Monday, 23 September 2013

Edward Bernays: the father of U.S. public relations

Austrian immigrant, Edward Bernays, (1891–1995) was the double nephew of Sigmund Freud, his mother was Freud's sister, and his father's sister was Freud's wife.

Wikipedia says this of 'the father of US public relations:'
"Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious. He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct'...  
Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by 'Life' magazine... 
Bernays and journalistic giant, Walter Lippman, came to Woodrow Wilson’s aid in 1917 to reverse negative public sentiment about war. These two behind-the-curtain wizards were indispensable in helping the President whip gun-shy America into an anti-German frenzy to go ‘over there’ for WW1. Bernays created the patriotic war slogan ‘make the world safe for democracy,’ an irresistibly patriotic mantra that America embraced."
According to a study by Aaron Delwiche:
"The CPI (Committee on Public Information) blended advertising techniques with a sophisticated understanding of human psychology, and its efforts represent the first time that a modern government disseminated propaganda on such a large scale. It is fascinating that this phenomenon, often linked with totalitarian regimes, emerged in a democratic state… The CPI implemented 'voluntary guidelines' for the news media and helped to pass the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918…  
The tools, techniques and processes developed by the CPI to manipulate the collective attitudes of the public did not disappear with the termination of WWI. The heads of the organization went on to apply the lessons learned in time of war to a country at peace. These former CPI agents moved on to Madison Avenue, joined the nascent Public Relations firms and became lobbyists. Two years later the Director of the CPI's Foreign Division argued that 'the history of propaganda in the war would scarcely be worthy of consideration here, but for one fact,  it did not stop with the armistice. No indeed! The methods invented and tried out in the war were too valuable for the uses of governments, factions, and special interests'."
Bernays managed to convert the image of fluoride in the public's mind, which at the time was widely sold as a rat poison and insecticide, to that of an absolutely safe-for-children way to a gleaming smile. The prospect of the government mass-medicating water supplies with a well-known rat poison to prevent a non-lethal disease incensed right-thinking people across the country. However, Bernays' guidance saw to it that such sceptics were viewed by the public as right-wing crackpots.

Wikipedia also tells us that:
"Bernay's most extreme political propaganda activities were said to be conducted on behalf of the multinational corporation United Fruit Companyand the U.S. government to facilitate the successful overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. Bernays' propaganda, branding Arbenz as communist, was published in major U.S. media.

According to a book review by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of Larry Tye's biography, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & The Birth of PR, 'the term 'banana republic' actually originated in reference to United Fruit's domination of corrupt governments in Guatemala and other Central American countries. The company brutally exploited virtual slave labor in order to produce cheap bananas for the lucrative U.S. market'."
The following are quotations taken from Bernays’ seminal work 'Propaganda':
"It was, of course, the astounding success of propaganda during the war that opened the eyes of THE INTELLIGENT FEW in all departments of life to the possibilities of regimenting the public mind… It was only natural, after the war ended, that intelligent persons should ask themselves whether it was not possible to apply a similar technique to the problems of peace." 
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of the country."
"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... We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of… 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… Vast numbers of human beings must co-operate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society."
"As civilisation has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented. Ours must be a leadership democracy administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses".
"The systematic study of mass psychology revealed to students the potentialities of invisible government of society by manipulation… the important thing is that [propaganda] is universal and continuous and in its sum total it is regimenting the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers… Is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?"  
"No serious sociologist believes any longer that the voice of the people expresses any divine or especially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion."  
"The use of propaganda, carefully adjusted to the mentality of the masses, is an essential adjunct of political life."
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of organised habits and opinions of the masses must be done by experts, the public relations counsels; they are the invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions… the most direct way to reach the herd is through the leaders… All this must be planned… indoctrination must be subtle. It should be worked into the everyday life of the people, 24 hours a day in hundreds of ways… a redefinition of ethics is necessary… The subject matter of propaganda need not necessarily be true." 
Nice guy, huh?

When the Austrian-American mind-moulder was writing about 'the intelligent few,' whom do you imagine he was thinking of? I'll give you a clue: Edward Bernays, the Austrian 'father of US public relations,' was Jewish. As was his uncle, Sigmund Freud and the aforementioned Walter Lippmann.

That's who he'd be thinking of, I reckon.

On 31 August 2006, The Daily Telegraph told us this:
“Spending on government spin has trebled under Labour and taxpayers are now supporting an army of more than 3,200 press officers… A total of 1,815 press officers and other public relations staff works in Whitehall departments. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, has three press officers, despite no longer having a department. 
A further 1,444 are employed by a bewildering array of more than 200 quangos and agencies that are paid for out of the public purse, bringing the total number of press officers to 3,259. When Labour came to power in 1997, just over 300 fully-fledged press officers were working in Whitehall... 
The Central Office of Information's PR, advertising and marketing budget has soared from £111 million in 1997 to £322 million last year.”
In his 1965 autobiography, Bernays recalled an evening at home in 1933 thus:
"Karl von Weigand, foreign correspondent of the Hearst newspapers, an old hand at interpreting Europe and just returned from Germany, was telling us about Goebbels and his propaganda plans to consolidate Nazi power. Goebbels had shown Weigand his propaganda library, the best Weigand had ever seen. Goebbels, said Weigand, was using my book Crystallizing Public Opinion as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany."
Now that's what I'd call irony.

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