Often considered "the father of public relations", Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, did more than anyone to promote its virtues for 'Western' living. In 1928, he published his influential treatise called Propaganda. In it he argued that public relations was 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 image and slogan. His first exposure to using these fixtures was in assisting Woodrow Wilson's administration with propaganda 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. Having seen how effective these efforts could be, Bernays imagined how equally powerful they 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 the war efforts, he 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 them in order to steer the lower masses into feelings of control, freedom or prosperity — something that can seem similar to Plato's 'Noble Lie'.
Bernays, a self anointed Liberal, became a sort of 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 biggest claim to fame was propelling woman to smoke in the 1920's. He used the slogan "Torches of Freedom", promoting the cause to woman as a type of emancipation. He would stand gain enormous praise and wealth as a result of it.
Bernays pioneered a method he called "the engineering of consent." He provided tools and methods to leverage "control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it." Appropriating his Uncle's methods, Bernays choose to manipulate not the rational part of our minds, but the unconscious. 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 have reminded us past and present, without the rigours of moral thought, or what psychologist Daniel Kahneman considers a type of slow second thought, we will forever remain vulnerable to the simplicities of either diminished cynicisms or 'engineered consent.' It's a thought that reminds us that to fully grasp the jingles that abound in culture requires measures of effort and patience to uncover their real value. — Michael Graf