- Aldous Huxley's inspired 1956 essay detailed the vivid,
mind-expanding, multisensory insights of his mescaline adventures. By altering
his brain chemistry with natural psychotropics, Huxley tapped into a rich
and fluid world of shimmering, indescribable beauty and power. With his
neurosensory input thus triggered, Huxley was able to enter that parallel
universe described by every mystic and space captain in recorded history.
Whether by hallucination or epiphany, Huxley sought to remove all controls,
all filters, all cultural conditioning from his perceptions and to confront
Nature or the World or Reality first-hand - in its unpasteurized, unedited,
unretouched, infinite rawness.
- Those bonds are much harder to break today, half a century
later. We are the most conditioned, programmed beings the world has ever
known. Not only are our thoughts and attitudes continually being shaped
and molded; our very awareness of the whole design seems like it is being
subtly and inexorably erased. The doors of our perception are carefully
and precisely regulated. Who cares, right?
- It is an exhausting and endless task to keep explaining
to people how most issues of conventional wisdom are scientifically implanted
in the public consciousness by a thousand media clips per day. In an effort
to save time, I would like to provide just a little background on the handling
of information in this country. Once the basic principles are illustrated
about how our current system of media control arose historically, the reader
might be more apt to question any given popular opinion.
- If everybody believes something, it's probably wrong.
We call that
- Conventional Wisdom.
- In America, conventional wisdom that has mass acceptance
is usually contrived: somebody paid for it.
- * Pharmaceuticals restore health
- * Vaccination brings immunity
- * The cure for cancer is just around the corner
- * Menopause is a disease condition
- * When a child is sick, he needs immediate antibiotics
- * When a child has a fever he needs Tylenol
- * Hospitals are safe and clean.
- * America has the best health care in the world.
- * Americans have the best health in the world.
- * Milk is a good source of calcium.
- * You never outgrow your need for milk.
- * Vitamin C is ascorbic acid.
- * Aspirin prevents heart attacks.
- * Heart drugs improve the heart.
- * Back and neck pain are the only reasons for spinal
- * No child can get into school without being vaccinated.
- * The FDA thoroughly tests all drugs before they go on
- * Back and neck pain are the only reason for spinal adjustment.
- * Pregnancy is a serious medical condition
- * Chemotherapy and radiation are effective cures for
- * When your child is diagnosed with an ear infection,
antibiotics should be given
- immediately 'just in case'
- * Ear tubes are for the good of the child.
- * Estrogen drugs prevent osteoporosis after menopause.
- * Pediatricians are the most highly trained of al medical
- * The purpose of the health care industry is health.
- * HIV is the cause of AIDS.
- * AZT is the cure.
- * Without vaccines, infectious diseases will return
- * Fluoride in the city water protects your teeth
- * Flu shots prevent the flu.
- * Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being placed
on the Mandated Schedule.
- * Doctors are certain that the benefits of vaccines far
outweigh any possible risks.
- * There is a power shortage in California.
- * There is a meningitis epidemic in California.
- * The NASDAQ is a natural market controlled only by supply
- * Chronic pain is a natural consequence of aging.
- * Soy is your healthiest source of protein.
- * Insulin shots cure diabetes.
- * After we take out your gall bladder you can eat anything
- * Allergy medicine will cure allergies.
- This is a list of illusions, that have cost billions
and billions to conjure up. Did you ever wonder why you never see the President
speaking publicly unless he is reading? Or why most people in this country
think generally the same about most of the above issues?
- HOW THIS WHOLE SET-UP GOT STARTED
- In Trust Us We're Experts, Stauber and Rampton pull together
some compelling data describing the science of creating public opinion
in America. They trace modern public influence back to the early part of
the last century, highlighting the work of guys like Edward L. Bernays,
the Father of Spin. From his own amazing chronicle Propaganda, we learn
how Edward L. Bernays took the ideas of his famous uncle Sigmund Freud
himself and applied them to the emerging science of mass persuasion. The
only difference was that instead of using these principles to uncover hidden
themes in the human unconscious, the way Freudian psychology does, Bernays
used these same ideas to mask agendas and to create illusions that deceive
and misrepresent, for marketing purposes.
- THE FATHER OF SPIN
- Bernays dominated the PR industry until the 1940s, and
was a significant force for another 40 years after that. (Tye) During all
that time, Bernays took on hundreds of diverse assignments to create a
public perception about some idea or product. A few examples: As a neophyte
with the Committee on Public Information, one of Bernays' first assignments
was to help sell the First World War to the American public with the idea
to "Make the World Safe for Democracy." (Ewen)
- A few years later, Bernays set up a stunt to popularize
the notion of women smoking cigarettes. In organizing the 1929 Easter Parade
in New York City, Bernays showed himself as a force to be reckoned with.
He organized the Torches of Liberty Brigade in which suffragettes marched
in the parade smoking cigarettes as a mark of women's liberation. Such
publicity followed from that one event that from then on women have felt
secure about destroying their own lungs in public, the same way that men
have always done.
- Bernays popularized the idea of bacon for breakfast.
Not one to turn down a challenge, he set up the advertising format along
with the AMA that lasted for nearly 50 years proving that cigarettes are
beneficial to health. Just look at ads in issues of Life or Time from the
40s and 50s.
- During the next several decades Bernays and his colleagues
evolved the principles by which masses of people could be generally swayed
through messages repeated over and over hundreds of times. One the value
of media became apparent, other countries of the world tried to follow
our lead. But Bernays really was the gold standard. Josef Goebbels, who
was Hitler's minister of propaganda, studied the principles of Edward Bernays
when Goebbels was developing the popular rationale he would use to convince
the Germans that they had to purify their race. (Stauber)
- SMOKE AND MIRRORS
- Bernay's job was to reframe an issue; to create a desired
image that would put a particular product or concept in a desirable light.
Bernays described the public as a 'herd that needed to be led.' And this
herdlike thinking makes people "susceptible to leadership." Bernays
never deviated from his fundamental axiom to "control the masses without
their knowing it." The best PR happens with the people unaware that
they are being manipulated.
- Stauber describes Bernays' rationale like this: "the
scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary to overcome chaos
and conflict in a democratic society." Trust Us p 42
- These early mass persuaders postured themselves as performing
a moral service for humanity in general - democracy was too good for people;
they needed to be told what to think, because they were incapable of rational
thought by themselves. Here's a paragraph from Bernays' Propaganda: "Those
who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible
government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed,
our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men
we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our
democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate
in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business
in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the
relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes
and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control
the public mind."
- A tad different from Thomas Jefferson's view on the subject:
- "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power
of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened
enough to exercise that control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy
is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion."
- Inform their discretion. Bernays believed that only a
few possessed the necessary insight into the Big Picture to be entrusted
with this sacred task. And luckily, he saw himself as one of that few.
- HERE COMES THE MONEY
- Once the possibilities of applying Freudian psychology
to mass media were glimpsed, Bernays soon had more corporate clients than
he could handle. Global corporations fell all over themselves courting
the new Image Makers. There were dozens of goods and services and ideas
to be sold to a susceptible public. Over the years, these players have
had the money to make their images happen. A few examples:
- Philip Morris Pfizer Union Carbide Allstate Monsanto
Eli Lilly tobacco industry Ciba Geigy lead industry Coors DuPont Chlorox
Shell Oil Standard Oil Procter & Gamble Boeing General Motors Dow Chemical
General Mills Goodyear
- THE PLAYERS
- Dozens of PR firms have emerged to answer that demand.
- Burson-Marsteller Edelman Hill & Knowlton Kamer-Singer
Ketchum Mongovin, Biscoe, and Duchin BSMG Buder-Finn
- Though world-famous within the PR industry, these are
names we don't know, and for good reason. The best PR goes unnoticed. For
decades they have created the opinions that most of us were raised with,
on virtually any issue which has the remotest commercial value, including:
- pharmaceutical drugs vaccines medicine as a profession
alternative medicine fluoridation of city water chlorine household cleaning
products tobacco dioxin global warming leaded gasoline cancer research
and treatment pollution of the oceans forests and lumber images of celebrities,
including damage control crisis and disaster management genetically modified
foods aspartame food additives; processed foods dental amalgams
- LESSON #1
- Bernays learned early on that the most effective way
to create credibility for a product or an image was by "independent
third-party" endorsement. For example, if General Motors were to come
out and say that global warming is a hoax thought up by some liberal tree-huggers,
people would suspect GM's motives, since GM's fortune is made by selling
automobiles. If however some independent research institute with a very
credible sounding name like the Global Climate Coalition comes out with
a scientific report that says global warming is really a fiction, people
begin to get confused and to have doubts about the original issue.
- So that's exactly what Bernays did. With a policy inspired
by genius, he set up "more institutes and foundations than Rockefeller
and Carnegie combined." (Stauber p 45) Quietly financed by the industries
whose products were being evaluated, these "independent" research
agencies would churn out "scientific" studies and press materials
that could create any image their handlers wanted. Such front groups are
given high-sounding names like:
- Temperature Research Foundation International Food Information
Council Consumer Alert The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition Air Hygiene
Foundation Industrial Health Federation International Food Information
Council Manhattan Institute Center for Produce Quality Tobacco Institute
Research Council Cato Institute American Council on Science and Health
Global Climate Coalition Alliance for Better Foods
- Sound pretty legit don't they?
- CANNED NEWS RELEASES
- As Stauber explains, these organizations and hundreds
of others like them are front groups whose sole mission is to advance the
image of the global corporations who fund them, like those listed on page
2 above. This is accomplished in part by an endless stream of 'press releases'
announcing "breakthrough" research to every radio station and
newspaper in the country. (Robbins) Many of these canned reports read like
straight news, and indeed are purposely molded in the news format. This
saves journalists the trouble of researching the subjects on their own,
especially on topics aboutwhich they know very little. Entire sections
of the release or in the case of video news releases, the whole thing can
be just lifted intact, with no editing, given the byline of the reporter
or newspaper or TV station - and voilá! Instant news - copy and
paste. Written by corporate PR firms.
- Does this really happen? Every single day, since the
1920s when the idea of the News Release was first invented by Ivy Lee.
(Stauber, p 22) Sometimes as many as half the stories appearing in an issue
of the Wall St. Journal are based solely on such PR press releases.. (22)
These types of stories are mixed right in with legitimately researched
stories. Unless you have done the research yourself, you won't be able
to tell the difference.
- THE LANGUAGE OF SPIN
- As 1920s spin pioneers like Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays
gained more experience, they began to formulate rules and guidelines for
creating public opinion. They learned quickly that mob psychology must
focus on emotion, not facts. Since the mob is incapable of rational thought,
motivation must be based not on logic but on presentation. Here are some
of the axioms of the new science of PR:
- * technology is a religion unto itself * if people are
incapable of rational thought, real democracy is dangerous * important
decisions should be left to experts * when reframing issues, stay away
from substance; create images * never state a clearly demonstrable lie
- Words are very carefully chosen for their emotional impact.
Here's an example. A front group called the International Food Information
Council handles the public's natural aversion to genetically modified foods.
Trigger words are repeated all through the text. Now in the case of GM
foods, the public is instinctively afraid of these experimental new creations
which have suddenly popped up on our grocery shelves which are said to
have DNA alterations. The IFIC wants to reassure the public of the safety
of GM foods, so it avoids words like:
- Frankenfoods Hitler biotech chemical DNA experiments
manipulate money safety scientists radiation roulette gene-splicing gene
- Instead, good PR for GM foods contains words like:
- hybrids natural order beauty choice bounty cross-breeding
diversity earth farmer organic wholesome.
- It's basic Freudian/Tony Robbins word association. The
fact that GM foods are not hybrids that have been subjected to the slow
and careful scientific methods of real cross-breeding doesn't really matter.
This is pseudoscience, not science. Form is everything and substance just
a passing myth. (Trevanian)
- Who do you think funds the International Food Information
Council? Take a wild guess. Right - Monsanto, DuPont, Frito-Lay, Coca Cola,
Nutrasweet - those in a position to make fortunes from GM foods. (Stauber
- CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD PROPAGANDA
- As the science of mass control evolved, PR firms developed
further guidelines for effective copy. Here are some of the gems:
- - dehumanize the attacked party by labeling and name
- - speak in glittering generalities using emotionally
- - when covering something up, don't use plain English;
stall for time; distract
- - get endorsements from celebrities, churches, sports
figures, street people...anyone who has no expertise in the subject at
- - the 'plain folks' ruse: us billionaires are just like
- - when minimizing outrage, don't say anything memorable
- - when minimizing outrage, point out the benefits of
what just happened
- - when minimizing outrage, avoid moral issues
- Keep this list. Start watching for these techniques.
Not hard to find - look at today's paper or tonight's TV news. See what
they're doing; these guys are good!
- SCIENCE FOR HIRE
- PR firms have become very sophisticated in the preparation
of news releases. They have learned how to attach the names of famous scientists
to research that those scientists have not even looked at. (Stauber, p
201) This is a common occurrence. In this way the editors of newspapers
and TV news shows are often not even aware that an individual release is
a total PR fabrication. Or at least they have "deniability,"
- Stauber tells the amazing story of how leaded gas came
into the picture. In 1922, General Motors discovered that adding lead to
gasoline gave cars more horsepower. When there was some concern about safety,
GM paid the Bureau of Mines to do some fake "testing" and publish
spurious research that 'proved' that inhalation of lead was harmless. Enter
- Founder of the world famous Sloan-Kettering Memorial
Institute for medical research, Charles Kettering also happened to be an
executive with General Motors. By some strange coincidence, we soon have
the Sloan Kettering institute issuing reports stating that lead occurs
naturally in the body and that the body has a way of eliminating low level
exposure. Through its association with The Industrial Hygiene Foundation
and PR giant Hill & Knowlton, Sloane Kettering opposed all anti-lead
research for years. (Stauber p 92). Without organized scientific opposition,
for the next 60 years more and more gasoline became leaded, until by the
1970s, 90% or our gasoline was leaded.
- Finally it became too obvious to hide that lead was a
major carcinogen, and leaded gas was phased out in the late 1980s. But
during those 60 years, it is estimated that some 30 million tons of lead
were released in vapor form onto American streets and highways. 30 million
- That is PR, my friends.
- JUNK SCIENCE
- In 1993 a guy named Peter Huber wrote a new book and
coined a new term. The book was Galileo's Revenge and the term was junk
science. Huber's shallow thesis was that real science supports technology,
industry, and progress. Anything else was suddenly junk science. Not surprisingly,
Stauber explains how Huber's book was supported by the industry-backed
- Huber's book was generally dismissed not only because
it was so poorly written, but because it failed to realize one fact: true
scientific research begins with no conclusions. Real scientists are seeking
the truth because they do not yet know what the truth is.
- True scientific method goes like this:
- 1. form a hypothesis
- 2. make predictions for that hypothesis
- 3. test the predictions
- 4. reject or revise the hypothesis based on the research
- Boston University scientist Dr. David Ozonoff explains
that ideas in science are themselves like "living organisms, that
must be nourished, supported, and cultivated with resources for making
them grow and flourish." (Stauber p 205) Great ideas that don't get
this financial support because the commercial angles are not immediately
obvious - these ideas wither and die.
- Another way you can often distinguish real science from
phony is that real science points out flaws in its own research. Phony
science pretends there were no flaws.
- THE REAL JUNK SCIENCE
- Contrast this with modern PR and its constant pretensions
to sound science. Corporate sponsored research, whether it's in the area
of drugs, GM foods, or chemistry begins with predetermined conclusions.
It is the job of the scientists then to prove that these conclusions are
true, because of the economic upside that proof will bring to the industries
paying for that research. This invidious approach to science has shifted
the entire focus of research in America during the past 50 years, as any
true scientist is likely to admit.
- Stauber documents the increasing amount of corporate
sponsorship of university research. (206) This has nothing to do with the
pursuit of knowledge. Scientists lament that research has become just another
commodity, something bought and sold. (Crossen)
- THE TWO MAIN TARGETS OF "SOUND SCIENCE"
- It is shocking when Stauber shows how the vast majority
of corporate PR today opposes any research that seeks to protect: Public
Health and The Environment
- It's a funny thing that most of the time when we see
the phrase "junk science," it is in a context of defending something
that may threaten either the environment or our health. This makes sense
when one realizes that money changes hands only by selling the illusion
of health and the illusion of environmental protection. True public health
and real preservation of the earth's environment have very low market value.
- Stauber thinks it ironic that industry's self-proclaimed
debunkers of junk science are usually non-scientists themselves. (255)
Here again they can do this because the issue is not science, but the creation
- THE LANGUAGE OF ATTACK
- When PR firms attack legitimate environmental groups
and alternative medicine people, they again use special words which will
carry an emotional punch:
- outraged sound science junk science sensible scaremongering
responsible phobia hoax alarmist hysteria
- The next time you are reading a newspaper article about
an environmental or health issue, note how the author shows bias by using
the above terms. This is the result of very specialized training.
- Another standard PR tactic is to use the rhetoric of
the environmentalists themselves to defend a dangerous and untested product
that poses an actual threat to the environment. This we see constantly
in the PR smokescreen that surrounds genetically modified foods. They talk
about how GM foods are necessary to grow more food and to end world hunger,
when the reality is that GM foods actually have lower yields per acre than
natural crops. (Stauber p 173) The grand design sort of comes into focus
once you realize that almost all GM foods have been created by the sellers
of herbicides and pesticides so that those plants can withstand greater
amounts of herbicides and pesticides. (The Magic Bean)
- THE MIRAGE OF PEER REVIEW
- Publish or perish is the classic dilemma of every research
scientist. That means whoever expects funding for the next research project
had better get the current research paper published in the best scientific
journals. And we all know that the best scientific journals, like JAMA,
New England Journal, British Medical Journal, etc. are peer-reviewed. Peer
review means that any articles which actually get published, between all
those full color drug ads and pharmaceutical centerfolds, have been reviewed
and accepted by some really smart guys with a lot of credentials. The assumption
is, if the article made it past peer review, the data and the conclusions
of the research study have been thoroughly checked out and bear some resemblance
to physical reality.
- But there are a few problems with this hot little set
up. First off, money. Even though prestigious venerable medical journals
pretend to be so objective and scientific and incorruptible, the reality
is that they face the same type of being called to account that all glossy
magazines must confront: don't antagonize your advertisers. Those full-page
drug ads in the best journals cost millions,Jack. How long will a pharmaceutical
company pay for ad space in a magazine that prints some very sound scientific
research paper that attacks the safety of the drug in the centerfold? Think
about it. The editors aren't that stupid.
- Another problem is the conflict of interest thing. There's
a formal requirement for all medical journals that any financial ties between
an author and a product manufacturer be disclosed in the article. In practice,
it never happens. A study done in 1997 of 142 medical journals did not
find even one such disclosure. (Wall St. Journal, 2 Feb 99)