[Marxism] Visiting Edward Bernays

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
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.

full: http://home.bway.net/drstu/chapter.html

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