Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Edward Bernays

Oy Vey! So, maybe we're overdoing it on the posting whole books, but we came across a doozy the other day and it is now up. We'll let the Noam introduce the author and the work:
[The] American business community was also very impressed with the propaganda effort. They had a problem at that time. The country was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing. The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on.
So what do you do? It's going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think. There had been public relation specialists but there was never a public relations industry. There was a guy hired to make Rockefeller's image look prettier and that sort of thing. But this huge public relations industry, which is a U.S. invention and a monstrous industry, came out of the first World War. The leading figures were people in the Creel Commission. In fact, the main one, Edward Bernays, comes right out of the Creel Commission. He has a book that came out right afterwards called Propaganda. The term "propaganda," incidentally, did not have negative connotations in those days. It was during the second World War that the term became taboo because it was connected with Germany, and all those bad things. But in this period, the term propaganda just meant information or something like that. So he wrote a book called Propaganda around 1925, and it starts off by saying he is applying the lessons of the first World War. The propaganda system of the first World War and this commission that he was part of showed, he says, it is possible to "regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies." These new techniques of regimentation of minds, he said, had to be used by the intelligent minorities in order to make sure that the slobs stay on the right course. We can do it now because we have these new techniques.
This is the main manual of the public relations industry. Bernays is kind of the guru. He was an authentic Roosevelt/Kennedy liberal. He also engineered the public relations effort behind the U.S.-backed coup which overthrew the democratic government of Guatemala.
His major coup, the one that really propelled him into fame in the late 1920s, was getting women to smoke. Women didn't smoke in those days and he ran huge campaigns for Chesterfield. You know all the techniques—models and movie stars with cigarettes coming out of their mouths and that kind of thing. He got enormous praise for that. So he became a leading figure of the industry, and his book was the real manual.

—Noam Chomsky

Propaganda (1928) by Edward Bernays
(Chomsky's intro is repeated with the article).

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hearts and Minds

Be still my beating heart. Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis's absolutely incredible documentary on Viet Nam is online. There are a lot of great documentaries, butHearts and Minds does so much more than virtually all of them. It sidesteps preaching without submitting to artificial "objectivity" and choreographs information in such a way as to simply beam and transmit. The movie has few peers and the fact that it is online must both be a mistake and something to be exploited immediately.

However, Hearts and Minds deserves a non-jumpy full quality viewing that the internet can't fully provide. Not to plug The Criterion Collection, but there is an excellent DVD available. Nonetheless, Hearts and Minds is so so so so good.

Labels: , ,