Unpeeling the Truth

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(287)

Review of 'Banana Republicans', Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Constable & Robinson £7.99

With the US election now only a few months away and presidential contenders clamouring for votes, the publication of this book could not have come at a better time. Not so much a political exposé of the right wing and the corporations that sustain it as a veritable call to action for supporters of democracy worldwide. This latest book from Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber undoubtedly deserves to have an impact on election results this November.

This book also does a tremendous job of exposing the corruption and hypocrisy of big business. Often we may be aware of some of the antics of the companies dealt with in the earlier chapters, but the presentation of fact here and the strength of argument creates a definite sense of something fresh. The information provided is so meticulously researched that even those already in possession of a detailed knowledge of the duplicitous nature of the corporations exposed here are sure to learn something new.

With a clever mix of sarcasm and satire, Banana Republicans is reminiscent of Michael Moore, and that is obviously no bad thing. Swapping the humorous angered outbursts of Moore for their own idiosyncratic murmurings, Rampton and Stauber's style retains the accessibility that has made Moore such a success.

While the reader is not expected to have a tremendous wider understanding of the issues debated, neither is she treated as if comprehension of such ideas is impossible. However, on occasion there is a tendency to be overly alarmist. But then, if Bush's current regime does not provide cause for alarm it would be difficult to imagine a government that would!

Indeed, it is perhaps in their analysis of the current administration and its rise to power that Rampton and Stauber are most impressive. Current misdemeanours are placed in the context of historical crimes to create a frighteningly realistic overview of the audacity of the US right. The right's claims that opponents of the war are 'on the side of future mass murders of Americans' and are 'objectively pro-terrorist' nestle alongside more of their prejudices. Tales of vehement verbal and written attacks on ethnic minority groups, environmentalists and trade union members are frequent, and the writers' anger at such bullies is palpable.

The latest offering from Rampton and Stauber acts not just as an informative text, but also as something of a handbook for the left in the US to learn from and absorb into its psyche. Analysis of establishment corruption such as the last election's fiasco in Florida and what it means for California to have Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor is interesting and valuable in itself, but to marry such ideas with suggestions for how we can bring about change, while not a new combination, is in this case certainly a powerful one.