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Crystallizing Public Opinion Paperback – August 16, 2011
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Mr. Bernays touches upon public opinion in association with the newspaper industry of 1923; the radio was still relatively new at this point in time and he touches upon the PRC and the medium that has yet to have been tapped into for this consumer need. Unlike the websites that profess he assisted the acceptability of women smoking in the late 1920’s; he actually had women doing this during suffrage marches in the late second decade of the 20th century – most seem to report this point as an occurrence 10 years after the fact. Effectively Mr. Bernays breaks down the PRC need by societal needs. He reflects historically and accurately at how during the time of the American Revolution pamphlets were all that was needed to express an opinion locally – but matters change with the influx of immigration from all corners of Europe during the late 1800’s. Mr. Bernays spends a great deal of effort in reinforcing the fact that the press has an ethical obligation and so too the persons later to become PRC professionals. Today of course the PRC is simply known as “PR”. After reading this educational book on the matter it is apparent to the times that both the newspapers and PR types have left a lot of ethical decisions behind – that point too could be argued by some in that the evolution of PR and newspapers to radio to television to computer to cell phone apps has simply placed the news at the need of the PR and vice versa – after all it is society as a whole that has also forced this matter of “news feeds” and “public opinion” to be told (at least in part) what they want to hear.
One must be willing however to take a deeper dive as well. One person’s “advertisement” is another person’s “propaganda”. Mr. Bernays stated “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.” The question I am left with is whether there is a moral compass here – the goal seems to be making money and nothing more; regardless of whether the item is “good” or “bad”. In the late 1920’s as he was continuing the smoking acceptability for women he forced his own wife to quit smoking – this before 1930. In this manner observation can lend credence to the point that “money” was the goal. Maybe I am off base but this is what it “feels like” to me. Making things “necessary” for public consumption by mere association. Ivory Soap sculpting became popular by this point in time as well in order to get children to bathe regularly. But Public Relations Counsel or Public Relations never became an institution to which persons had to become certified as say a Doctor, Lawyer, or Police Officer for that matter. Hence, any person could and still can become a PR Person with no credentials other than the ability to show they helped someone or some other company “make money”.
Early on the evolution of this process became a part of the political machine. The political machines of many countries and leaders – the unfortunate thing is the link between Nazism and Bernays’ processes – Bernays would write in the 1960’s how disgusted he became as a result of discovering this point later. Either way there are two sides to this coin of “public opinion”. Increasingly I for one am sick of public opinion polls – in one sense they are necessary to gain a “gauge” on the issues and products of the day – on the other hand it feels as though these processes by many who are merely talking heads, beat the public opinion polls to death and many more are unable to “explain” what they mean. This is where in “my opinion” important to me only that PR people and “public opinion polls” are irrelevant. The “herd” however seems to follow the person in front of them, taking one step in front of the other – the true counter culture today are independent thinkers and doers in “my opinion”.
This book is an important read for every independent thinker; it is good to consider how the masses are swayed; this book is as relevant today as it was in 1923 – the evolution of technology may have changed but the basic mechanisms remain. This is why I give this book 5 stars.
However, a flaw of Bernays' character is his arrogance, which will show in his subtle, but frequent self-elevation via his achievements up to that point. It is important to recognize that Bernays did not come from an average Joe type of background-and his view of you and I is perhaps not as flattering as we would like it to be. Despite this, "Crystallizing Public Opinion" is a book that you must read, if only to see how average Joes are really viewed by those in power. The answer may surprise you.
The book: Worth the price of admission simply for explaining why all the self-proclaimed "free-thinkers" in this world think alike.
Also worth it for pointing out most people think their opinions are fact. Hilarious. An offensive and dangerous book for people with many and strong opinions.