Edward Bernays was the Austrian-American nephew of Sigmund Freud and inventor of modern public relations. He assisted President Woodrow Wilson with selling democracy before, during and after World War I and at age 26 he accompanied Wilson to the Treaty of Versailles. Bernays implemented public relations devices such as employing physicians as product spokespeople to create message credibility and soft sell approach. When the Germans gave in-your-face emotionally agitating propaganda a negative connotation Bernays changed the operative word to public relations.
Bernays used his understanding of Freudian gratification combined with advertising to create modern public relations enabling the transmutation of instinctual desires to material gratification by consumerism. Bernays taught the public to want things that they do not need. This was done so that the new America factories would have a perpetual market for their 24/7 assembly line products. Bernays transmuted sexual energy into consumerism by molding public thought processes and beliefs.
What are the true reasons why the purchaser is planning to spend his money on a new car instead of on a new piano? Because he has decided that he wants the commodity called locomotion more than he wants the commodity called music? Not altogether. He buys a car, because it is at the moment the group custom to buy cars.
The modern propagandist therefore sets to work to create circumstances which will modify that custom. He appeals perhaps to the home instinct which is fundamental. He will endeavor to develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home. This he may do, for example, by organizing an exhibition of period music rooms designed by well known decorators who themselves exert an influence on the buying groups. He enhances the effectiveness and prestige of these rooms by putting in them rare and valuable tapestries. Then, in order to create dramatic interest in the exhibit, he stages an event or ceremony. To this ceremony key people, persons known to influence the buying habits of the public, such as a famous violinist, a popular artist, and a society leader, are invited. These key persons affect other groups, lifting the idea of the music room to a place in the public consciousness which it did not have before. The juxtaposition of these leaders, and the idea which they are dramatizing, are then projected to the wider public through various publicity channels. Meanwhile, influential architects have been persuaded to make the music room an integral architectural part of their plans with perhaps a specially charming niche in one corner for the piano. Less influential architects will as a matter of course imitate what is done by the men whom they consider masters of their profession. They in turn will implant the idea of the music room in the mind of the general public.
The music room will be accepted because it has been made the thing. And the man or woman who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of the parlor as a musical corner, will naturally think of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own idea.
-Edward Bernays, Propaganda
This amazing BBC documentary contains footage of Bernays explaining how he decided that if public relations could be used to shape public opinion in wartime then it could also be used to control public behavior during peacetime:
Propaganda is Public Relations
Blogging is public relations in action. How do you know who is really behind the blog? Edward Bernays would have loved blogging. A truly talented blogger can create compelling multimedia works of art that engage and captivate. The DrudgeReport.com often reports news faster than the major syndicated outlets and I often turn to it to see what the corporate news sources are not reporting.
Stunned by the degree to which the democracy slogan had swayed the public both at home and abroad, he wondered whether this propaganda model could be employed during peacetime. Due to negative implications surrounding the word propaganda because of its use by the Germans in World War I, he promoted the term “Public Relations”. According to the BBC interview with Bernays’s daughter Anne, Bernays felt that the public’s democratic judgment was “not to be relied upon” and he feared that “they [the American public] could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above.” This “guidance” was interpreted by Anne to mean that her father believed in a sort of “enlightened despotism” ideology.
Watching Donald Trump in action has inspired me to research and update public relations and propaganda in relation to multimedia content design and creation. Donald Trumpet knows how to blow his horn to attract major media attention worth millions in free advertising. Because of what is going on in the media right now I have gone back and researched Joseph Goebbels’ Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
Today propaganda and public relations have been digitally democratized by the Internet and applications like WordPress. Edward Bernays would have loved blogging. Blogging has democratized publishing the written word.
THE NEW PROPAGANDA
IN the days when kings were kings, Louis XIV made his modest remark, “L’Etat c’est moi.” He was nearly right.
But times have changed. The steam engine, the multiple press, and the public school, that trio of the industrial revolution, have taken the power away from kings and given it to the people. The people actually gained power which the king lost For economic power tends to draw after it political power; and the history of the industrial revolution shows how that power passed from the king and the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. Universal suffrage and universal schooling reinforced this tendency, and at last even the bourgeoisie stood in fear of the com- mon people. For the masses promised to become king.