|Monday, 20 December 2010 10:49|
Edward Louis Bernays
Born: November 22, 1891 Vienna, Austria
Died: March 9, 1995, Cambridge (MA), United States
Cause of death: Old.
Notable because: Son of Sigmund Freud's sister and Sigmund Freud's wife's brother. Went on to define Americas approach to propaganda becoming one of the most influential Americans ever. The father of spin.
Edward Louis Bernays was an American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda along with Ivy Lee, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations". Combining the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious.
He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described. Adam Curtis's award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine
Born 1891 in Vienna to Jewish parents, Bernays was a double nephew of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud. His father was Ely Bernays, brother of Freud's wife Martha Bernays. His mother was Freud's sister, Anna. In 1892 his family moved to New York City, where he attended DeWitt Clinton High School. In 1912 he graduated from Cornell University with a degree in agriculture, but chose journalism as his first career. He married Doris E. Fleischman in 1922.
As a Jew who had witnessed the critical role that propaganda and mass media had played in creating anti-German sentiment in Britain prior to WWI and again during and after the Nazis' pseudo-democratic rise to power in Europe, Bernays felt that the same unleashing of irrational animosity could happen in any democratic society. According to the BBC interview with Bernays' 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.
This elitist thinking was heavily shared and influenced by Walter Lippmann, one of the most prominent US political columnists at the time. Bernays and Lippmann sat together on the US Committee on Public Information during World War I and Bernays quotes Lippmann extensively in his seminal work Propaganda.
Bernays also drew on the ideas of the French writer Gustave LeBon, the originator of crowd psychology, and of Wilfred Trotter, who promoted similar ideas in the anglophone world in his book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War. Bernays refers to these two names in his writings. Trotter, who was a head and neck surgeon at University College Hospital, London, read Freud's works, and it was he who introduced Wilfred Bion, whom he lived and worked with, to Freud's ideas. When Freud fled Vienna for London after the Anschluss, Trotter became his personal physician, and Wilfred Bion and Ernest Jones became key members of the Freudian psychoanalysis movement in England, and would develop the field of Group Dynamics, largely associated with the Tavistock Institute where many of Freud's followers worked. Thus ideas of group psychology and psychoanalysis came together in London around World War II
Bernays' public relations efforts helped to popularize Freud's theories in the United States. Bernays also pioneered the PR industry's use of psychology and other social sciences to design its public persuasion campaigns:
He called this scientific technique of opinion-molding the 'engineering of consent'.
Bernays began his career as Press Agent in 1913, counseling to theaters, concerts and the ballet. In 1917, US President Woodrow Wilson engaged George Creel and realizing one of his ideas, he founded the Committee on Public Information. Bernays, Carl Byoir and John Price Jones worked together to influence public opinion towards supporting American participation in World War I.
In 1919, he opened an office as Public Relations Counselor in New York. He held the first Public Relations course at the University of New York in 1923, publishing the first groundbreaking book on public relations entitled Crystallizing Public Opinion that same year.
One of Bernays' favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of "third party authorities" to plead his clients' causes. "If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway", he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat heavy breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a heavy breakfast.
Bernays also drew upon his uncle Sigmund's psychoanalytic ideas for the benefit of commerce in order to promote, by indirection, commodities as diverse as cigarettes, soap and books.
In addition to his uncle Freud, Bernays also used the theories of Ivan Pavlov.
PR industry historian Scott Cutlip describes Bernays as "perhaps the most fabulous and fascinating individual in public relations, a man who was bright, articulate to excess, and most of all, an innovative thinker and philosopher of this vocation that was in its infancy when he opened his office in New York in June 1919."
Bernays' papers, just recently opened, contain a wealth of information on the founding of the field in the twenties. In fact, The Biography of an Idea: Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel Edward L. Bernays (1965) contains one of the very best overviews of the decade. Many of the essays selected for the Coolidge-Consumerism collection from the Bernays Papers were written as early drafts for The Biography of an Idea.
Bernays, who pursued his calling in New York City 1919-1963, styled himself a "public relations counsel." He had very pronounced views on the differences between what he did and what people in advertising did. A pivotal figure in the orchestration of elaborate corporate advertising campaigns and multi-media consumer spectacles, he nevertheless is among those listed in the acknowledgments section of the seminal government social science study Recent Social Trends in the United States (1933).
On a par with Bernays as the most sought-after public relations counsel of the decade was Ivy Ledbetter Lee, among whose chief clients were John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Bethlehem Steel, Armour & Company, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Lee is represented in the Coolidge-Consumerism collection by "Publicity: Some of the Things It Is and Is Not" (1925).
Bernays, however, w as a philosopher of promotion, and it was probably that philosophical quality, evident in his writings and speeches, as well as the sheer exuberant creativity and intelligence of his publicity blitzes, which enabled him to impart to his own efforts and to the field more generally a sense of stature, scope and profundity.
The belief that propaganda and news were legitimate tools of his business, and his ability to offer philosophical justifications for these beliefs that ultimately embraced the whole democratic way of life, in Bernays' mind set his work in public relations apart from what ad men did. The Bernays essays A Public Relations Counsel States His Views (1927) and This Business of Propaganda (1928) show that Bernays regarded advertising men as special pleaders, merely paid to persuade people to accept an idea or commodity. The public relations counsel, on the other hand, he saw as an Emersonian-like creator of events that dramatized new concepts and perceptions, and even influenced the actions of leaders and groups in society.
Bernays' vision was of a utopian society in which the dangerous libidinal energies that lurked just below the surface of every individual could be harnessed and channeled by a corporate elite for economic benefit. Through the use of mass production, big business could fulfill constant craving of the inherently irrational and desire driven masses, simultaneously securing the niche of a mass production economy (even in peacetime) , as well as sating the dangerous animal urges that threatened to tear society apart if left unquelled.
Bernays' magisterial, philosophical touch is in evidence in Manipulating Public Opinion (1928) when he writes: "This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age, too, there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas." Yet he recognized the potential danger in so grand a scheme and in This Business of Propaganda (1928), as elsewhere, sounded the great caveat that adds a grace note to his ambitious vision: a public relations counsel "must never accept a retainer or assume a position which puts his duty to the groups he represents above his duty to society."
In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy:
Notwithstanding such seeming probity, articles in the journals of opinion, such as the one by Marlen Pew, Edward L. Bernays Critiqued as "Young Machiavelli of Our Time", and the debate between Bernays and Everett Dean Martin in Forum, Are We Victims of Propaganda?, depicted Bernays negatively. He and other publicists were often attacked as propagandists and deceptive manipulators, who represented lobby groups against the public interest and covertly contrived events that secured coverage as news stories, free of charge, for their clients instead of securing attention for them through paid advertisements.
Bernays' brilliance for promotion in this vein emerges clearly when one reads, in the Bernays Typescript on Publicizing the New Dodge Cars, 1927-1928: "Two Sixes", the story of how he managed to secure newspaper coverage for the radio programs he developed to promote the Dodge Brothers' new six-cylinder cars. The Bernays Typescript on Publicizing the Fashion Industry, 1925-27: "Hats and Stockings" and the Bernays Typescript on Art in the Fashion Industry, 1923-1927, reveal a similar flair for consumer manipulation in the arena of fashion.
As is evident from the description of his campaign to publicize the Dodge cars, Bernays had a particular gift for the marketing strategy called the "tie-up" or "tie-in" -- in which one venue or opportunity or occasion for promoting a consumer product, for example, radio advertising, is linked to another, say, newspaper advertising, and even, at times, to a third, say a department store exhibition salesroom featuring the item, and possibly even a fourth, such as an important holiday, for example Thrift Week.
In addition to famous corporate clients, such as Procter & Gamble, the American Tobacco Company, Cartier Inc., Best Foods, CBS, the United Fruit Company, General Electric, Dodge Motors, the fluoridationists of the Public Health Service, Knox-Gelatin, and innumerable other big names, Bernays also worked on behalf of many non-profit institutions and organizations. These included, to name just a few, the Committee on Publicity Methods in Social Work (1926–1927), the Jewish Mental Health Society (1928), the Book Publishers Research Institute (1930–1931), the New York Infirmary for Women and Children (1933), the Committee for Consumer Legislation (1934), the Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy (1940), the Citywide Citizens' Committee on Harlem (1942), and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (1954–1961). For the U.S. Government, he worked for the President's Emergency Committee on Employment (1930–1932) and President Calvin Coolidge.
In the 1950s, some of his ideas and vision helped portray India as the Democratic Republic of Southeast Asia by having the People’s Congress of India adapt a Bill of Rights. Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Petition were added to the constitution of India.
The amusing Bernays Typescript on Public Relations Work and Politics, 1924: "Breakfast with Coolidge" shows that President Coolidge too was among his clients. Bernays was hired to improve Coolidge's image before the 1924 presidential election.
Another selection from his papers, the Typescript on Publicizing the Physical Culture Industry, 1927: "Bernarr Macfadden", reveals Bernays' opinion of the leader of the physical culture movement. Yet another client, department store visionary Edward A. Filene, was the subject of the Typescript on a Boston Department Store Magnate. Bernays' Typescript on the Importance of Samuel Strauss: "1924 - Private Life" shows that the public relations counsel and his wife were fans of consumerism critic Samuel Strauss.
Overthrow of government of Guatemala
Bernays' most extreme political propaganda activities were said to be conducted on behalf of the multinational corporation United Fruit Company (today's Chiquita Brands International) and the U.S. government to facilitate the successful overthrow (see Operation PBSUCCESS) of the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. Bernays' propaganda (documented in the BBC documentary, The Century of the Self), branding Arbenz as communist, was published in major U.S. media. According to a book review by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of Larry Tye's biography, "The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & The Birth of PR",
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda would later denounce the dominance of foreign-owned banana producers in the politics of several Latin American countries in a poem titled "La United Fruit Co."
Much of Bernays' reputation today stems from his persistent public relations campaign to build his own reputation as "America's No. 1 Publicist." During his active years, many of his peers in the industry were offended by Bernays's continuous self-promotion. According to Scott Cutlip, "Bernays was a brilliant person who had a spectacular career, but, to use an old-fashioned word, he was a braggart."
"When a person would first meet Bernays", says Cutlip, "it would not be long until Uncle Sigmund would be brought into the conversation. His relationship with Freud was always in the forefront of his thinking and his counseling." According to Irwin Ross, another writer, "Bernays liked to think of himself as a kind of psychoanalyst to troubled corporations." In the early 1920s, Bernays arranged an English-language translation of Freud's General Introduction to Psychoanalysis for the US publication. In addition to publicizing Freud's ideas, Bernays used his association with Freud to establish his own reputation as a thinker and theorist—a reputation that was further enhanced when Bernays authored several landmark texts of his own, most notably Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923,), Propaganda (1928, ) and "The Engineering of Consent" in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (March 1947).
Bernays defined the profession of "counsel on public relations" as a "practicing social scientist" whose "competence is like that of the industrial engineer, the management engineer, or the investment counselor in their respective fields." To assist clients, PR counselors used "understanding of the behavioral sciences and applying them—sociology, social psychology, anthropology, history, etc." In Propaganda, his most important book, Bernays argued that the scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary to overcome chaos and conflict in society.
Bernays' celebration of propaganda helped define public relations, but it did not win the industry many friends. In a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter described Bernays and Ivy Lee as "professional poisoners of the public mind, exploiters of foolishness, fanaticism and self-interest." And history showed the flaw in Bernays' identification of the "manipulation of the masses" as a natural and necessary feature of a democratic society. The fascist rise to power in Germany demonstrated that propaganda could be used to subvert democracy as easily as it could be used to "resolve conflict."
In his 1965 autobiography, Bernays recalls a dinner at his home in 1933 where
It is impossible to fundamentally grasp the social, political, economic and cultural developments of the past 100 years without some understanding of Bernays and his professional heirs in the public relations industry. As a result his legacy remains a highly contested one, as evidenced by the 2002 BBC documentary The Century of the Self, where he is described as "undemocratic". PR is a 20th-century phenomenon, and Bernays—widely eulogized as the "father of public relations" at the time of his death in 1995—played a major role in defining the industry's philosophy and methods.
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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
A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon.
Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.
This is the first reprint of Propaganda in over 30 years and features an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder.
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A seminal work on how public opinion is created and shaped, Edward Bernays’s 1923 classic Crystallizing Public Opinion set down the principles that corporations and government have used to influence public attitudes over the past century.
A primer on the then new profession of "public relations counsel," Crystallizing elucidates the "instruments and techniques" that PR professionals use to mold public opinion on behalf of their client's interests. By adapting the ideas that Bernays put forth in this book, governments and advertisers have been able to "regiment the mind like the military regiments the body."
The first ever book ever written about the public relations industry, this all-new edition of Crystallizing Public Opinion features an introduction by Stuart Ewen, author of PR! A Social History of Spin, All Consuming Images: On the Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture, and Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture.
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Public relations as described in this volume is, among other things, society’s solution to problems of maladjustment that plague an overcomplex world. All of us, individuals or organizations, depend for survival and growth on adjustment to our publics.
Publicist Edward L. Bernays offers here the kind of advice individuals and a variety of organizations sought from him on a professional basis during more than four decades. With such knowledge, every intelligent person can carry on his or her activities more effectively.
This book provides know-why as well know-how. Bernays explains the underlying philosophy of public relations and the PR methods and practices to be applied in specific cases. He presents broad approaches and solutions as they were successfully carried out in his long professional career. Public relations is not publicity, press agentry, promotion, advertising, or a bag of tricks, but a continuing process of social integration. It is a field of adjusting private and public interest.
Everyone engaged in any public activity, and every student of human behavior and society, will find in this book a challenge and opportunity to further both the public interest and their own interest.
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The Father of Spin is the first full-length biography of the legendary Edward L. Bernays, who, beginning in the 1920s, was one of the first and most successful practioners of the art of public relations. In this engrossing biography, Larry Tye uses Bernays's life as a prism to understand the evolution of the craft of public relations and how it came to play such a critical-and sometimes insidious-role in American life.
Drawing on interviews with primary sources and voluminous private papers, Tye presents a fascinating and revealing portrait of the man who, more than any other, defined and personified public relations, a profession that today helps shape our political discourse and define our commercial choices.
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|Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2010 10:58|