Edward Bernays and the Engineering of Consent
How the nephew of Sigmund Freud became known as the Godfather of Public Relations
Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was famously known as the "father of public relations" and a pioneer of propaganda. He wrote an essay called "The Engineering of Consent", in which he explains how to manufacture mass demand through psychological manipulation. Bernays described modern propaganda as "a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group." The "engineering of consent" was promoted by Bernays to subvert democratic governance, as he once said “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway”.
Bernays famously worked with United Fruit Company in the 1950s, connected with the covert CIA-orchestrated coup d'état to overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan government in 1954. One of his favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead for his clients’ causes. In this technique, he qualified the use of a reputable and prominent sponsoring groups as an appeal to authoritative consensus.
“The most useful method in a multiple society like ours to indicate the support of an idea of the many varied elements that make up our society. Opinion leaders and group leaders have an effect in a democracy and stand as symbols to their constituency.” -Edward Bernays
In order to promote sales of bacon, Bernays conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a hearty & healthy breakfast.
One of Bernays’ propaganda campaigns was for Lucky Strike to promote cigarette smoking for women, since it had been largely associated with the American working man. He named it Torches of Freedom and co-opted the first wave of feminism to portray strong, liberated women smoking.
Netflix was created by Marc Bernays Randolph, grandson to Edward Bernays who was considered a pioneer in public relations and propaganda, renamed to public relations for mass manipulation in a consumer society. Everything that Netflix produces is culturally subversive propaganda.
For more on Edward Bernays, watch Part 1 of the Adam Curtis documentary "The Century of the Self".
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