Sunday, December 7, 2014

Do you Inhale? Tobacco, Marijuana, Propaganda ...


On the Social Order

Recently I have been reading quite a bit from someone named Edward Bernays. In 1928 he wrote a book called Propaganda.

The general theme is that people are irrational when acting as a group, and can be predictably manipulated by appealing to their impulseshabits or values. In fact, the book Propaganda is strongly influenced by another thinker, Gustav LeBon. In an earlier book, "The Crowd," Gustav explains how one might empirically study the interactions of "the crowd" and how such a crowd may be expected to behave.

Edward Bernays has a general message; the forces of Propaganda, mass social sentience, should be controlled and formed by the intelligent elite. Such elite are not like the Illuminati, or some other centralized unit, hanging out with big foot and/or the alien from Area 51. No. The Elite are men and women of influence, or station, who understand how to gain and target popular opinion and attention.

The general method of manipulation is to target people of "social significance" to groups. This might be actors, union leaders, editors, or even political figures. If you can get those people to willingly, ideologically, agree with your product or service, the "impulse,values and habits" of the targeted masses will follow suit. 

This conclusion renders brand development and advertising in a tiny cubbyhole, behind a million other ways to manipulate popular opinion.

Sounds crazy right? Well a quick look finds some striking results.

You know how, in the mid 1900's, suddenly women began smoking? Meaning, the idea of a woman being independent became irrevocably connected with cigarettes.

In fact, after working for the Committee on Public Information, Eddie decided to apply his skill to commercial industries. Lucky Strike had a problem; half of their possible market, women, didn't smoke. A second problem was that the packaging, due to old school manufacturing methods, only supported puke-green packaging.

So instead of only focusing on direct advertising, Eddie hired young well-to-do women to walk up and down the street during early feminist protests, lighting "Torches of Freedom" [my emphasis - JB], cigarettes. He also had someone, (and not himself,) contact the media in excitement. Eddie also met with important figures in high fashion, and had them select the color puke-green, (the same color as the Lucky Strike cigarettes,) as the "color of the season" for fashion.
Eddie targeted people's trusted sources. He hired psychologists to figure out what those sources were, and created a demand for a product. Within (3!) weeks women were being reported in the news, without further orchestration, to be smoking in parks and public places as an  alleged "expression of independence".

Eddie provided women a way to passive aggressively assert their independence, in an age when open conflict and dialog was not possible. The women also wore green, and bought a lot of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

This is just one example. Again, Eddie also worked for something called the Committee for Public Information which was used to disseminate the idea that the USA was in charge of "bringing democracy to all of Europe." He worked with Woodrow Wilson, doing such a good job, that he was invited to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

He helped topple a government, "In 1950, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected with 65% of the vote [in Guatemala], and Chiquita [,the United Fruit Company,] perceived his agrarian land reforms as a threat to their corporate interests. Chiquita, with the help of the father of modern public relations, Edward L. Bernays, waged a propaganda war and managed to convince the American public and politicians that Arbenz was secretly a dangerous communist who could not be allowed to remain in power."

He thinks people are basically mindless robots, a thesis he tested for an entire lifetime to extreme effect.

"Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions. A man may believe that he buys a motor car because, after careful study of the technical features of all makes on the market, he has concluded that this is the best. He is almost certainly fooling himself. He bought it, perhaps, because a friend whose financial acumen he respects bought one last week; or because his neighbors believed he was not able to afford a car of that class; or because its colors are those of his college fraternity" -E.B.

Edward Bernays did a lot, I would recommend looking him up. His writing, which I'm going through now, is full of contempt for the decision making of "the crowd." He sees society as simple minded, and easily manipulated. But, there is one last emotion, a plea, which he makes frequently:

"I have tried, in these chapters, to explain the place of propaganda in modern American life and something of the methods by which it operates—to tell the why, the what, the who and the how of the invisible government which dictates our thoughts, directs our feelings and controls our actions."

"No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion."

Eddie suffered from a deep Nihilism, and had a wish that intelligent, informed, people would wish to participate in the "Propaganda game" for the betterment of the world, instead of ignoring PR in revulsion. He then made lots of money and helped prop up shadow governments.

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