The Bernaysian Manipulation of the Human Psyche

Saturday, July 19, 2014
By Paul Martin

Steven MacMillan
Activist Post.com
Saturday, July 19, 2014

Edward Bernays was the master of influencing and shaping public opinion who developed upon the ideas of earlier social psychologists and the work of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, in order to create techniques to manipulate the subconscious desires of the masses.

Throughout his 103-year lifespan, the “father of public relations” was at the pinnacle of his field advising US Presidents Coolidge, Eisenhower, Hoover and Wilson, as well as inventor Thomas Edison, US industrialist Henry Ford and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He also reportedly refused invitations by Hitler and Franco to work on fascist propaganda campaigns in Europe.

At the end of World War 1 Bernays served as a propagandist for America before going on to work with various government departments and corporations throughout his lifetime, including: the US Department of State, CBS, Procter and Gamble, and the American Tobacco Company, as well as designing the propaganda campaign for the United Fruit Company which led to the CIA coup against the Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954.

Bernays combined the work of people such as the French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon to create techniques which appeal to the subconscious emotions of the public, as opposed to engaging the public in rational and intellectual debate. Le Bon studied the mental characteristics and the behaviour of the crowd, believing that when part of a mass, individuals are subordinate to the crowd mind and that a human behaves in a more emotive, irrational manner. Bernays observed that if a propagandist could understand the “motives of the group mind”, they would possess the ability to “control and regiment the masses”:

The systematic study of mass psychology revealed to students the potentialities of invisible government of society by the manipulation of the motives which actuate man in the group. Trotter and Le Bon, who approached the subject in a scientific manner, and Graham Wallas, Walter Lippmann, and others who continued with searching studies of the group mind, established that the group has mental characteristics distinct from those of the individual, and is motivated by impulses and emotions which cannot be explained on the basis of what we know of individual psychology. So the question naturally arose: If we understand the mechanism and the motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing of it?” (Bernays, 1928, p.71)

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