Monday, April 25, 2011

Deadly Spin

Curious Orange and I are reading the same books. He was wandering around here with The Big Squeeze the other day, which I had just read, and then he blogged about it. On his post he lists There is Power in a Union, and I'd just returned that one, too, and Studs Terkel, whose book, Working, changed my life when I read it decades ago.

So if he doesn't already know about it, I bet Mr. Orange would be interested in another one I read recently, Deadly Spin, a book that talks about the public relations industry, its history, its mores (yes, the industry does have standards), and how the movers and shakers have used PR to misdirect our attention so that we waste our energy on trivialities instead of protecting ourselves from being robbed.

Remember the suffragettes? Neither do I, but I've seen the old photos. Remember hearing about how they (gasp!) smoked in public to announce that gender would no longer dictate their behavior? Well, the effort for the vote was real of course, but the smoking thing was a PR campaign cooked up by Edward Bernays, the inventor of 20th-century public relations, who had been hired by the American Tobacco Company to promote Lucky Strikes. Bernays called the project "Torches of Freedom". It was extremely successful, and we've been dealing with the fallout (lung cancer, pernicous public relations practices) since.

Even if you're a savvy consumer, I think you'd be gobsmacked by the story of public relations, although we should have seen it coming: Bernays' 1928 book, the one that describes his newly minted business model, is titled Propaganda.

Names of authors (click to enlarge):


Bubba said...

Harold Robbins
Norman Mailer
And this last one is a guess:
John Le Carre?

And thanks, ts, I do feel better now!

tim snead said...

Props for #1 and #2, wrong on #3: cold on the first and second syllables, warm on the third.

Bubba said...

Lewis Carroll!

Toughie, that one. Very sneaky.