From Episode Two of the film series “The Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays started his business life as a publicist. While still in his twenties, he was part of the propaganda effort that drove the United States into in World War I (WW I.)
He personally advised several US presidents starting with Woodrow Wilson and counseled numerous corporations and business associations. Hitler’s propaganda chief and Nazi henchman Joseph Goebbels was a reader and fan of Bernay’s writing in particular Bernay’s book “Crystalizing Public Opinion.”
In this short excerpt from Curtis’s film we see one example of Bernays at work.
Bernays was one of the engineers of the Cold War. He perfected the technique of manufacturing a distant but ever-threatening enemy and then creating a constant state of fear by generating false news reports that endlessly re-stated and exagerated the threat.
The stated purpose of Bernay’s methods was to give those in power greater control over what he called “the mass mind.” It worked well in the 1950s and sadly, it appears to be working quite well today… but maybe not forever.
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“Bernays’ honest and practical manual provides much insight into some of the most powerful and influential institutions of contemporary industrial state capitalist democracies.”—Noam Chomsky
“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.”—Edward Bernays, Propaganda
A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon.
Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.
This is the first reprint of Propaganda in over 30 years and features an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder.