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The first lines: "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 rulling power of our country." This was written in 1928. This newphew of Sigmund Freud worked in Woodrow Wilson's creation, the Committee on Public Information, and saw first hand how the public's mind can be manipulated. Wilson was elected on a peace platform and had to transform the country to go to war against the German Kaiser. Bernays later helped publicize the American Tobacco Company, and is credited as a "father" of public relations. Anyone interested in understanding how the masses are moulded by the powers that be must read this book!
The rating here is primarily for the value of this book, smartly put back into print.
Propaganda, though written in the late 1920s, is an excellent resource for a citizen in general. This manual, a seminal document, is a key resource on the thoughts and workings of the public relations industry, then only a speck compared to what it is today. Everything from corporate PR to advertising in general has basically internalized what is covered in this book in order to serve those institutional functions that mold the public's mind.
This is all related to the 'manufacture of consent', something that Chomsky, who writes a good intro here, and Ed Herman explored in depth in their book 'Manufacturing Consent' where they lay down a Propaganda Model.
This is a huge topic for Americans, period. While media and their role, and their 'slants' is a hot topic (sometimes even within the media, but to limited scope of discussion) this book is a straightforward reprint of the PR industry manual. It's no 'secret'--it's more like company policy. It's far more illuminating than the latest pundit book of the week, discussing, among other things, the 'liberal' media, say.
Don't let the intro or its author derail you from reading this--this is nothing more than a mini-bible on how to manipulate the masses in an institutional framework (media, PR, government, etc). There's nothing really controversial here, since this is basically a historical document that still holds up after decades. Highly recommended.
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I'm glad this book has been re-published so people can read it. This is a book that until now have been very hard to obtain. For years this book was the unofficial handbook for the PR industry. It is important to read and understand the contents of this book to understand the history of PR. The book gives a foundation to understand the fine art of "control of the public mind" that we see today. This book can perhaps throw some light on the techniques used in present history concerning among other the "War on Terror". I will also recommend "Crystallizing Public Opinion" by the same author (if you can find it) and "Public Opinion" by Walter Lippmann.
As already stated in a review, the 5-star rating is primarily for the value (and importance) of this book.
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This book is about manipulating people. It is written from a Ranchers point of view with the majority of us, his herd. He can't force you (at least in a civil society) to drink but he can secretly salt your oats. I was disappointed to learn that a heary breakfast is a contrived idea since breakfast is my favorite meal.
Now that I know some propaganda techniques, I will have an ever growing suspicion of ads, speeches, even photos and videos of the news. It reminds me of learning to play a musical instrument. I no longer listen to the music; I analyze it, deconstruct it and map it...I do everything but enjoy it.
In a piece of amazingly brazen subterfuge, Bernays gives his book a title - "Propaganda" - which doesn't tell you what the book is ABOUT so much as what the book IS.
That is to say, as Mark Crispin Miller points out in the Introduction, the true nature of this book is to act as propaganda for propaganda. To get the full message on how to carry out propaganda you have to watch what Bernays is actually DOING. If all you take from the book is what Bernays says overtly about how to mount a propaganda campaign you will have missed the whole point of the book.
Bernay's central message is, in effect, "Never openly admit what propaganda is." And to this end he carefully confuses and conflates propaganda, PR and straightforward advertising. Indeed, although he uses the term "propagandist" a number of times in the book, he usually referred to himself as a "personal relations counsel".
As an example of how this confusion technique is used in this book, Bernays makes the perfectly reasonable claim that manufacturers need to use advertising to bring their products to the notice of the general public, but manages to blur the distinction between advertising and propaganda so as to make it seem that it is propaganda which is a perfectly natural process in a well-organized society.
First of all he sets us up by a series of seemingly reasonable but actually quite ludicrous statements (page 39 - it's a long Introduction):
"In practice, if everyone went around pricing, and chemically testing before purchasing, the dozens of soaps or fabrics or brands of bread which are for sale, economic life would be hopelessly jammed."
[Yes it would, but don't we actually test many things in a less exhaustive way every time we go shopping?Read more ›