Summer Reading

Because It's summer and because I spend a lot of time in the office looking at a computer screen reading blogs, I've made more of an effort lately to get outside and just read a book in the park. Perhaps its just my mindset, but I've come across some interesting PR characters in the last couple of things I've read, and I thought I'd share them here.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson. It is the third in a trilogy of books that I read years ago, and re-reading it reminded me that one of the main characters is one Harwood, super-star PR man. Like nearly all of Gibson's books, All Tomorrow's Parties is pure cyberpunk, taking place in a media-saturated, post-now setting extrapolated a few years down the road from the present time. One of the main characters, Harwood, was experimentally dosed with a substance known as SB-1. This substance makes him simultaneously able to see patterns in the otherwise random blur of information on the net while he also becomes obsessed with Harwood. As a result of self-dosing himself with SB-1, Harwood also has a heightened sense of patterns. Being so self-centered to begin with, his own object of obsession is himself. The result is that he has a kind of preternatural ability to predict the way that things will turn out, and is thus able to put his own unique spin on the world, always backing winners. The result is that he appears to be one of the most powerful men in the world, subtly working behind the scenes so that things play into his own hands. As they say at one point in the book, he's the man who put the man in the White House. If you haven't read anything by Gibson, you need to. I mean, damn, the man coined the word "cyberspace" back in the early 80s.

In a recent copy of RADAR magazine, there was a one-page list of lobbyists whose practices and professional morals are questionable at best. Among those discussed by RADAR are Herman Cohen (clients included Robert Mugabe and Mobutu Sese Seko) and Richard T. Hines (who worked on behalf of the Khmer Rouge to argue against war crimes trials for its leaders).

I'm currently reading Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. The main character is Cass Devine, 29 year old PR chick and blogger. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far its a pretty good book. The PR firm she works for could easily be a fictional stand-in for one from the RADAR list mentioned above, as it seems to take only very dubious clients.

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the portrait that these pieces of PR paint for our profession. Part of me is slightly flattered that the world thinks we have so much power with our ability to manipulate facts as we see fit in order to suit our needs. Another part of me is slightly offended that the majority of the population sees us as so unscrupulous.

How do you feel about this? Would you say that you stand behind every single clients and their causes whole-heartedly, or do aspects of your work make you pause and think for a minute? Or are you like the fictional Harwood, climbing your way to the top via a twisted cat's cradle?