Personal responsibility my arse

February 27th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Oh, right, I have a Web site.

Amazon recently recommended a book it thought I would like, a new one called Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. According to Amazon’s summary, it exposes “the tactics used by the food industry to protect its economic interests and influence public opinion.” The book just started shipping today, and already there’s three scathing reviews, all of them obviously written by PR flacks. (Note the strange convergence on the theme of personal responsibility, the straw-man references to “greedy trial lawyers” and new taxes, and not least the fact that all three reviews were written before the book was publicly available.)

Stop and think about it for a moment: The food industry is paying an anonymous PR firm to simulate grassroots opposition to a book that exposes the industry’s tactics. It’s funny how they claim that we’re all capable of free will and making up our own minds, even as they try to influence us in such a way that we don’t even realize what’s being done.

If you think I’m missing the mark, take a look at Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! and get back to me. Or better yet, talk to my friend who works for a PR firm and earns a living by ginning up “grassroots” campaigns like this one. Just get some letters to the editor planted here and there, set up a phone bank to call elected officials, and maybe sneak a few fake book reviews onto Amazon, and voila, you’ve generated an imaginary public outcry. This sort of thing happens far more often than you might expect.

Reality check

February 6th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Handbook for Emergencies. March 1966.

“In the event of a nuclear attack, be prepared to live in a shelter as long as two weeks, coming out for short trips only if necessary.”

Tailing the mark, trimming the mark

December 3rd, 2001 § Comments off § permalink

SF Weekly ran a great Silke Tudor column last week about San Franciscans playing like Dashiell Hammett characters, trailing unsuspecting pedestrians around the city. It also profiles Don Herron, who’s led a Dashiell Hammett walking tour of San Francisco for the past 25 years. Good stuff.

If the column interests you, take a look at The Big Con, David Maurer’s brilliant 1940 study of confidence men and the art of the grift. There’s an excerpt on Amazon.

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