Edward Bernays: The Architect Of Influence And Also Why The World Is Bad
Start writing a post

Edward Bernays: The Architect Of Influence And Also Why The World Is Bad

The scumbag who basically invented lying!

Edward Bernays: The Architect Of Influence And Also Why The World Is Bad
Paul Malon/Flickr

The term ‘propaganda’ conjures ideas of radical posters - silhouettes of unified military men or a pointed finger from Uncle Sam. Propaganda means a distorted image of a Jew, hung on walls to validate a genocide. Propaganda is deceit, a bag of tricks for governments and lobbyists. What, then, is ‘public relations’? It brings to mind a softer world with well-dressed spokesman and elegant press releases. Public relations is the minor you half-considered. It’s the link you avoid when you scroll too far on a website. It’s a job that you could probably do, right?

Edward Bernays - author, pioneer, psychologist, and generally questionable dude - says, “no.” Bernays is the father of public relations as we know it today. Public relations, though, isn’t a new field. It’s been around as long as communities have existed. When people come together, there are leaders.

With only a family to roam the hillside killing mammoths or whatever I’m not a history major, that leadership role isn’t all too complicated. When being in the modern public eye instead means thousands or millions of unique onlookers, there’s just a bit more to deal with. ‘Propaganda’, or ‘public relations’, or ‘mass indoctrination’, or ‘what-have-you’ is just the means of controlling a large group of people. We’re subject to constant messaging by all the corporate, governmental, and social powers in our lives. And thanks to Eddy Bernays, each one of them is damn good at it.

Bernays is the author of both Propaganda and The Engineering of Consent, two pieces that laid out his understanding of public influence. He saw influence as an art akin to engineering. By understanding the population, he could move them like a herd in the direction he wanted. His most popular advertisement campaign sought to bring women into the market for cigarettes. A little scummy, huh? After Bernays’ advertisements were rolled out, cigarettes had become “Torches of Freedom” for women. A proper lady ought to exercise her empowering, feminine right to smoke as she pleases. Grab a pack today!

The master of manipulation worked for politicians, non-profits, and companies for decades. His impacting is as far-reaching as it is deeply disconcerting: he was even responsible for the emergence of bananas as a premier fruit of choice after putting them in the hands of celebrities.

Silly as some efforts were, Bernays represents a worldview that is deeply troubling in 2018. His is the world where people are sheep to be escorted off cliffs: we are faceless parts of the whole that respond to messages splashed across billboards. Our communities are no longer family roaming the countryside; we are dense pits of mankind shoved together, hopeful for safety in numbers.

The uglier side of Bernays' conniving disposition is the reality it reflects. We are pack animals. There is safety in our urban castles. We are utterly willing to ignore the modern world born from the ideas of Edward Bernays. Every media outlet, whether it purports to be unbiased or not, is vying for our attention. Every corporation has an agenda... and now more and more have the power to push it onto us with increasingly subtle campaigns. Men like Bernays could shift the consciousness of a city with a few well-placed TV spots. What, then, can a Google or Amazon do with intimate knowledge of our habits?

It is always our job to be the wary consumer. Our tired eyes are accustomed to the classic tricks:

"This Budweiser ad only seems to be about a horse that loves a dog... That's just stupid... They are pretty cute, though. Wait... do I need alcohol to find love?"

The less overt efforts aren't always so clear. There's a new word for budding socialites, almost comedians, and Instasufferables: influencers. That ain't for nothing, ladies and gents. That's what these people are to the corporations that use them to affect change: they're a gateway to influence the behavior of the masses. That influence is everpresent and we can't look away. Our attention is always focused on the bright and shiny. In the glare of the light, though, it's not always easy to see what we're really watching.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less
a man and a woman sitting on the beach in front of the sunset

Whether you met your new love interest online, through mutual friends, or another way entirely, you'll definitely want to know what you're getting into. I mean, really, what's the point in entering a relationship with someone if you don't know whether or not you're compatible on a very basic level?

Consider these 21 questions to ask in the talking stage when getting to know that new guy or girl you just started talking to:

Keep Reading...Show less

Challah vs. Easter Bread: A Delicious Dilemma

Is there really such a difference in Challah bread or Easter Bread?

loaves of challah and easter bread stacked up aside each other, an abundance of food in baskets

Ever since I could remember, it was a treat to receive Easter Bread made by my grandmother. We would only have it once a year and the wait was excruciating. Now that my grandmother has gotten older, she has stopped baking a lot of her recipes that require a lot of hand usage--her traditional Italian baking means no machines. So for the past few years, I have missed enjoying my Easter Bread.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments