Situations vacant: ‘assistant planters’

Language

When campaigners hit hard against unethical industries, the perpetrators often turn to spin. And it’s been going on longer than you might imagine.

In a fascinating history of the early 18th century anti-slavery movement Adam Hochschild (author of King Leopold’s Ghost) describes the slave traders’ attempts to win over the public, which was clamouring for abolition. When the British Parliament moved to regulate the treatment of slaves, for example, the planters pre-empted this by issuing their own voluntary code of conduct.

Most telling of all is the pro-slavery writer who suggested in 1789: ‘The vulgar are influenced by names and titles? Instead of SLAVES, let the Negroes be called ASSISTANT-PLANTERS; and we shall not then hear such violent outcries against the slave-trade.’

Might the spin doctors of today have described the ‘assistant-planters’ of yesteryear as stakeholders in the global economy participating in an outsourced investment opportunity for sustainable development, which is currently moving towards a best-practice corporate code of conduct?

Cynical? Seriously?

No such thing as a...

Clutching a dodgy biro? No, we don’t mean a leaky one – we mean the logo your pen may be sporting. If you read our recent issue on Big Pharma ([NI 362](http://www.newint.org/issue362/index.htm)) you’ll know just how many freebies drug sales reps give doctors – and the evidence shows their visits do influence which drugs get prescribed. The group No Free Lunch now has a Pen Amnesty programme. Medical practioners can exchange pharmaceutical promotional pens for ones that say ‘No Free Lunch’: the only pen for the discerning medic or doctor to be seen with. http://www.nofreelunch.org

mag cover This article is from the March 2004 issue of New Internationalist. You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial now »

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