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

By Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber

Penguin Putnam, 2001
359 pp., $24.95 hardcover, $16.95 paper
or order directly from CMD (see below)
$15.00, paper (includes postage & handling)
ISBN 1-58542-059-X
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If some company came out with this new wonder drug that would (a) lower your cholesterol, (b) help you lose weight, or (c) grow hair, you'd probably be like most people and say, "Yeah, right." Now what if a third party expert said, "This drug really does (pick a letter)." Now you're thinking, maybe there is something to this new wonder drug. The authors of Trust Us, We're Experts! want you to think carefully before believing this person.

Trust Us, We're Experts! exposes the lengths corporations will go to get you to buy their products. Authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber reveal the documented history of corporate (and government) efforts to distort science, manipulate public opinion, and defeat the very democracy that is supposed to protect us. Rampton and Stauber are also known for two previous books, Toxic Sludge is Good for You! and Mad Cow U.S.A., which, in part, inspired them to write this book.

Trust Us is divided into sections. Part I: The Age of Illusion, shows the rise of PR firms and their use of the "expert" in corporate campaigns. Part I is divided into sections, "The Third Man," "The Birth of Spin," and "Deciding What You'll Swallow." How do they got their ideas?. What are their methodologies? Gleaning how they influence people, and even governments, to do what they/their clients want. Part II: Risky Business, exposes some of the worst of corporate PR campaigns. The section "Dying for a living," exposes the corporate spin designed to deny any health claims from asbestos exposure. "Attack of the Killer Potatoes" reveals the discrediting of a biologists work on genetically modified food crops (his work/results were contrary to university, and its patron Monsanto, goals). It effectively ended a 36-year career. And Part III: The Expertise Industry shows how money can buy anything. From "The Best Science Money Can Buy" to "Questioning Authority."

Rampton and Stauber examine the role of the "expert" in selling us a product or service. Often the best seller of a product is the neutral third party "expert," be it a professor, a pediatrician, a soccer mom, or a watchdog group. We tend to believe that with these people backing up the product, it must be good. Let the buyer beware! Often these third parties are often not neutral at all, but bought and paid for by "public relations" (PR) firms hired by these companies. Companies and PR firms have even been known to create their own "think tanks" to deliver favorable press releases to the media - often reprinted in its entirety without verification of facts. Not something you would expect from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or 20/20.

Examples of buying and selling of "expertise" are all around us. "Stamps of approval" by organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) are bought and sold — Bristol-Meyers Squib paid $600,000 to put the AHA logo in ads for their cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol. University studies aren't even safe. A good portion of university studies are paid for by corporate funding - funding which could be just as easily withdrawn if a study doesn't go their way. Even some "grassroots" (if they could even be called that) movements and organizations are questionable - the Wise Use movement was largely funded by logging, oil & gas, and mining companies. The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) was chaired by an executive for the American Petroleum institute and run out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers. It exists to question any policies that may strengthen air quality standards, largely by lobbying Congress and putting out glossy pamphlets pronouncing ill tidings on employment if environmental regulations are strengthened.

Trust Us exposes the truth about so-called experts, urging us to question not just authority, but experts who should really be working to protect us. Future journalists should read this, so they too can learn to question experts - and not just take things at face value.

— Annette Aguayo

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