[Marxism] Visiting Edward Bernays
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Fri Aug 19 13:48:22 MDT 2011
Visiting Edward Bernays
When I began the research for this book-attempting to discover the
social and historical roots that would explain the limitless role
of public relations in our world-one of my first stops along the
way was a sojourn with Edward L. Bernays, a man who, beginning
during the 1910s, became one of the most influential pioneers of
American public relations; a person whose biography, though not
widely known, left a deep mark on the configuration of our world.
Born in Vienna in 1891, Bernays was the double nephew of Sigmund
Freud. (His mother was Freud's sister, his father was Freud's
wife's brother.) His family background impressed him with the
enormous power of ideas, and accustomed him to the privileges and
creature comforts of bourgeois existence.
Bernays was also a far-sighted architect of modern propaganda
techniques who, dramatically, from the early 1920s onward, helped
to consolidate a fateful marriage between theories of mass
psychology and schemes of corporate and political persuasion.
During the First World War, Bernays served as a foot soldier for
the U. S. Committee on Public Information (CPI)-the vast American
propaganda apparatus mobilized in 1917 to package, advertise and
sell the war as one that would "Make the World Safe for
Democracy." The CPI would become the mold in which marketing
strategies for subsequent wars, on to the present, would be shaped.
In the twenties, Bernays fathered the link between corporate sales
campaigns and popular social causes, when-while working for the
American Tobacco Company-he persuaded women's rights marchers in
New York City to hold up Lucky Strike cigarettes as symbolic
"Torches of Freedom." In October of 1929, Bernays also originated
the now familiar "global media event," when he dreamed up "Light's
Golden Jubilee," a worldwide celebratory spectacle commemorating
the fiftieth anniversary of the electric light bulb,
sponsored-behind-the-scenes-by the General Electric Corporation.
While by birth an Austrian Jew, Bernays' work and vivid writings
served as an inspiration for Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the notorious
Nazi propaganda minister-or so public relations folklore records.
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