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  1. Giancarlo Nicoli Giancarlo Nicoli
    29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Good book on the subject of PR, April 25, 2003
    Giancarlo Nicoli (Appiano Gentile, close to Como Lake, Italy) –

    This review is from: PR! – A Social History of Spin (Paperback)
    It took to me nearly one month to sit down and write about this book. It has valuable strenghts and some weaknesses.
    As a whole, “PR!” makes no easy reading.
    It is sold as a “Social History of Spin” and consists of five parts.
    Part one tells us about the interest of the author – his attempt to discover the social and historical roots that would explain the boundless role of public relations in our world.
    This is the best part of the book, it’s fresh, it’s written full of enthusiasm, and it feels; Stuart Ewen tells us of his visit with Edward Bernays, one of the most influential pioneers of American public relations.
    Ewen describes how he started teaching his course, the “CULT(ure) of Publicity”; how he and his students made the class “look good”, “look interesting” in the presence of an unaware journalist, so to meet the reporter’s standard of “intriguing”.
    If you are interested in how spin works, this first part is a must!
    Parts two and three really are a social history of spin.
    Page after page, Ewen writes a “grim meditation on the human price of industrialization”.
    I think this book is very smart. Why? The author brings us examples from the past, and extensively quotes other’s sources. Here’s an excerpt (as Upton Sinclair summarized it in 1908):
    “See, we are just like Rome. Our legislatures are corrupt; our politicians are unprincipled; our rich men are ambitious and unscrupulous. Our newspapers have been purchased and gagged; our colleges have been bribed; our churches have been cowed. Our masses are sinking into degradation and misery; our ruling classes are becoming wanton and cynical”.
    The big picture is an account of the “business as usual”, but, since the examples come from the past and there’s no relation with today’s firms and people, it’s possible to avoid any costly lawsuit.
    Eh, eh! Excerpt:
    (…) AT&T, in 1903, engaged the services of a recently founded enterprise known as the Publicity Bureau, located in Boston. The Publicity Bureau, a partnership of experienced former newspaper men, was already achieving a reputation for being able to place prepackaged news items in papers around the country, and Frederick P. Fish, president of AT&T, believed that this know-how might be serviceable in the defense of the Bell System’s corporate game plan.
    James T. Ellsworth, a seasoned journalist with the Bureau, was given the job of steering the AT&T account.
    (…) Developing a strategy out of his firsthand experience, Ellsworth took a firts step, which was based on his understanding of newspaper economics. By 1900, advertising – not circulation – was already the prime source of income for most newspapers, and Ellsworth fully comprehended the unspoken power that advertisers could exert over editorial policy and content.
    (…) With the lubricant of advertising dollars, Ellsworth was soon providing suddenly compliant editors with a diverse range of packaged articles, already typeset and ready to be placed”.
    Pity, the extensive use of quotations tends to slow down the reading speed.
    Part four looks like an hagiography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I just it think is out of the “Social History of Spin” topic.
    Part five is a sum-up of the whole book.
    Here is a quotation I appreciate a lot:
    “The relationship between publicity and democracy is not essentially corrupt. The free circulation of ideas and debate is critical to the maintenance of an aware public. (…) Publicity becomes and impediment to democracy, however, when the circulation of ideas is governed by enormous concentrations of wealth that have, as their underlying purpose, the perpetuation of their own power. When this is the case – as is too often true today – the ideal of civic participation gives way to a continual sideshow, a masquerade of democracy calculated to pique the public’s emotions. In regard to a more democratic future, then, ways of enhancing the circulation of ideas – regardless of economic circumstance – need to be developed.
    What is the summing up of this review?
    We have here a book worth reading, a smart book that uses history as a tool to understand how spin works right now.
    It provides much food for thought – maybe try not to read it when you’re tired, but when you are vigilant and with your sense of criticism well aware.””
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  2. Bakari Chavanu Bakari Chavanu
    20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A book about thought control, October 4, 2001

    This review is from: PR! – A Social History of Spin (Paperback)
    A teacher colleague and I read this book when it was first published. We would go to the teachers’ lunch room almost everday with an ongoing discussion of what we read.
    To understand the history, power and influence of public relations and advertising in this country, PR is a must read. In lucid analysis, Ewen lays out how the public relations industry in this country helps to shape the consumer thought of citizens. He shows how this industry grew out of
    an elitist view of the masses of people in this country that they did not need to be expose to certain information or processes that converen or controll society–both politically and economically. That instead, their thoughts, ideas, and their access to certain knowledge needed to be controlled and that certain information needed to be manufactured in order to push people to act in a certain way.
    He explains, for example, how elitist writers like Walter Lippman “had written that the key to leadership inthe modern age would depend on the ability to manipulate “‘symbols which assemble emotions after they have been detached from their ideas. The public mind is mastered, he continued, through an ‘intensificatioin of feeling and a degradation of significance.’ ” In other words, corporations, and their public relations workers essentially use symbols to further their agendas, which is basically to make huge amounts of profit.
    I look forward to reading other books by Ewen.
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  3. Anonymous Anonymous
    16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Best book on the subject of PR, February 15, 2000
    By A Customer
    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: PR! – A Social History of Spin (Paperback)
    I’ve recently been investigating the history of public relations for a class I’m teaching. Having surveyed the literature on the subject, this one is head and shoulders the best, more informative and insightful than other books. The historical depth, and range of analysis–linking public relations to broader social realities–are extraordinary.
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