Books: Belching Out the Devil

Mark Thomas’ global Coca-Cola adventure stories.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Like a lot of people, Mark Thomas grew up with a warm and fuzzy vision of Coca-Cola. (It reminded him of visiting his grandmother.) But familial memories weren’t the only reason for the positive vibe. Worth $65 billion, Coke’s brand is the world’s most valuable—and the company spends untold billions on advertising every year to keep its bubble of good will from bursting. “The brand,” writes Thomas, “is what transforms fizzy pop into Coca-Cola, that intangible bundle of images and feelings held within people’s minds.”

Thomas’ enthusiasm for Coke flattened when he discovered the human rights violations and environmental plundering that go into making the soft drink. In the infelicitously titled Belching Out the Devil, the British comic-turned-watchdog chronicles those atrocities, from death squads hired by a bottler in Colombia to assassinate unionists, to a water-hogging plant in drought-prone Rajasthan, India, to a rumored monopoly in Mexican groceries. Thomas is at his best when he channels Michael Moore and chases down Coke execs to hold them accountable for their supply-chain sins. He stumbles upon a legal loophole that Coke uses to absolve its American headquarters from blame: Since the soda is produced mainly by independent bottling plants abroad, Coke uses these foreign franchisees as fall guys.

The company claims that it strives to “make a positive difference and effective contribution to our shared world.” Thomas’ findings make that sugary PR-speak awfully hard to swallow.

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate