Friday, August 03, 2007

THE FATHER OF SPIN: Bernays

THE FATHER OF SPIN
Bernays dominated the PR industry until the 1940s, and was a significant force for another 40 years after that. (Tye) During all that time, Bernays took on hundreds of diverse assignments to create a public perception about some idea or product. A few examples: As a neophyte with the Committee on Public Information, one of Bernays' first assignments was to help sell the First World War to the American public with the idea to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” (Ewen) A few years later, Bernays set up a stunt to popularize the notion of women smoking cigarettes. In organizing the 1929 Easter Parade in New York City, Bernays showed himself as a force to be reckoned with. He organized the Torches of Liberty Brigade in which suffragettes marched in the parade smoking cigarettes as a mark of women's liberation. Such publicity followed from that one event that from then on women have felt secure about destroying their own lungs in public, the same way that men have always done. Bernays popularized the idea of bacon for breakfast. Not one to turn down a challenge, he set up the advertising format along with the AMA that lasted for nearly 50 years proving that cigarettes are beneficial to health. Just look at ads in issues of Life or Time from the 40s and 50s. During the next several decades Bernays and his colleagues evolved the principles by which masses of people could be generally swayed through messages repeated over and over hundreds of times. Once the value of media became apparent, other countries of the world tried to follow our lead. But Bernays really was the gold standard. Josef Goebbels, who was Hitler's minister of propaganda, studied the principles of Edward Bernays when Goebbels was developing the popular rationale he would use to convince the Germans that they had to purify their race. (Stauber)
SMOKE AND MIRRORSBernay's job was to reframe an issue; to create a desired image that would put a particular product or concept in a desirable light. Bernays described the public as a ‘herd that needed to be led.’ And this herdlike thinking makes people “susceptible to leadership.” Bernays never deviated from his fundamental axiom to “control the masses without their knowing it.” The best PR happens with the people unaware that they are being manipulated. Stauber describes Bernays' rationale like this: “the scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary to overcome chaos and conflict in a democratic society.” Trust Us p 42 These early mass persuaders postured themselves as performing a moral service for humanity in general - democracy was too good for people; they needed to be told what to think, because they were incapable of rational thought by themselves. Here's a paragraph from Bernays' Propaganda: “Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, 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. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our 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 that control the public mind.” A tad different from Thomas Jefferson's view on the subject: “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion.” Inform their discretion. Bernays believed that only a few possessed the necessary insight into the Big Picture to be entrusted with this sacred task. And luckily, he saw himself as one of that few.
http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/article.asp?ID=185

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