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“Think global, act local!” “Be the change you want to see in the world!” “Every little bit counts!” We can all get on board with such sentiments, right? That, of course, is exactly what corporate spin-masters across the world are banking on. By weaponizing such seemingly innocuous yet powerful narratives, change becomes a matter of personal choice, something each of us must slave away at day by day: switching off lightbulbs to save the environment or exercising to shed the weight we’ve gained from consuming junk food. All the while, the corporate welfare tap continues to flow, with over $6 trillion worth of annual subsidies dished out to industries that directly contribute to the deaths of over 5.5 million people each year through diabetes, road deaths, global warming, and other crises. But such framing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corporate disinformation playbook. This playbook is the dark matter of activist work: the unseeable element shaping harmful spin across all issues. It has never been reverse engineered – until now.
In Dark PR, Grant Ennis – drawing on his decades of experience working in the environmental, philanthropy, and public health sectors – reveals exactly how multinationals go about hoodwinking and manipulating us. In doing so, he lifts the lid on the nine devious frames contained within the cross-industry corporate disinformation playbook: through denialism, normalization, victim-blaming, multifactorialism, and a variety of other tried-and-tested tactics, corporations divert citizens’ attention away from the real causes of global problems, leading them into counter-productive blind-alley “solutions” like ethical consumerism and divestment. Sadly, though, buying Fair Trade chocolate has not and never will save the world. Only by collectively organizing to lobby our governments can we break this destructive cycle of lies and deadly incentives, and reclaim control of our lives.
Praise for Dark PR
The struggle for health is a struggle against powerful vested interests – the corporations that produce harmful commodities, that damage our environment, and that trample over human rights. Yet, in so much of what we do they remain invisible, even though they have often succeeded in framing the narrative that defines and constrains our responses. Grant Ennis has shone a light on these shadowy forces and challenged us to take them on by organising and demanding change. – Martin McKee CBE, Past President, European Public Health Association
This book is a masterpiece of demystification. Ennis examines every given wisdom in public health and related fields as he reveals how capitalist corporations frame the problems that we perceive and the solutions that we advocate. Any efforts to change these conditions must recognize the importance of corporate framing. Now that this book illuminates our situation so clearly, the next steps focus on the revolutionary transformation of capitalism itself, and moving beyond the capitalist state that protects the corporative framing of what is and what must be done. – Dr. Howard Waitzkin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico
People who care about health and sustainability already know that consumerism defeats both. But the corporations that sell us consumerism also sell us all the most conspicuous “solutions” to it – responses that just keep the consumerist treadmill turning. As Grant Ennis reveals, they win both ways. Through diverse examples, Ennis shows us how the treadmill turns and how the usual responses are part of its mechanism. Ennis shows us how to spot ineffective responses so that effective, independent opposition can escape the treadmill, organize and act. Conscientious consumption, the search for corporate enemies, and atomized advocacy cannot avail, but Ennis also shows us what actually has worked. The stakes could not be higher. Dark PR is a refreshing and revealing departure from appeals to conscience, demonization of villains, misplaced optimism, and expressions of hopelessness. It is therefore a necessary and important book. – Dr. Peter Norton, Associate Professor, University of Virginia
Ever wondered how big oil has subverted efforts to cut global warming? Or how the tobacco industry thwarted attempts to ban smoking? Grant Ennis reveals how Dark PR enables big business to rig the political debate. A thought-provoking book. – Mick Hamer, author of Wheels Within Wheels: A Study of the Road Lobby
An eye-opening read. A disturbing revelation. An urgent call for action. – Dr. James Muecke, Public Health Advocate and 2020 Australian of the Year.
Dark PR is a compelling and engaging book in which Ennis presents nine dubious frames that sway political debate and help to widen the scope of corporate welfare. A keen insight for challenging corporate power is the need to move away from telling personal stories. These spotlight heroes and victims while obscuring damaging political structures and undermining political will. Ennis outlines seven elements of past organised and successful movements that have led to political changes. He presents models for global organising towards ending the six trillion dollars of perverse corporate subsidies and for saving five million lives annually. He argues “We have the problems that we have today because our political structures incentivize them to exist. If we want to be healthy and live on a healthy planet, we need to organize and demand political action. There is no time to wait.” – Dr. Julia Anaf, Research Fellow, Dr. Fran Baum AO, Professor, Dr Matthew Fisher, Senior Research Fellow, Stretton Health Equity, University of Adelaide
Dark PR’s arguments are compelling. The writing style is engaging. This is a very important contribution to how we should collectively be viewing the challenges before us. Ennis clearly distinguishes who are the real fiends in our public policies and the processes by which they came to be. There are so many deep and important lessons from Dark PR. This book will likely fall mostly into the hands of sympathetic readers—those who already agree that we need changes in our public policies to support equitable outcomes for citizens… For this particular audience, the most important lesson is “Aggregate action is not collective action.” We need this paradigmatic shift in our response to a myriad of challenges to local and global public health, safety, and general well-being. Dark PR makes a convincing argument and begins to show us the way. – Dr. Jennifer Brinkerhoff, Professor, George Washington University
A wake-up call to understand the dangers we’ve set up for ourselves as a society. – Abel Falcon, Congressman in 2012 Session of the Baja California (Mexico) Legislative Assembly
Sharp, smart, and concise. A brilliant job. – Leïla Cellerier, Socioeconomist
[Dark PR outlines] the industry and government tactics which misdirect citizen efforts. … Controversially, Ennis argues, it’s not just that these actions [like divestment] don’t achieve the desired effect – but that … they distract from what does. – Mike Muntisov, author of Court of the Grandchildren
We, humans, are better at focusing on isolated events, behaviors, and other symptoms of persistent problems. But we are generally not very good at grasping underlying deeply seated patterns, structures, and mindsets that give rise to those problems. When we want to address wicked problems – such as widespread obesity or climate change – we tend to get distracted with surface-level manifestations of those problems. Many large global corporations skillfully use this tendency to distract public attention from underlying problems they are aggravating, by throwing myriad bones of distraction. Public busily chews on them while such corporations are steadily eroding health of people and the planet. To add insult to the injury, these actors manage to get taxpayer-funded subsidies. In Dark PR Grant Ennis deftly exposes a wide range of well-crafted and honed tricks that many global corporations have been using to distract the public from addressing the roots of the problems for decades. Grant’s compelling examples will jolt the reader awake. They will start seeing with more clarity the scale of such problems, as well as the structures underlying those problems. Moreover, Grant provides pragmatic strategies for fighting back with more impact, sidestepping the distractions that corporations will throw along the way. This is a must-read book for students of systems thinking, and to anyone who wants to tackle the types of problems mentioned above. – Mahabat Baimyrzaeva, Associate Professor, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
A powerful, sometimes painful, exposure of how our attempts to do good, do harm. – Will Dayble, CEO of Citizen Climate Lobby Australia
An eye-opener on the consumer and corporate-driven world we live in. – Loic Nigay, CEO of CollectiveME
Completely perspective-altering. After almost every paragraph I found myself turning to those around me, or even picking up my phone, and saying “listen to this…”. Even six months after reading this book, it still seems to find its way into nearly every conversation I have. – James Harry, Citizen Climate Lobby Australia
At this moment of unprecedented global peril, when ecological, medical and urban crises threaten to derail the human project entirely, we are enmeshed as never before in the web of lies spun by polluters, junk food corporations, city planners, sponsored politicians, and their highly resourced disinformation networks. It takes a highly sophisticated intelligence to see through all this, and present the startling truth in terms that are both uncompromising and accessible. Fortunately, we have Grant Ennis, whose forensic analysis of the current malaise, and what we can do about it, offers the kind of hope that the weary of the groaning world thought had gone out of fashion. – Stuart Walton, author of An Excursion through Chaos: Disorder under the Heavens
A timely, relevant work packed with quotes you’ll want to share, Dark PR is one of those books you’ll remember long after you have read the final page. Ennis crafts a confident story revealing the seven key ways corporate industries stay greedy, while making us unknowingly bend to their whims. With research that packs a punch, Dark PR will get your brain rattling, and your heart pumping, inspiring you to ready action for change. – Autumn O’Connor, Xenos Publishing
Devastatingly effective and unsparingly forthright in its scrutiny, Dark PR examines the issues surrounding corporate disinformation with laser-like focus. Backed by impeccable research and utilizing well-organized framing, Ennis presents a convincing picture of the damaging impact these issues and policies are having on society, while presenting potent arguments for how individuals can both inform themselves and take worthwhile action. An absolute must-read for anyone wishing to gird themselves against insidious and often invisible corporate disinformation campaigns, and those who are longing for a blueprint on how to organize, mobilize, and demand change toward a better tomorrow. – Luke Marty, Editor and Creative Consultant
Courageous. – Daniela Alejandra Marzocco Ponce
During my many years as Editorial Director at Zed Books, I commissioned dozens of important books critiquing power and advocating social change. Dark PR is up there with the best, pulling back the curtain on a crucial issue of pressing importance – particularly in the context of our current climate emergency. It’s opened my eyes and made me look at the world in a whole different way. – Ken Barlow, Pluto Press
We know a lot (and are learning more all the time) about how the tobacco and fossil fuel industries engage in deception, and manipulate policymakers and the public. Dark PR takes us down many different and new byways to explore the “Devious Frames” used by many harmful industries. It makes good use of less well-known examples too, while maintaining a firm grip on the evidence. Dark PR is a highly readable, compelling, and often alarming account of the complex corporate systems which drive disinformation and their associated harms. – Dr. Mark Petticrew, Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Director of the Public Health Research Consortium, author of Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide
An eye-opening book on corporate disinformation and its costs. Our health and humanity is at stake – we need change, and this book shows how it’s possible. – Dr. Linsey McGoey, Professor, University of Essex, author of The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World
In public health, we were hoping for a better world after the covid-19 pandemic. Corporations and their invisible hands – public relations agencies – nevertheless took the opportunity to double their efforts to sell us unhealthy commodities. So much so that disinformation and misinformation are now more than ever part of our daily lives. In his book, Grant Ennis leads us through these practices that shape our modern world. A book to put in all hands! – Dr. Mélissa Mialon, Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin, author of Big Food & Company: How the pursuit of profit at all costs undermines our health
It would be an understatement to say that this is a hugely important book. It is. It shines a very bright light into some very dark corners and exposes the culpability of corporations, governments and economic systems in promoting products that damage our health and do so to make huge profits at the expense of a global health crisis, a crisis defined by 153 million deaths every 25 years. It must be read and must be followed by citizen action and political transformation. – Dr. John Whitelegg, Professor, Centre for Mobility Culture, Kassel, Germany, author of Critical Mass: Transport, Environment and Society in the Twenty-first Century
Dark PR is an enjoyable read. Importantly, it brings together a strong analytical view on many of the mechanisms critical to understanding transport and road injury. – Dr. Marco te Brömmelstroet, Professor, University of Amsterdam, author of Movement: How to take back our streets and transform our lives
Grant Ennis shines a strong light on “dark PR”. In the process, some truly exploitative tactics of the PR industry are exposed, which have huge implications for people’s health and wellbeing – and not before time. – Dr. Deborah Lupton, Professor, University of New South Wales Centre for Social Research in Health
The health of our communities is in no small part determined by the economic interests of multinational corporations that have a duty to their shareholders to maximise profit from sales. Governments across the world and of all shades have pursued public health policies rested on the notion of personal responsibility, this has delayed any product reform or industry regulation. The methods used have been well documented but in Dark PR Grant Ennis demonstrates how the whole narrative into which health policy is set is a construction of those very industries that harm us, and wilfuly designed to delay, denude or avoid regulation. This happens across multiple industries, we know it was invented by the tobacco industry but perfected by many others. Ennis highlights how this process works in wonderful detail setting out the strategies used, pointing us to counter strategies and an organising framework. For anyone interested in the commercial determinants of health, at any level, this is an essential read. – Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield, Vice President, Association of Directors of Public Health
Our interlacing health, environmental, and climate crises often seem overwhelming, even insurmountable. The gift Grant Ennis provides each of us is an unveiling of the corporate capitalist hegemony over our health and our biosphere. Ennis fixes his analytic powers on the insidious ways government-backed corporations shape how our culture normalizes and problematizes the pressing social and environmental challenges of our day. From his deep investigation of corporate deflection and blame tactics, to his sharp treatise on citizen activism and social movements, Ennis has written both an indictment of the corporate-strangled status quo and an invocation for everyone to transcend the vote by organizing to co-create a better society. A phenomenal and motivating book. – Seth LaJeunesse, Assistant Director, National Center for Safe Routes to School, UNC Highway Safety Research Center, author of Factors and Frames That Shape Public Discourse Around Road User Safety
This book encourages readers to critically re-examine the information they have been given about key issues affecting the wellbeing of communities and their environment. Ennis provides frameworks that would be helpful in doing this in a methodical and analytical way. Whether you agree with his insights or not, they will get you thinking and reexamining your assumptions, which is always stimulating. – Dr. Sharon Beder, Professor, University of Wollongong, Author of Global Spin and This Little Kiddy Went to Market
Painstakingly researched and full of real-world evidence, Dark PR shines light on how seemingly innocuous and well-established messages (like “save energy” or “drive safe” or “eat healthy”) have long been systematically co-opted and weaponised by private corporations – to further their agenda, establish ‘alternative facts,’ and diffuse democratic citizen action towards a better world. By chronicling these tactics as Devious Frames, Ennis’s investigation serves as a powerful reminder to always be on guard and critically look at who exactly benefits from our governments’ subsidies, our public policies, and the taxes we pay. – Nikhil Chaudhary, Cities Advisor, European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (EIT Climate-KIC), Co-Founder and Board Trustee, Equal Streets
This book marks the 25th anniversary of the execution of Nigerian activist and written Ken Saro-Wiwa. The 21 essays, by international contributors, and 42 poems by new and established poets, are inspired by his ideals and activism.
The volume includes contributions by people intimately connected with Saro-Wiwa. His brother Dr Owens Wiwa recounts how his older brother awakened and nurtured his awareness of the tremendous damage Royal Dutch Shell was doing to their homeland, in collaboration with the then Nigerian military government. His firsthand account of the brutality of the military government and its impact; his unsuccessful efforts to save the life of his brother; his time in hiding and subsequent escape, with his family, from Nigeria and his efforts to retrieve the remains of his brother for burial, makes for very moving reading. Likewise, Noo Saro-Wiwa shares her story of growing up in England with strong links to family in Nigeria, and the trauma of hearing of her father’s execution while at University.
Maynooth University, where the editor works as Deputy Librarian, holds the death row correspondence from Ken Saro-Wiwa to Sister Majella McCarron. McCarron provides two personal essays. One, a reflection on the events that shaped her work with Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria and her subsequent efforts to save the lives of the Ogoni 9: the second essay explores her experience as a table observer of the Shell to Sea campaign, which strove to have gas, discovered off the west coast of Ireland, refined at sea rather than inland.
The damage that Shell has caused in Ogoni and the issue of redress are topics addressed in essays by experts including Mark Dummett, of Amnesty International, who investigated how Shell and other oil companies have caused or contributed to human rights abuses through their operations in the Niger Delta. Daniel Leader, a barrister and partner at Leigh Day’s international law department, the firm who have led a number of ground breaking human rights cases, including a series of cases against Shell on behalf of Nigerian communities, explores the issue of legal redress. Architect, environmental activist, author and poet Nnimmo Bassesy’s wide ranging essay presents Saro-Wiwa as activist and writer and creator of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, against the backdrop of the UNEP report of the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, which recorded that drinking water in Ogoni had benzene, a carcinogen, at over 900 times the level permitted
I welcome the publication of this volume which highlights the work of Trócaire and other people and organisations
to fight for a more just world. Trócaire campaigned strongly for the release of the Ogoni 9 and continues to campaign for justice in the face of state and corporate violations of human rights. The writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa and those inspired by his work keep the flame of justice lit.
Dr Caoimhe De Barra, Chief Executive Officer, Trócaire.
The publication of I am a Man of Peace: Writings Inspired by the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection highlights the shift towards peaceful protests as a means to a more sustainable end. It is a justification that one’s dreams for the greater good can still be attained without bloodshed. Ken preached, lived, and practiced peace in his search for justice even in the face of stiff opposition. Years after his death, Ken’s ideologies and philosophies have proved relevant today.
Dr Owens Wiwa, Executive Vice-President, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
Sister Majella McCarron’s choice of Maynooth University for this unique donation was particularly appropriate, given the University’s long involvement with issues of inclusion and justice in Ireland and abroad. This deep-rooted commitment is today articulated in our University Strategic Plan, where a strategic goal is ‘to build on our achievements to date and become a model University for equality, diversity, inclusion and inter-culturalism, where social justice, addressing inequality and empowering people are central to our mission.’ This book makes a significant contribution to that goal.
Dr. Gemma Irvine, Vice-President of Equality & Diversity, Maynooth University.
Writing can urge us to pause, to think, and to discover what we really want to say. Sharing that writing calls for courage and support. In this publication, as Jessica Traynor suggests, we see the evidence of a new generation of Irish and new Irish citizens engaging with complex issues through poetry. Reading their poems, we may begin to understand more about each other and ourselves. By bringing together these Irish and new Irish voices the book contributes to building a shared discourse which is essential for trust, community and hope.
Dr Alison Farrell, Founder of the Summer Writing Institute For Teachers (SWIFT) and Co-founder Irish Network for the Enhancement of Writing (INEW)
Edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon, Laurence Cox
These letters and poems are invaluable fragments of a living conversation that portrays the indomitable power in humans to stay alive in the face of certain death – to stay alive even in death.
Reading through the treasure trove of the letters and poems compiled here as The Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa evokes intense memories of his resolute struggles against an oil behemoth and a deaf autocratic government. His crusade frames one of the most tumultuous periods of Nigeria’s history; his tragic story evokes anger and demands action to resolve the crises that first led the Ogoni people to demand that Shell clean up Ogoni lands or clear out of the territory.