on propaganda edward bernays
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.
In theory, everybody buys the best and cheapest commodities offered him on the market. In practice, if every one went around pricing, and chemically testing before purchasing, the dozens of soaps or fabrics or brands of bread which are for sale, economic life would become hopelessly jammed. To avoid such confusion, society consents to have its choice narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention through propaganda of all kinds. There is consequently a vast and continuous effort going on to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or commodity or idea.
It might be better to have, instead of propaganda and special pleading, committees of wise men who would choose our rulers, dictate our conduct, private and public, and decide upon the best types of clothes for us to wear and the best kinds of food for us to eat. But we have chosen the opposite method, that of open competition. We must find a way to make free competition function with reasonable smoothness. To achieve this society has consented to permit free competition to be organized by leadership and propaganda.
The Scientific American, in a recent issue, pleads for the restoration to respectable usage of that "fine old word 'propaganda.'"
"There is no word in the English language," it says, "whose meaning has been so sadly distorted as the word 'propaganda.' The change took place mainly during the late war when the term took on a decidedly sinister complexion.
It was, of course, the astounding success of propaganda during the war that opened the eyes of the intelligent few in all departments of life to the possibilities of regimenting the public mind. The American government and numerous patriotic agencies developed a technique which, to most persons accustomed to bidding for public acceptance, was new. They not only appealed to the individual by means of every approach—visual, graphic, and auditory—to support the national endeavor, but they also secured the cooperation of the key men in every group —persons whose mere word carried authority to hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers. They thus automatically gained the support of fraternal, religious, commercial, patriotic, social and local groups whose members took their opinions from their accustomed leaders and spokesmen, or from the periodical publications which they were accustomed to read and believe. At the same time, the manipulators of patriotic opinion made use of the mental cliches and the emotional habits of the public to produce mass reactions against the alleged atrocities, the terror and the tyranny of the enemy. It was only natural, after the war ended, that intelligent persons should ask themselves whether it was not possible to apply a similar technique to the problems of peace.
The new propaganda, having regard to the constitution of society as a whole, not infrequently serves to focus and realize the desires of the masses.
There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.
Nor, what is still more important, the extent to which our thoughts and habits are modified by authorities.
In some departments of our daily life, in which we imagine ourselves free agents, we are ruled by dictators exercising great power. A man buying a suit of clothes imagines that he is choosing, according to his taste and his personality, the kind of garment which he prefers. In reality, he may be obeying the orders of an anonymous gentleman tailor in London. This personage is the silent partner in a modest tailoring establishment, which is patronized by gentlemen of fashion and princes of the blood. He suggests to British noblemen and others a blue cloth instead of gray, two buttons instead of three, or sleeves a quarter of an inch narrower than last season. The distinguished customer approves of the idea.
The advantage of out time is only that we are at least aware that there is such a thing out there. How it's operating today is of course vastly different in some respects due to the internet. however after a hundred years such a system has only grown in complexity with Filters(germans in world war 1, Communists run the cold war, terrorists today). Worthy and unworthy victims. Amount of space and time devoted to hard news. Now we have tweets and Facebook to thank for their assistance in perpetuating False news which isn't even news. False news stories which income cases never existed or are planted stories or various kinds. and the minor filtering and misdirection. Lies are OK because Liberals are worse just to use a few examples.
Because of american freedoms propaganda operates in a more complex covert way.