Coca-Cola and its logo are everywhere. In our homes, our workplaces, and even our schools. It is a company that sponsors the Olympics, backs U.S. presidents, and even re-brands Santa Claus. A truly universal product, it has even been served in space.
From Istanbul to Mexico City, Mark Thomas travels the globe investigating the stories and people Coca-Cola's iconic advertising campaigns don't mention, such as child labourers in the sugar cane fields of El Salvador; Indian workers exposed to toxic chemicals; Colombian union leaders falsely accused of terrorism and jailed alongside the paramilitaries who want to kill them; and many more. Provocative, funny, and stirring, Belching Out the Devil investigates the truth behind one of the planet's biggest brands.
The failure of many Western corporations to take responsibility for misdeeds carried out in their name around the world is a harsh fact of globalization and one that should shame us all. In Belching Out The Devil, Mark Thomas turns shame into anger in a comprehensive exposé of the shadier aspects of Coca-Cola’s global operations. Known to UK audiences as a stand-up comedian, here Thomson proves to be a skilled writer with a gift for giving voice to a diverse cast of witnesses, including Colombian trade unionists, Mexican shopkeepers, Turkish protestors, and New York legislators. Complicated matters of law and hair-raising descriptions of violence and child labor are presented with verve.
However, Thomas’ humor can be heavy-handed. An early visit to the Atlanta Coke Museum also known as “The Happiness Factory” establishes the distance between the company’s public image and darker realities, but Thomas peppers his account with all the obvious jokes involving tourists, manic company guides, and cheesy slogans. For a comedian, Thomas’ frequent joking and comic asides don’t always work; he should have more confidence in the ability of his capable writing to hold the listener’s attention without laying on the schoolboy sarcasm. What could pass as righteous anger in a short stand-up set becomes tiresome in the course of 10 hours.
The choice of Victor Villar-Hauser as a narrator is also a mixed success. His thick estuary English brings a energetic boyishness to Thomas’ tirades, but he makes some strange choices in phrasing sentences are chopped up, he seems to lose breath in the course of long sentences, and he has a habit of pausing at odd places. (“He looks like a typical upper-management man, and I mean………that in a pejorative sense.”) It’s as if Villar-Hauser is reading the book aloud for the very first time, unsure of the next sentence. This can be distracting, though his enthusiasm arguably carries the day. Dafydd Phillips
"As journalism, Belching Out the Devil does for soda what Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation did for the hamburger." (The Washington Post)
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