Often considered "the father of public relations", Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, did more than anyone to promote the virtues of 'Western' living. In 1928, he published his influential treatise called Propaganda. In it, he argued that public relations were not just a mere spectacle, but a public necessity:
"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. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind."
Bernays helped to pioneer what would become fixtures of the American cultural landscape — the power of image and slogan. His first exposure to using these fixtures was in assisting Woodrow Wilson's administration with efforts to help Europe adopt the principles of democracy during WWI under The Creel Commision. During these uncertain times, Bernays adopted his propaganda efforts with a certain measure of sincerity, believing it could change a nation's fate. And Bernay’s found great success in swaying public appeal. Having seen how effective these efforts could be, Bernays imagined how equally powerful these measures could be during times of peace and prosperity. (Incidentally, as western cultures grew more democratic, Bernays discovered that the term 'propaganda' would slowly acquire a derogatory 'sting' because of its association to Hitler and German efforts, so he coined the term “public relations.”) With the principles he had co-opted from his war efforts, Bernays implemented ways to "regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies." With these new techniques, he felt that it was left to the intelligent minorities to implement and steer the lower masses into feelings of control, freedom, or prosperity — something that might seem similar to Plato's 'Noble Lie'.
Bernays, a self-anointed Liberal, became a marketing sage, engineering not just consumer appetites but the public relations efforts behind the US-backed overthrow of the democratic government of Guatemala. Yet his first and most significant claim to fame was propelling woman to smoke in the 1920s. He used the slogan "Torches of Freedom", promoting the cause to woman as a type of emancipation. He would stand to gain enormous praise and wealth as a result of these efforts.
Bernays pioneered a method he called "the engineering of consent." This method of ‘consent’ provided tools and techniques to leverage "control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it." Appropriating his Uncle's (Sigmund Freud) methods, Bernays choose to manipulate not the rational part of our minds, but the unconscious, emotional aspects. Selling everything from soap to cigarettes to political campaigns, his techniques would also become the foundations of Joseph Goebbels propaganda machine for the Third Reich. Goebbels admired Bernays' writing and from it developed the 'Cult of the Fuhrer'. In contemporary culture, Bernays work would translate into branding exercises, that again, operate most effectively on instinctual levels. Bernays attempted to turn citizens into consumers in pursuit of an engineered political, social, or personal utopia. Yet as countless thinkers past and present have reminded us that without the rigours of moral thought, or what psychologist Daniel Kahneman considers a type of second system of slow thought, we will forever remain vulnerable to diminished cynicisms or 'engineered consent.' It reminds us that to grasp the values behind the jingles that abound in any culture requires measures of patience, effort, and counterfactual thought. — Michael Graf