Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: The Ways in Which We Can Be Manipulated

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Ways in Which We Can Be Manipulated

The protagonist of good government, then, selects such appeals as will best serve to reach the groups he desires to influence. If he is engaged in a campaign for a better health department, there is always the desire of self preservation of the individual around which such a campaign can be based. If it is better milk, or a campaign for better schools, there is the love of children. If it is better streets and highways, the fear of an accident to the pedestrian or autoist.
Edward Bernays,Crystallizing Public Opinion for Good Government, 1925

I find this passage extremely interesting because it shows how the public can be so easily manipulated. By relating the cause to what matters to society, any campaign can be spun to appear in the people's best interest. With this, I pose a question. Were we, the American Public, targets of this tactic when being sold a war to fight a tyrannical dictator harboring weapons of mass destruction that could be connected to Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks? And in our society where the media is supposed to create transparency, shouldn't we be able to see the real intent (rather than the reason they are selling) and avoid falling victim to this method? And if we do buy into the version they are selling, is it because the media is really simulating transparency or that we are just not looking at all of the sources of information?


Blogger A. Mattson said...

A great quote. This is Bernays expression of an ideal version of public relations, in which public relations is just an advanced form of political appeal, political rhetoric to be used by all sides in a democracy. Mass persuaion is a necessary part of modern government.

In answer to your question, Bernays had a very low opinion of the intelligence of the average American. The masses were not smart enough, or interested enough to be "looking at all the sources of information." The expert managerial class will guide the government and men like Bernays will ensure that the pubic supports these expert desisions.

2/24/2006 9:34 PM  

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