Book Review by
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan
No matter what political position you take, or do not take, PROPAGANDA
is a must-read.
Edward Bernays (1891-1995), the world's pre-eminent and most
influential propagandist, was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, to whom he
refers in his book PROPAGANDA a couple of times. Bernays considered the
dissemination of propaganda, that is the shaping and manipulating of
public opinion, not only respectable, but absolutely necessary in
modern society. He considered it a science, most certainly based on
psychology, and appeals to the authority of the eminent uncle in order
to convince business people and especially politicians that the
"engineering of consent" can, and must, be carried out coldly and
systematically - and all this for the benefit of society.
In addition to his uncle Sigmund Freud, Bernays was influenced by and
worked with Walter Lippmann who coined the blood chilling phrase "the
manufacture of consent". He was also influenced by the research of Ivan
Bernays' clientele was most impressive and achievements were
formidable. It is not for naught that he was called the "father of
public relations". Counted among his clients were President Calvin
Coolidge, Proctor & Gamble, CBS, the American Tobacco Company, John
D. Rockefeller and General Electric. His propaganda campaign for the
United Fruit Company is said to have led to the CIA's overthrow of the
government of Guatemala.
The candor with which Bernays speaks about propaganda is remarkable.
Actually, it is his most brash, and one assumes he thought most
effective, propagandistic technique. He is so very sure of the absolute
sway that propaganda has over the public imagination that he has no
qualms whatsoever about informing society of what he is doing. He is
quite certain that knowing that they are being propagandized will in no
wise protect the public against it. Quite the contrary, in informing
the public about the power and persuasiveness of "scientific"
propaganda being administered by expert hands it is his intention to
have the public surrender to it as inevitable, omnipresent and
irresistible. Evidently, he succeeded.
"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
Bernays informs us that the modern "science" of propaganda, used to
control and "regiment" public thinking, as he puts it, is a direct
outgrowth of the propaganda that was used in order to demonize the
Germans in the eyes of the US public during WWI. In fact, he apprises
us of the fact that the very self-same people who engaged in wartime
propaganda are now the propagandists "regimenting public opinion" in
peacetime. He and Lippmann were among those people. During WWI they
worked together on the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI),
those who "sold" the idea of the war to the U.S. public by inventing
the phrase "make the world safe for democracy".
Bernays refers to crackerjack propagandists as "invisible governors".
Propagandists, while employed by big business people and politicians,
are not their servants and not acting at their behest. It is the
propagandists who are the invisible pullers of the politicians' and
business people's strings. The propagandists, Bernays informs us in no
uncertain terms and wholly devoid of inhibition, control every level of
society from large numbers of former proletarians who were recently (as
of 1928) allowed to go upscale socio-economically and attain parity
with the lower rung of the petit bourgeoisie in order to stave off
revolution all the way up to the level of big business and politicians.
He goes on to apprise us of the fact that "propaganda is here to stay".
That is not so much a statement of fact as a command to become
resigned to the fact, like it or not.
In 1928 there were still enough Americans who were socially aware and
Left-oriented that propagandists had a bad name. Bernays attempts in
his book PROPAGANDA to give propagandists a better name, to make them
appear more society-friendly, but he lets the public know that their
acceptance of propaganda or not will not be the determining factor in
whether or not it is influential and certainly not whether or not it
continues to exist and exert tremendous influence.
In his book PROPAGANDA Bernays devotes a chapter to a brief overview of
how propaganda can be made to affect and can, in turn, be put into
- Political Leadership
- Social Service
- Arts and Science
Those that are "scientifically" and "well" propagandized become, in
turn, agents for the dissemination of propaganda.
The edition of PROPAGANDA presently available is published by Ig
Publishing (See: www.igpub.com) is riddled with typographical errors,
the most amusing of which is: "Czechoslovakia officially became a free
state on Monday, October 28, 1918, instead of Sunday, October 17, 1918
[sic] because Professor Masaryk realized that the people of the world
would receive more information and would be more receptive to the
announcement of the republic's freedom on a Monday morning than on a
Sunday, because the press would have more space to devote to it on
The most entertaining aspect of reading Edward Barnay's PROPAGANDA, of
course, is finding as many propagandistic techniques in it as one can.
Book review by Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
Reprinted with permission by crimsonbird.com