“We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.” E. Bernays
Edward Bernays, born in Vienna in 1891 and famously the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was perhaps thepioneer in the field of Public Relations, and highly influential in providing the framework for modern advertising.His work aimed to convince people to want things that they didn’t need, and in the process, link their unconscious desires to the consumption of mass produced goods. This in turn, it was theorized, could be used to control the masses, as by keeping them distracted on frivolous happenings and relatively unimportant wants, they wouldn’t interfere with the activities of what he called ‘the important few’.
All the while, he was remarkably candid about his intent. In one of his first books, ‘Propaganda’ (1928), he coined the term ‘engineering of consent’ to describe his technique for controlling the masses. In this podcast series, Guy Evans examines just how influential these ideas were, and details the resulting impact in relation to public relations, advertising, celebrity culture, and democracy itself.
This is Part 1. Enjoy!
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Chapter 1 Transcript – “Organizing Chaos”
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 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.
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.
They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. 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—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—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. Continue reading