While your heart may sink, your passions will be
aroused. It is like a sudden awareness that sweeps illusions away. This is
not a casual jeremiad, but a careful, patiently researched deconstruction
of corporate behavior and their so-called ethics."--Paul Hawken, author of
Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism

"Rampton and Stauber's book explodes the cult of expertise and shows how
easily the media and their readers can be misled by public relations
claims masquerading as science. This book makes the best case I know for
complete disclosure of the financial conflicts of interest of scientists
and the corporate influence on university research."--Sheldon Krimsky,
Professor at Tufts University, author of: Hormonal Chaos: The Scientific
and Social Origins of the Environmental Endocrine Hypothesis

"Trust Us brilliantly exposes the dirtiest public relations campaigns in
America for what they are--cynical attempts to undermine our democracy so
some creep can sell your kid more cigarrettes, push more Microsoft
software on you or melt down the North Pole with global warming
pollution."--John Passacantando, Executive Director, Greenpeace US

"This book is a must for everyone attempting to sift through the vast
amount of information available in the media and on the net. It reveals
how high-priced, international public relations corporations are hired to
redefine facts, create confusion, and destroy reputations of accomplished
scientists to protect their bottom line. The good news comes at the end of
the book when the authors tell how to filter the news to remove the
'bottom-line bias' so exquisitely woven into advertisements and news items
by special interests."--Theo Colborn, Senior Program Scientist, World
Wildlife Fund, co-author of Our Stolen Future

"The United States today is in the midst of the Golden Age of Propaganda.
Well-heeled private interests have learned how to manipulate journalism
and public discourse on fundamental public health, environmental and
political issues through the sophisticated use of public relations, bogus
experts and junk science. In Trust Us, We're Experts Rampton and Stauber
do the extraordinary and groundbreaking job of exposing these sleazy
practices and rigorously holding them up to the light of day. Well
organized and wonderfully written, Trust Us, We're Experts is a real page
turner. It is a true masterpiece."--Robert W. McChesney author, Rich
Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times

"After reading this book I couldn't possibly listen to an expert witness
again, even one under oath, without a lot of healthy skepticism; and if
given the opportunity, without asking: 'Who's paying you to say
this?' "--Mark Dowie

"This is a great book, and I think you should buy it. But since the point
of the book is to think for yourself and not trust experts, perhaps you
should thumb through it yourself for a little while. I think of it as a
field guide to the kinds of lies you can expect from the information
age."--Bill McKibben

"Amusing . . . meticulously researched . . . Rampton and Stauber's
documentation of PR campaigns proves that they are the real 'experts.' "--
Kaja Perina, Brill's Content

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Preface: The Smell Test

SECTION ONE: The Age of Spin

1. The Third Man
2. The Birth of Spin
3. Deciding What You'll Swallow

SECTION TWO: Risky Business

4. Dying for a Living
5. Packaging the Beast
6. Preventing Precaution
7. Attack of the Killer Potatoes

SECTION THREE: The Expertise Industry

8. The Best Science Money Can Buy
9. The Junkyard Dogs
10.   Global Warming Is Good For You

EPILOGUE: Questioning Authority

APPENDIX: Suggested Resources

INDEX