Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Crystallizing Public Opinions

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Crystallizing Public Opinions

In the reading of "Crystallizing Public Opinion for Good Government" by Edward L Bernays, he discuss and compares how the government wants to reach a certain audiences. He states "The first thing a sales manager does when he tackles a new sales problem,... is to study the public to whom he can sell". The government does not differ much. The government will target the people that it wants to influence then attempt to sell or propose new policies.
He continues to discuss that "he realizes that the individual and the group are swayed by only a very small number of fundamental desires and emotions and instincts". Again, it is about knowing your public, their likes and dislikes, and somehow associating the that with the idea your trying to sell.


Blogger A. Mattson said...

The assumptions that Bernays is making about the character of the public mind are important. The group mind is to be shaped through their emotions and instincts. What kind of a democracy is that? The idea of "selling" good government is not shocking to modern ears, but what does "selling" presuppose? What does it say about us a nation, about human nature? And most of all about the possiblity for a real democracy in a complex modern society.

2/24/2006 8:59 PM  
Blogger Hezellig said...

Me agian.

There is an interesting point in there somwhere. How about those liberal democrats who go on and on about being against "big business" but really want to control the biggest business of them all.. the government?

Don't forget that the USA is not designed to be a democracy, but a Constitutional Republic. Big difference.

Okay, I'll leave you guys alone for a while.

2/25/2006 3:15 PM  
Blogger A. Mattson said...

It would seem that both parties are increasing the size of government. The current administration has outspent the previous one by a lot. But the question here is not about big vs. small government. It is about the role of mass persuasion in a democracy. Yes, the form of our democracy is a constitutional republic, but that doesn't alter the issue of whether the public is a rational, reasonable citizenry that should be informed and educated so that they can make logical choices about representation and legislation.

It would seem that our representatives do not expect much from the public and are content to sell them one party or the other based on the sales pitches aimed at the emotions rather than any real factual debate.

The current issue of port security is a good example. The fact is that there is no security risk from UAE corporate control over port operations. But both parties are playing the nationalist/race card and playing on the fears of "arabs" controlling our ports. The debate over national security is being played by political opportunists of both parties seeking an advantage for upcoming elections.

2/25/2006 6:03 PM  
Blogger Hezellig said...

Hey, now, let's don't get defensive. This isn't about which party is more or less to blame for our current political climate... I think they both suck. But, there is not enough time spent on the debate over your first point, that is the overall size of government. It's not just about the level of spending. The fact that government has to be "sold" to us at all should be an indication of the absurdity of its size and level of intrusion into our lives in general.

2/25/2006 10:58 PM  
Blogger A. Mattson said...

You argue your point well, but the issue of this blog is political persuasion and propaganda, not big government.

Both anti-big government conservatives and their opposition have to convince the American public that their position is best.

What is interesting is that both political parties talk about budget cutting and cutting big government in their platforms, while at the same time proposing new programs and increased spending.

Anti-big government rhetoric is popular with the American people until it comes time to cut the programs that benefit their particular constituency. So politicians can talk about opposing big government day in and day out, but few will walk the walk, unless it involves cutting other people's budgets.

We live in a nation that has a long tradition of resistance to taxation, and Anti-tax rhetoric is a basic staple of political campaigning. The anti-tax sentiment can be manipulated to create a coalition of voters who will support tax cuts but would never agree to make the actual cuts in government spending that would ensue.

The Democratic party has to deal with the fact that the Republicans have used anti-big goverment/tax appeals to win elections. Conservatives have managed to attack the role of government in American life quite successfully, in part because of actual failures of the goverment to deliver what people expect, and in part because they have managed to spin the issue into a simplistic knee jerk reaction: 'all government is bad and free enterprise is good.' That of course is an over-simplification and is just as silly as saying that all goverment is good and all corporations are evil. Both sides are "selling" their arguments, the need for political packaging, the marketing of ideas does not mean that the ideas themselves are necessarily suspect. The reality is that in our complex society all ideas need promotion in order to succeed in this competitive media market place. The conservative movement has been selling 'small government' for generations now with great electoral success at times but little real success, if the size of our national debt is any measure.

2/26/2006 10:42 AM  
Blogger Hezellig said...

Ah, I don't buy all the "complex society" baloney. It comes down to the fact that there are two types of Americans: those who wish to be left alone to take care of thiers and thier own and those who think they should be taken care of by the feds. This Constitutional Republic works beautifully when left alone. It is here to protect us from foriegn threats and to ease commerce between the States. Big time gum flapping politicians have perverted it into a system of control. Remember, the Constitution states that all powers not outlined explicitly therein are to be left up to the State and local governments. So why do we allow ourselves to be legislated to from a court bench or via lobbyists? Because we have been satiated with our "paid for" healthcare and our "patriotic duty" to give up 25% of our earnings for them to do God knows what with. The federal government is too big to be held accountable and they know it. Our lack of initiative as citizens and our suceptibility to propaganda is driving us closer and closer toward Socialist Communism. Joe America is just too lazy or too afraid to do anything about it.

It is not a question of spin or over-simplification or whatever. It is a question of motive. Do our politicians have our best interests in mind? I would say an overwhelming percentage do not. By the way, are you familiar with congressman John Linder's legislation, the FairTax? This is the role of the federal government; protecting our liberties not making empty promises.

Also, I know what you're trying to say here on this blog but the role of government and political persuasion have become one in the same. If it weren't for corrupt politicians, you wouldn't have any reason to teach this class in the first place.

Finally, please know that I am not trying to be disruptive, I just have this overwhelming urge to speak truth wherever I see an opportunity.

2/26/2006 11:17 AM  

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