Propaganda , by Edward Bernays -- Book Review


Wikipedia article about Edward Bernays

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Propaganda by Edward Bernays
Scan of the third edition (1930),
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ISBN 0970312598
Ig Publishing
Paperback reprint
September 1, 2004
(175 pages)

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 Pavlov (!).

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
in Propaganda

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 effect by:

  • Business
  • Political Leadership
  • Women
  • Education
  • 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: 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 Monday morning."

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

Remarks by M. Lepore, owner of

Propaganda by Edward L. Bernays was first released in November of 1928 by the Horace Liveright publishing house in New York City. Liveright printed further editions in 1930 and 1936, none of which are currently available. Kennikat Press of Port Washington, New York reprinted the book in 1972, but this edition is out of print as well. Ig Publishing of Brooklyn, New York says of its 2004 paperback reprint , "This is the first reprint of Propaganda in over thirty years." The new reprint also includes an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, author of the 2005 bestseller Fooled Again .

Table of Contents
Propaganda by Edward Bernays

I. Organizing Chaos

II. The New Propaganda

III. The New Propagandists

IV. The Psychology of Public Relations

V. Business and the Public

VI. Propaganda and Political Leadership

VII. Women's Activities and Propaganda

VIII. Propaganda for Education

IX. Propaganda in Social Service

X. Art and Science

XI. The Mechanics of Propaganda

Robert Lasner founded Ig Publishing in 2000 so that he could independently publish his "semi-autobiographical" and first novel, For Fuck's Sake . The small firm has since gone on to release both fiction and nonfiction titles, one of the most controversial of which has been Proud To Be Liberal , edited by Lasner, an anthology of 22 contributing authors, including Eric Alterman.

"Bernays's honest and practical manual provides much insight into some of the most powerful and influential institutions of contemporary industrial state capitalist democracies."

-- Noam Chomsky

For the reader who can live without the new introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, I am in receipt of a PDF document purported to be an accurate scan of the third Liveright edition of Propaganda. Dated 1930, it is in the public domain according to U.S. copyright provisions. As I'm more concerned with promoting public awareness of this important issue than I am about the referral fees that I receive when people buy the new paperback edition through by bookstore link, I have placed the PDF document online as a free download. You may CLICK HERE to download it. User of Internet Explorer should click that with the right mouse button and then select "Save Target As...." The size of the file is 403,552 bytes.

The reader may also be interested in the only full-length biography of Bernays, written by Boston Globe reporter Larry Tye, and available in paperback as of 2002, since the 1998 hardcover has been allowed to go out of print. Tye's book is The Father of Spin : Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations . This paperback was released by the Diane Publishing Company of Darby, Pennsylvania.

In recent decades, consolidation of media ownership into the hands of a few has been proceeding in the U.S. at a rapid pace. The messages carried by the corporate media are noticably unproductive, such as glorifying competition and war, and ridiculing thoughts of cooperation and peace. In the months ahead, I plan to add much more coverage of this topic on the site.

Mike Lepore -- Stanfordville, New York, June 4, 2006