#51- Edward Bernays’ Propaganda
In this week’s episode, Scott and Karl discuss Edward Bernays’ 1928 book Propaganda. Referred to as “the father of public relations,” and “the Machiavelli of the 20th century,” Bernays pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.”
His seminal work, Propaganda, is a look behind the veil of the most powerful and influential institutions orchestrating the unseen mechanisms of society. In Karl’s own words, “It’s a very good book you want to throw across the room.”
Tune in to hear a fascinating discussion about the methods, uses, and ideas behind Bernays’ influencers to regiment the collective mind.
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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
Edward Louis Bernays (/bərˈneɪz/; German: [bɛɐ̯ˈnaɪs]; November 22, 1891 − March 9, 1995) was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as “the father of public relations”. Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life. He was the subject of a full length biography by Larry Tye called The Father of Spin (1999) and later an award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC by Adam Curtis called The Century of the Self.
His best-known campaigns include a 1929 effort to promote female smoking by branding cigarettes as feminist “Torches of Freedom” and his work for the United Fruit Company connected with the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan government in 1954. He worked for dozens of major American corporations including Procter & Gamble and General Electric, and for government agencies, politicians, and non-profit organizations.
Of his many books, Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928) gained special attention as early efforts to define and theorize the field of public relations. Citing works of writers such as Gustave Le Bon, Wilfred Trotter, Walter Lippmann, and his own double uncle Sigmund Freud, he described the masses as irrational and subject to herd instinct—and outlined how skilled practitioners could use crowd psychology and psychoanalysis to control them in desirable ways.