Background journalism instead of court reporting. Independent. Uncomfortable. Incorruptible.
Propaganda, recently glossed over as “public relations,” is, for example, the art of staging a plan as an epidemic of the century without it being particularly noticeable. Edward Bernays (1891-1995) is considered the spiritual father of modern PR. November 22 will mark the 130th anniversary of his birthday – amid the corona crisis, a fitting occasion to commemorate his highly dangerous life’s work with urgently needed distance.
As spiritualists believe, not all spirits of the dead crumble into the afterlife immediately or prefer final annihilation. Some may stay close to the earth. Here they pass the time by stopping clocks, moving upside-down glasses, pushing open doors, and rioting in attics – preferably at night. However, the ghost, which is the subject of this post, does something far more disturbing around the clock: it obsesses – not just one victim, but innumerable victims. Once inside her, it nests in her brain. There he can give you motivations, intentions, and plans that many of us would find immoral, sick, and urgently in need of treatment – unless he has us under control too.
The spirit we are talking about here belongs to a great-grandson of Sigmund Freud. Its owner was born in Vienna in 1891 and died in New York in 1995. But for more than a quarter of a century after that, it haunts an entire profession: the public relations specialists, with an old-fashioned synonym: for Propaganda. They play a key role in the corona crisis.
November 22 marks his 130th birthday – a fitting occasion to commemorate him, torn between appreciation and disgust.
“The herd must be led.”
We see media as a means of receiving and exchanging information. But you can also see it differently: as a means of exercising power over us – over how we think and feel. What we appreciate. What we want, what we reject. What we should be afraid of. And what we have to do so that we no longer have to fear.
The high art of communicating with us publicly for this purpose was founded almost single-handedly in the 1920s by a man to whom PR professionals around the world bow down with respect and admiration: Edward Louis Bernays. His main works “Crystallizing Public Opinion” (1923) and “Propaganda” (1928) became Bibles for the industry, and he himself became the forefather of all “Spin-Doctors” (1), those sought-after media, image or political advisors who subliminally manipulate events for their clients provided the correct “spin.” In 1990 “Life” magazine named him one of the hundred most influential people of the century.
Bernays would hardly have achieved such honors if he had not been born by chance in Vienna in 1891 as the nephew of Sigmund Freud. His mother was Freud’s sister Anna, his father Ely was the brother of Freud’s wife, Martha. Edward was still an infant when his parents immigrated to the United States and moved to New York City in 1892. In 1912, her filius received a degree in agricultural science from Cornell University. But then he was drawn to journalism.
The journalist reports facts – Bernays, on the other hand, was more interested in creating facts: psychological. He was fascinated by the question of how and to what extent people can be influenced. He owes the decisive stimulus for this to the “foundations of psychoanalysis” of his famous uncle. Freud had brought Homo sapiens, the ego-controlled biped, whose actions are based on conscious, sensible decisions, from the pedestal. Psychoanalysis exposes the “crown of creation” as an irrational being, ultimately controlled by unconscious drives and impulses, which have to be culturally tamed and controlled. Whoever understands this will get the masses under control.
The First World War offered an opportunity for a first test. At first, the majority of the American population saw it as a European issue; There was a lack of understanding why Washington wanted to sacrifice his sons in order to go into a loss-making battle across the pond against the distant German Empire and the Austrian Danube Monarchy. To advertise the bloody commitment, the US government under Woodrow Wilson set up a Committee on Public Information in 1917 – and hired Bernays. And this gave the campaign the decisive twist: “Make the world safe for democracy,” he wrote – American weapons ensure safe, peaceful world order.
“Sell an experience, not a product.”
After the end of the war, the godfather of “organizing opinions” immediately faced the next propaganda challenge. Since the end of the 19th century, the USA had transformed into an industrial society that produced goods over goods on an assembly line. However, consumption was not keeping pace, and this was a growing concern for entrepreneurs. With the exception of a few rich people, consumers only bought what they really needed; Cars, jewelry, and elegant clothes were not necessarily one of them. Conventional advertising, therefore, consisted of highlighting the usefulness and durability of certain products – and pimping those of the competition in these respects.
That was fundamentally wrong, Bernays found: Rather, you have to get people to buy things that are not essential to life but have a high symbolic value – used for self-expression and self-presentation.
“Express yourself” must become the maxim of the purchase decision. Advertising should appeal to this irrational desire. A culture of need must transform into a culture of desires. Products are not simply sold in it, but the fulfillment of longings, the realization of fantasies, desirable appearances and behaviors, beauty and enjoyment, a new attitude towards life, and even a new self. Sell an experience, not a product.
But what symbolic power could a cigarette have, especially in the hands of a woman? The fact that the “weaker sex” smoked, even in public, was considered extremely improper at the time, and it was frowned upon. This widespread public disregard put the tobacco industry at a market barrier, and with Bernay’s help, she wanted to change that. Just how
Bernay’s stroke of genius was performed in the traditional 1929 Easter Parade in New York City. Tens of thousands strolled Fifth Avenue, including a group of women whom Bernays had instructed to dress up as suffragettes. When newspaper reporters photographed them, they pulled cigarettes out of their garters, lit them, and proclaimed them as “torches of freedom.” The glowing stick suddenly became a symbol of emancipation – and from then on, the resistance to smoking crumbled. (2)
“The crowd wants to be led.”
“The masses want to be led,” Bernays was clear. Because the reality is too complex for them. And that is why they resort to clichés and stereotypes taught to them – and orient themself on opinion leaders; they know more and can do more. “If you can influence the leaders, you automatically influence their group,” wrote Bernays three-quarters of a century before “influencer marketing” got a name and became fashionable. And who is better suited to opinion leadership than scientists and doctors? Bernays knew “with mathematical certainty that a large number of people will follow their doctors’ advice because he” – the PR man – “understands people’s psychological dependency on their doctors.” (3) Whenever we sponsored one Survey or study, especially when disguised as science, is Bernays’ mind at work.
“Let experts tell and sell your story”: Bernays relied on this principle when he was hired by a large ham manufacturer whose sales figures were declining. When he heard the word “ham,” Bernays immediately thought of breakfast. Until then, Americans were used to having juice, toast, and coffee on the dining table in the morning. So the nation’s breakfast habits had to change. Bernays asked for the opinions of well-known doctors as to whether they preferred light or a hearty breakfast from a medical point of view. The hearty variant won, and since then, “Bacon and Eggs” have belonged to America like Hamburgers and Cola.
His reputation for achieving such propaganda successes on the assembly line made Bernays one of the most sought-after sales promoters of large corporations for decades. They literally stood in line with him, from Philip Morris to Allstate Insurance, the lead industry and chemical giants Union Carbide and Du Pont to pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Ciba Geigy. (4) While generations of PR professionals lie at his feet, critics loathe him as the “founding father of lies,” who in this respect “invented America.”
His mass seduction skills impressed even the greats of the Nazis; Josef Goebbels had a copy of Crystallizing Public Opinion on the bookshelf. “Of course,” Goebbels declared in 1933, “the propaganda has an intention. But this intention must be concealed so cleverly, so virtuously that the person who is supposed to be fulfilled by this intention does not even notice it.” (5) And that could have come from Bernays. He saw through the anti-Semitism of the Third Reich without further ado: “Obviously the attack against the Jews of Germany was not an emotional outbreak by the Nazis, but a well-considered, planned campaign.” (6)
Blueprint for an entire industry:
The PR Pope’s professional ethic included ruthlessness.
When the master propagandist let himself be bought by the tobacco industry at the end of the twenties, he could still rely on a reasonably clear conscience: the research on the cancer potential of glow sticks was still thin, and even doctors were smoking like chimneys. It was a different story with a campaign. His fans consider one of Bernays’ most brilliant strokes of genius: his crucial contribution to the fluoridation of drinking water almost everywhere in the United States.
Fluoride has long been considered one of the most toxic elements found in the earth’s crust. The public knew it primarily as the main component of insect and rat poison. Unfortunately, fluorides are by-products of many industrial production processes that pollute air and water. As the worst offender of the environment, the aluminum industry fell into disrepute. Since the 1920s, it saw itself increasingly involved in legal proceedings and threatened by legal provisions. So it was high time to limit the damage and polish up the image of the threatening substance.
On behalf of the global market leader Alcoa, the smart Bernays provided the idea, concept, and strategy: He advised sponsored studies exploring fluoride’s unimagined health benefits. After alleged “scientific evidence” of tooth decay prevention in children had emerged, he suggested that dentists and medical societies advertise adding fluoride to America’s drinking water.
And this kills two birds with one stone: The image of fluorine has changed from a curse to a blessing that strengthens the dental health of our offspring; at the same time, there was a steady, considerable demand for an industrial waste product, which thus had a steep career from hazardous waste to medicine.
Did Bernays ever feel part of the responsibility for what forced fluoride poisoning could do to such watered communities? There was a noticeable increase in cases of bone fractures, arthritis, bone cancer, and neurological damage, as well as of children who were deformed or who were born with Down’s syndrome.
Bernays was undoubtedly sitting at the table without a body when the World Economic Forum and Gates Foundation organized their suspiciously prophetic pandemic simulation game “Event 201” in October 2019. If his mind were still incorporated during the corona crisis, pseudo-philanthropists, governments, and vaccine manufacturers would have queued up early to fill his order books.
Would he have had qualms about promoting an unproven disease control measure called “Lockdown” that costs many times more lives than it saves? (See KLARTEXT “Hypocritical Remembrance.”)
If he had had the slightest misgivings about helping seven billion good believers become guinea pigs in the largest medical field test in history. A mass experiment that, to date, may have caused more deaths than soldiers fell in World War I.?
(See CLEAR TEXT “Worry about you.”) “Love your neighbor”: This commandment certainly does not appear in the propagandists’ codes of honor. One like Bernays does not value ordinary mortals. He looks down at them. He despises them. For him and his customers, they are just targets of lucrative business practices – stupid, disoriented, seducible. He never made a secret of it.
American investment banker Catherine Austin Fitts, once Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush, has been in the elite circles that Bernays would have worked with before and during the corona crisis for more than 40 years. She bluntly dispels any illusions about how much humanism animates the most powerful (7): “Mr. Global, views the human race like cattle, not with empathy. (…) They have literally split off and (…) no longer see themselves as part of our civilization” because they “created their own.”
“Manipulation is an important element in democracy.”
With every PR coup, Bernays, a roughly contemporary of Orwell’s, found anew confirmed what he thought about the psychology of the masses, their seducibility, the essence of democracy. Manipulation seemed indispensable to him to control the chaos inherent in society and curb its destructive powers. In public, he saw a “herd that must be led.” Most people thirst for that because their herd-like nature makes them “receptive to leadership.” The overriding principle of good PR is, therefore, to exercise power unnoticed: “If we understand the mechanism and the motives of groupthink, it will be possible to control the masses according to our will without their knowledge.” We even do a favor because “the scientific manipulation of public opinion is necessary to overcome chaos and conflict in a democratic world”; she ensures order.
The secret mass influencers are doing humanity a moral service. Democracy is too good for the people; you have to tell it what to think because it is inherently incapable of rational thinking.
And so Bernays begins the first chapter (“Organizing Chaos”) of his book “Propaganda” with the words: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Whoever manipulates the unseen social mechanisms forms an invisible government, which is the real ruling power of our country. We are ruled, our minds shaped, our tastes educated, our ideas suggested mainly by men we have never heard of. And this is a logical result of the way our democratic society is organized. Large numbers of people have to cooperate in this way if they are to live together in a well-balanced society. In almost every act of our life, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social behavior and our ethical thinking, we are dominated by a relatively small number of people who understand the masses’ mental processes and behavioral patterns. It is they who pull the strings that control public thinking. “
PR – whore from “masterminds behind the scenes.”
In Bernay’s eyes, the power of opinion makers knew almost no limits. The PR Macchiavelli himself felt like a pioneer of a managerial aristocracy – of “invisible rulers,” “clever masterminds behind the scenes.” They secretly determine what we buy, who we choose, what we find good or bad.
What becomes of public opinion when major global industries such as Big Pharma turn on PR professionals like Bernays, targets of this kind, with this cynical view of humankind? With such an understanding of democracy – and being able to invest hundreds of billions of euros annually for it, with which you can make all the important players in the healthcare sector compliant?
How much Propaganda can this effectively bring to the people? Infections are harmful even without any symptoms—medicines cure. Vaccinations are always effective, safe, and well-tolerated. Healthy people are also dangerous. Psychotropic drugs eliminate anxiety and depression. Chemotherapy cures cancer.
Alternative medicine is unproven, ineffective, dangerous, and overpriced. Naturopaths and healers are charlatans. ADHD is a disease, as is Asperger’s Syndrome.
Cell phone radiation, fine dust, microplastics, artificially produced nanoparticles, gene food, chemicals in food and drinking water, mRNA vaccines: don’t panic, everything is harmless, alleged dangers are unproven. Follow the science because science researches independently. Ask your doctor or pharmacist. And so forth.
Propaganda follows a simple recipe. “How do you get people to do something that they neither want to do nor think is good?” Asked a medical professor once to the top manager of a global PR agency. “There is only one instrument for this,” he replied. “If you manage to create fear in people, then they do whatever you want.” Most helpful is “fear of a disease that either does not exist or is not that dangerous at all.” “Our job” is to stir it up. The “largest clients are governments and pharmaceutical companies.” (8th)
Edward Bernays would certainly have co-signed this in full. The unsurpassed manipulator died at the age of 103 on March 9, 1995. If he had known how harmful smoking is, he would hardly have let the tobacco industry restrain him, and he is said to have admitted shortly before his death. First, such repentance comes too late for billions upon millions of lung cancer deaths. And secondly, it is a rarity in the PR industry that threatens a career. Scruples make customer acquisition more challenging, make them hesitant, limit creativity, damage competitiveness, and prevent profit. So get away with it.
This text expands a chapter of Harald Wiesendanger’s book: Corona-Rätsel. What is really behind this pandemic? Who is it good for? What will the next one bring us ?, 2nd edition Schönbrunn, June 2020, p. 324 ff.
1 Bernays was named “The Original Spin Doctor” by the Washington Post in late 1991, on the occasion of his 100th birthday.
1 Als „The Original Spin Doctor“ wurde Bernays Ende 1991 von der Washington Post gewürdigt, anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstags.
2 Al Gore: The Assault on Reason, New York 2007.
3 Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda, New York 1928, S. 9, 18, 49, 53.
4 Siehe John Stauber/Sheldon Rampton: Trust Us We’re Experts – How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future (2002).
5 Zit. nach Dieter Fuß, “Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Rundfunk!”, Aus der Dramaturgie der Propaganda im Dritten Reich, Begleitheft zum Tonband 185 des Instituts für Film und Bild in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Grünwald 1973, S. 82.
6 Nach Larry Tye: The Father of Spin. Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations, New York 1998, S. 111.
8 Peter Yoda: Ein medizinischer Insider packt aus, Kernen o.J., S. 126-128.
Foto Bernays: By Bain News Service – File:Birnbaum,_Gordon,_Bernays,_Fornia,_Mrs._Coppicus,_Amato,_Botta_(LOC).jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68971679
Foto Schwab: By Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger – https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/2296517249/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65398796
Foto Gates: By DFID – UK Department for International Development – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfid/19111683745/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41202006