Propaganda and the shaping of Public Opinion.


Although this article concentrates on Edward Bernays, often called the “Father of Public Relations”, the art of propaganda and the shaping of public opinion is attributable to many people and now is a fundamental of society. Companies and corporations are employed worldwide in the art of influencing the masses by disguising lies as truth. This fake reality is distributed through mass-media, non so effective as the television.

Edward Louis Bernays

Bernays was born on November 22, 1891, in Vienna and was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer psychoanalyst. In the late 1800s, he and his family moved to America and settled in New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1912 and started a career in journalism.

If you are not familiar with the name Bernays, most likely it is because he ruled supreme in the first half of the last century. Capitalizing on the work of his uncle and other psychiatrists of the era, he studied the works of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology and combining these with data produced by his uncle, he became the first person to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious. The expression “Selling ice to Eskimos” would be very appropriate when talking about Edward.

The 1800s was an era of inventions and change with an explosion of new ideas, new principles and beliefs; the age of science and reason was in full force. Since the Industrial Revolution had morphed into “Consumerism”, a new approach was needed to tempt the public in buying products (including political ideology)  that they either did not need or were completely useless. This is where PR came in and Bernays was the one to perfect its art. It also fits with a particular belief system, that being the premise of the State being of greater importance than the individual and Nazi Germany is our best example to date, although North Korea is possibly a better example. What is so mystifying is why anyone would embrace this type of dominance and control. Bernays expressed this adherence in the following statement with regards to a central government: “…a small, invisible government who understands the mental processes and social patterns of the masses, rules public opinion by consent.”

Personally, when it comes to Bernays, I consider him to be one of the most despicable men to walk the face of the planet. He was a con-artist and huckster, not a man trying to improve society, but one trying to exploit it. He abused this role and although he did not participate directly in wars, massacres and fraud, he was definitely guilty of promoting these crimes and his track-record speaks for itself.

“No one outside America any longer believes the US media or the US government… You can’t believe a word the American media says. If they say anything correct, it’s just an accident.” –Paul Craig Roberts

Bernays’s first major assignment in the corporate world of lying was to work with the American Tobacco Company (ATC). Although smoking was very popular in America during the 1920s, it was strictly a male dominated practice. In fact, female smokers were looked down upon and equated with low morals and easy virtues. ATC realized that they had only captured 50% of the market and were looking for a way to encourage women to smoke their “Lucky Strike” cigarette brand.

“On 31st March 1929, at the height of Easter Parade, a young woman named Bertha Hunt stepped out into the crowded fifth avenue and created a scandal by lightning a Lucky Strike cigarette. The incident was highlighted even more because the press had been informed in advance of Hunt’s course of actions, and had been provided with appropriate leaflets and pamphlets. What they did not know was that Hunt was Bernays’s secretary and that this was the first in a long line of events that was aimed at getting women to puff. Bernays proclaimed that smoking was a form of liberation for women, their chance to express their new found strength and freedom.” -Found at:

Cancer by the Carton

In the December 1952 edition of the “Reader’s Digest” appeared an article entitled “Cancer by the Carton – Condensed from Christian Herald” by Roy Norr. In this article, there was a reference to a Dr. James Ewing who 26 years earlier had written an essay on cancer prevention stating: “One may hardly aim to eliminate the tobacco habit, but cancer propaganda should emphasize the danger signs that go with it”. That would have been written around 1926/27, proving that the dangers of cigarette smoking has been known for close to 90 years. The article goes on to say, “But what gives grave concern to public health leaders is that the increase in lung-cancer mortality shows a suspicious parallel to the enormous increase in cigarette consumption (now 2500 cigarettes per year for every human being in the United States). We are aware of the terrible devastation that has been cause through smoking and still is.

“Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”

Throughout his career, Bernays had many spectacular victories in the world of Public Relations and became a super-star (and rich) of his age. However, the victories were not just innocent marketing or positive reinforcement of goods and products. Using the information and discoveries from his uncle Sigmund Freud and other psychologists, his greatest triumphs were in peddling the ideas of improvement, morality and righteousness when dealing with issues that were clearly unscrupulous and poisonous. He might be hailed as a forerunner and greatest PR man in history, but this is like saying that Satan knows how to build a fantastic bonfire. It is a wonderful example of immorality and deceit marketed as good, beneficial and wholesome and the ultimate truth is that Bernays, like so many of his mindset, had no regard for the “Common Man” and could not care less how much misery befell the users of the product he peddled or the wars he created. He, along with many, many others, should have been charged with fraud for lying to the public. He is just as guilty as the tyrannical dictators he represented and the manufactures of “cancer sticks” which he so magnificently promoted leading to an epidemic of lung disease. The PR companies are as guilty in this context as the criminals they work for and Bernays fits the bill.

-Bernays Hit parade

After Edward Bernays stunning success in condemning thousands of people to a future appointment with lung cancer it was logical that the United States government put his skill-set to work over-throwing foreign political regimes that they did not approve of, or more accurately, wanted their resources. They included Guatemala, Columbia and Iran.

The strategies he used were simple and basically the same. The dissemination of propaganda (lies) designed to whip the American public into a frenzy of Communist fearmongering. All that the American Government had to do was ensure that there was a US friendly Ruling Elite in power; safeguard their supremacy, and destroy the opposition if it tried to benefit the People. In Guatemala it was actually all about the monopoly of bananas and making sure that the peasants never took control and were kept as slave-labour. The United Fruit Company (Chiquita Banana) was fundamentally a CIA front that considered social progress tantamount to Communism and that was never going to be allowed.

“….the term ‘banana republic’ actually originated in reference to United Fruit’s domination of corrupt governments in Guatemala and other Central American countries. The company brutally exploited virtual slave labor in order to produce cheap bananas for the lucrative U.S. market.” -“The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & the Birth of PR” – by Larry Tye

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