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PR Services, December, 1994

Bell Curve thrives despite 'bad' PR

Copyright 1994 J. R. O'Dwyer Co., Inc.

PR Services, December, 1994
Editorial, p. 6

Bell Curve thrives despite 'bad' PR

The firestorm of negative publicity generated by The Bell Curve helped propel the book to the bestseller list and proved the axiom that there is no such thing as bad PR. It also shows the trend among publishers to limit distribution of advanced copies of controversial books to a handful of media in a bid to shape coverage and build momentum for their books.

These media, said a publishing PR pro, are selected because they are practically guaranteed to either strongly praise or pan a book which creates a buzz for the title. Others jump on the bandwagon and a media feeding frenzy erupts to catapult a book that may have been intended for serious readers into the lucrative mass market. The book takes on a life of its own. It becomes news rather than a title lost in a book review section.

NY Times goes ballistic

This script apparently was followed by Bell Curve publisher, The Free Press, which aimed its PR efforts at publications such as The New York Times.

As self-appointed arbiter of political correctness, The Times predictably went ballistic over The Bell Curve and its notion that blacks inherently have lower I.Q.'s than whites.

The Times featured Bell Curve co-author Charles Murray, who had given staffer Jason DeParle an extensive interview, on the cover of its widely read Sunday magazine. The headline of that October 9 issue branded Murray "The Most Dangerous Conservative" less than two weeks before his book was published on October 19. The Times played up The Bell Curve on the front page of its influential book review section, which is distributed in bookstores nationwide, the following Sunday.

For good measure, The Times blasted The Bell Curve as a "flamethrowing treatise on race, class and intelligence" in a huge editorial on October 24. Times reporters and columnists kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism. As late as November 9, the paper ran a piece called "' Bell Curve" Critics Say Early I.Q. Isn't Destiny. "

The full barrel attack on the book turned into an "endorsement" worth untold millions of dollars in publicity for The Free Press. It "legitimized" a book that is widely criticized as unscientific and racist by media throughout the nation which launched their own salvos against the book.

Rather than ignore or bury The Bell Curve, the Times seemed more intent on proving its PC mettle by endlessly trashing the book. The constant barrage only kept the book in the national spotlight and gave Murray a mass readership to which he is able to spell out his offensive theories.

Apparently, The Times swallowed The Bell Curve bait hook, line and sinker.

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