information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”
There’s a lot you can learn from the people who have the greatest negative effect. The people who fuck up the programme, interrupt human activity to ill ends. Edward L.Bernays is my case study today.
Edward Bernays was a cousin of the renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He was a singularly unprepossessing man, with little in the way of the social graces and niceties one associates with traditional notions of charisma. However, his effect on twentieth century culture and, indeed, on the culture of our own nascent twenty first century is both wide-ranging and deeply impactful. Bernays was a cultural giant because, in the manner of a disinterested and ambivalent deity, he unleashed the force of public relations on the world. He is said to be the father of the discipline and held professional roles in commerce and politics that gave him ample opportunity to invade the mass consciousness of America in the first quarter of the twentieth Century.
Bernays’ dogged determination to challenge conventional notions about the mind, the motivations behind action and the power of those in authority to influence the actions of others was legendary and can be exemplified in his own words: “There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realised to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.”
Bernays synthesised the potency of his cousin’s understandings of the subconscious mind with the power of big business and government. His seminal work bore the title ‘Propaganda’ and was a treatise on just that: propaganda in a Western liberal democracy. Of course, as Bernays himself states, the word ‘propaganda’ was later tainted by the association with totalitarian dictatorship but Bernays spoke about this in its purest sense, taking the word from its Latin origins meaning ‘that which is to be put forward’. I wonder how a man so personally distant from his social peers was able to wield such great influence on the collective consciousness.
So today I am studying Torches of Freedom, the campaign that popularised smoking among women in the US. I am studying the Hearty Breakfast campaign, which helped the meat packing companies to increase sales by promoting hefty brekkies. I am studying the Betty Crocker campaign that caused the infamous egg to be added. I am studying competitions and more. What I will do with that knowledge I will let you know on tomorrow.
Peace, love and hip hop. More love, more power.