Source – collective-evolution.com, By Andrew Martin
– Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self-defence to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for meaningful democracy.” – Noam Chomsky
Edward Bernays is possibly one of the most influential people of the 20th century, yet so few have heard of a man who has manipulated much of Western society into compliance. His philosophies and understanding of the human psyche still shape public policy, political campaigns, and corporate integration to this day. How corporations deliver their messages, how politicians coerce citizens to believe and enter into phoney wars, how terrorism is promoted and engenders fear into the masses, and how Think Tanks are used to manipulate citizens were all in the realm of Edward Bernays.
Bernays Wrote “Propaganda,” A 159 Page Manuscript On How To Manipulate The Masses
Bernays was born in Vienna to Jewish parents in 1891, and was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist, better known as the “founding father” of psychoanalysis. Bernays and his family moved to the United States in 1892 where they settled in New York City. He graduated from Cornell University in 1912, after which he began a career in journalism. There was a lack of public support when America entered World War I. Bernays worked for Woodrow Wilson during the war on the “Committee on Public Information” and helped influence and gain support for the war effort. Bernays, fascinated by the use and effectiveness of propaganda employed during war, pondered whether or not it could be used during peacetime. In 1928, Bernays produced a 159 page manifesto on how to manipulate the masses. Many historians credit Bernays with establishing and cementing the use of public relations within the American culture. Aptly named, “Propaganda,” the first page of Bernays’ book gives insight into his thoughts:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
Instrumental In Corporate Manipulation
Bernays went on to become an instrumental part of the development of corporate advertising campaigns. He established a precedent for industry and governments to follow. He worked for numerous large corporate clients, including The American Tobacco Company. In the 1920s, working for the American Tobacco Company, he sent a group of young female models to march in the New York City parade. He then told the press that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom.” On his signal, the models lit Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of the eager photographers. The New York Times (1 April 1929) printed: “Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of ‘Freedom.’” This helped to break the negative stigma associated with women smoking in public. With the help of feminists, some of whom understood the “right to smoke” as liberating, Bernays publicised this event, setting in motion a wave of media coverage throughout the U.S. Bernays, however, regretted the decision to promote the smoking industry, as his wife later died of lung cancer.
Propaganda Critical For A Functioning Society!
Bernays, who understood how propaganda could be used for negative effect, nonetheless suggested that the use of propaganda was critical for the functioning of a civilised society. He believed as a society became more complex, the need for an “invisible government” became vital and more readily achievable. With the development of new technical devices of the day such as the printing press, newspapers, the railroad, the telephone, telegraph, radio, and airplanes, Bernays was excited by how widely and quickly ideas could be spread across America. Since Bernays’ death in 1995, the concentration of media ownership has increased significantly, as have the mediums from which to communicate. Bernays would be amazed at how seamless and integrated the public relations and propaganda machines have become.
Due to the interconnected web of corporate ownership which pushes the commodification of society and the military industrial complex, Bernays’ ideology and compliance techniques are more relevant today. The concentration of media ownership enables propaganda to be seamlessly spread and disseminated across a variety of mediums quickly. With such integration it makes it very difficult for the viewer, reader, or listener to determine if information is biased in any way shape or form. This phenomenon creates the perfect climate for the manipulation and conditioning of the masses. This centralisation of power through mass communication allows these powerful elites to mould the masses into a pliable medium from which to influence tastes, ideas, and consumption habits and behaviours.