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Human salvation, Martin Luther King once said, lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. Certainly, clever activists are successful at getting TV air time–and one good joke at the expense of the rich and powerful can do more to engage the public in a cause than any number of somber op-eds.

That’s the message of the “The Activists Cookbook: Creative Actions for a Fair Economy,” an entertaining how-to book published by the Boston-based group, United for a Fair Economy. The 95-page manual, offering “recipes” for theatrical social action, is loaded with inspired examples. One union, faced with a lackluster campaign to organize college clerical workers, enlisted the help of an Elvis impersonator who handed out literature and was featured in ad campaigns. Workers were soon chasing Elvis down the halls–and the union won by a landslide. Earth First!, protesting Forest Service logging policies, sent its own Smoky the Bear to a huge children’s party about forest fire prevention and began passing out kid-friendly anti-logging flyers. The rangers had to forcibly remove the interloper, and the stunt dominated the news the next day.

In Jim Hightower’s words, such tactics have been the difference between “earnest, wrinkle-browed reform efforts that just sat there stewing in their own juices…and movements that actually reformed something.” Copies are $16. To order, call (617) 423-2148.

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