How Wyeth Bought Science that Sells

According to internal documents, the pharmaceutical company Wyeth "paid ghostwriters to produce medical journal articles favorable to its female hormone replacement therapy Prempro." As early as 1997, Wyeth paid the "medical writing firm" DesignWrite to publish favorable journal articles about Prempro under academics' names.


Sweeting Corn Syrup's Public Image

The Corn Refiners Association launched an 18-month, $20 to $30 million public relations and advertising campaign "to convince consumers that HFCS [high-fructose corn syrup] isn't the evil it has been made out to be." The industry group is running ads in major newspapers -- under the banner "time for a little food for thought" -- that say HFCS has the "same natural sweeteners as table sugar and honey." The campaign, which was created by the


Pinkwashing: Can Shopping Cure Breast Cancer?

pink ribbon magnetYou've heard the term "greenwashing." It refers to corporations that try to appear "green" without reducing their negative impact on the environment.

Since 2002, the group Breast Cancer Action has promoted its "Think Before You Pink" campaign. It's fighting "pinkwashing," which is when corporations try to boost sales by associating their products with the fight against breast cancer. Pinkwashing is a form of slacktivism -- a campaign that makes people feel like they're helping solve a problem, while they're actually doing more to boost corporate profits. Pinkwashing has been around for a while, but is now reaching almost unbelievable levels.

Shifting Focus, Anti-Abortion Groups Oppose Contraception

On June 7, the anti-abortion groups American Life League (ALL) and Pharmacists for Life launched a new national campaign called "Protest the Pill Day 08: The Pill Kills Babies." Their goal is to convince American women to stop using oral contraceptives, which they believe kill people.


Product Placement in the City

If producers anticipated that the new movie "Sex and the City" might be a marketing bonanza, it did not disappoint. Vanity Fair magazine sent two reporters to view the movie and count the number of promotional products that appeared on-screen, including any blatantly-mentioned brand names.


Corporate-Sponsored "Slacktivism": Bigger and More Dangerous than the Urban Dictionary Realizes

Recently while browsing the Web I came across UrbanDictionary.com, which is sort of a wiki of contemporary slang. I found some of the newer words listed there amusing, like "hobosexual" (the opposite of metrosexual; someone who cares little about their looks), "consumerican," ("a particularly American brand of consumerism"), and "wikidemia" ("an academic work passed off as scholarly yet researched entirely on Wikipedia").

"10 Percent Intellectual": The Mind of Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice deplaning

"I tell my students that policy-making is 90 percent blocking and tackling and 10 percent intellectual."--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, cited in Mary Beth Brown, Condi: The Life of a Steel Magnolia (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2007), p. 180.

"When you never accomplish anything, your weekly summary of what you've done all week is just a bunch of 'accondishments' -- how you've filled the days."--Noah, a reader of "Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog: I keep track of Condoleezza's hairdo so you don't have to" (May 5, 2008).

Notwithstanding the low poll numbers of the president she serves, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is one of the few people within the Bush administration who has managed to remain relatively unscathed by the public and by pundits. Unlike some in the president's entourage who have left Washington due to criticisms of their performance or ethics, Rice's current standing at home is sufficiently adequate from a PR perspective to allow her (up to now) to stay on in her job without too many embarrassments. True, there have been calls to remove her from her current position because of her recently disclosed role in the administration's use of torture. And doubts about Rice's qualifications as Bush's foreign-policy guru have existed for years, with, for example, her former National Security Council boss in the administration of George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft, stating in 2005 that her "expertise is in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Less on the Middle East." More recently, an article by Patrick Seale, a British writer on the Middle East, talks about "The Tragic Futility of Condoleezza Rice."

But Condi, rising as she has from her solidly middle-class origins in Birmingham, Alabama to the highest echelons of the US government, remains a subject of admiration. Earlier this year the Harris Poll reported that Rice was "still the 'shining star' of the administration." A 2006 profile by BBC News gushed that "Rice's intellectual brilliance is undisputed," and she "has consistently been one of the most popular members of the Bush administration." Pundits have repeatedly floated her name as a possible Republican vice presidential running mate for John McCain. "For a party that up to now has been clueless about how to run against either a woman or a person of color, Condoleezza Rice is pure political gold," explained Nicholas Von Hoffman in a commentary for CBS News.

In fact, Rice's genius and foreign-policy expertise are more image than substance, as recent biographies by Elisabeth Bumiller and Marcus Mabry suggest. In her ascendance to power, Rice's main instrument has not been ground-breaking thinking about important international issues, but rather what Mabry characterizes as "her phenomenal skill at spinning."


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