Public relations fudge
Public relations, for all its modern practical
purposes, is the work of the devil.
For communication students, this is a fact
that will probably go unmentioned in a majority of your courses. For the
general public, this is
unnoticed and flies without criticism
while its effects are present in most aspects of daily life.
But for responsible journalists, the corrosion
the public relations industry has made on the truth industry is real and
ultimately affects the liberty
and freedoms they have guarded for centuries.
When I mention "responsible journalists,"
I mean the highly trained professional seekers of truth who do not write
stories based on the spin of
press releases or pundits. Real journalists
base their news coverage on the urgency and importance a story holds for
the people in the
community, big business be damned.
Responsible journalists know the public
relations industry is the work of the devil because they know who the devils
are, whether it be big
business or politicians with an ear for
only big business.
Don't believe me? Ponder why people need
things. Why do people need journalists? To stay informed. Why do people
need public relations
practitioners? To stay misinformed. The
only reason the public relations industry exists is because businesses
need people to smooth over their
When a corporation spills oil, the boss
needs someone to give a press conference that highlights the good the corporation
has done for the
environment and minimize the public reaction
to the bad.
This, of course, is not a hard task. That's
why public relations practitioners outnumber journalists in the United
States by 130,000 to 150,000.
Since most of the newsrooms in this country
are themselves corporations, and since corporations are real efficient
when it comes to downsizing,
the gap is widening at a rate that will
not be published on page one of your corporate Hearst daily.
Because if you can't find a job in news,
and if you don't take well to waiting tables, you must cross over to the
dark side of public relations.
Some of the best public relations practitioners
are former journalists from the best newspapers, for they're the ones with
the contacts and abilities
to get their corporations' untruths into
print as incognito as possible. For the best PR men are invisible men.
How much money do you think corporations
spend to help the environment? To essentially destroy the environment (why
else would they need
to distract the public with how they help
the environment if their main business isn't to hurt it)?
Public relations practitioners are needed
to make sure the egocentric arrogant money-grubbing gods and masters, like
William Vanderbilt, don't
ruin their own enterprises when a microphone
is placed in their faces.
Back in the day when mass transportation
meant getting on a train, Vanderbilt controlled the New York Central Railroad.
When a reporter
suggested the train schedules accommodate
the public, Vanderbilt defiantly retorted, "The public be damned."
The public went nuts. The New York legislature
forced Vanderbilt to sell off some of his many holdings in the railroad
And the word got out to the other gods
and masters: It's better to pay someone who knows how to manipulate the
truth to talk for you than risk
your own butt over your own stupid mouth.
For the most part, whenever you see a quote
in the newspaper from a real god or master, a real Ken Lay sort, it was
probably fabricated in the
bowels of the corporation's public relations
office. In fact, the reporter probably never spoke to the powerful chief
executive officer who was more
reasonably on the golf course anyway.
All of this and more can be further explored
in John C. Stauber and Sheldon Rampton's book Toxic Sludge is Good for
You: Lies, Damn Lies
and the Public Relations Industry, available
on the third-floor reserve desk of your M.D. Anderson Memorial Library.