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“Bernays’ honest and practical manual provides much insight into some of the most powerful and influential institutions of contemporary industrial state capitalist democracies.”—Noam Chomsky

“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.”—Edward Bernays, Propaganda

A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon.

Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.

This is the first reprint of Propaganda in over 30 years and features an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder.

168 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1928

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About the author

Edward L. Bernays

24 books374 followers
was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations"

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 751 reviews
Profile Image for Katie.
28 reviews3 followers
February 23, 2012
Bernays argues that the manipulation of public opinion is necessary for a stable and well functioning society. I found just about every paragraph of this book to be disturbing... especially considering how much power and influence he had during his lifetime - remembered as "the father of public relations". Five stars because this is the kind of stuff you aren't taught in history class.

"THE systematic study of mass psychology revealed to students the potentialities of invisible government of society by manipulation of the motives which actuate man in the group. ... If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?" pg47

"If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically
influence the group which they sway. But men do not need to be actually gathered together in a
public meeting or in a street riot, to be subject to the influences of mass psychology. Because man is by nature gregarious he feels himself to be member of a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the
curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which have been stamped on it by the group influences." pg49
Profile Image for Keyo Çalî.
66 reviews93 followers
November 30, 2020

Whatever and however you think about propaganda, will be completely changed after you read this short book. It is written 92 years ago, but still the concepts and the structure of what we today know as propaganda haven't changed. What tools they use to do it, how they do it, what platforms and mechanisms they use… none of these matters much, it is the propaganda itself that works. They had newspapers, radios, and TVs, now they have Facebook and Twitter, they have YouTube and Goodreads… now they have a wider map on a smaller table to control it and dictate whatever is necessary to the public.
It is not only about politics and politicians,
it is about cooking also,
about drinking espresso,
it is about the games you play on your smartphones,
about watching Vikings or game of thrones,
it is about what smartphone do you buy,
and what music you love and why…

"Human desires are the steam which makes the social machine work. Only by understanding them can the propagandist control that vast, loose-jointed mechanism which is modern society"
Today it is easier to understand human desires, they have big-data, any second they have new fresh data gathered from our accounts and activities online.

The book ended with
"Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos."
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
769 reviews3,498 followers
October 24, 2019

Laying of the foundation stone for manipulation techniques for politics, business, and interest groups

This work, first published in 1928 by the guru of public relations work, seems deeply strange in that it offers the foundations for directing and influencing people to an interested public from business and politics.

Initially, the chapters were written in industry journals and potential clients, and peppered with examples from the author's remarkable career. However, concerning optimization, the articles have become both a manifesto of the positivity of public relations and a promotional leaflet for Bernays himself.

If the techniques of creeping manipulation to form opinions were used only to increase sales success, they could be defined as subtle but harmless to the household budget.
The problem lies in the applicability to politics, as impressive and gruesome evidenced by the emergence of concepts. Like few other works, the book empowers warmongering and aspiring dictators to implement their world domination plans better and more effectively. The only thing missing was that Bernays also shows examples of the scheme "How do I eliminate with the help of initially democratic principles, the political opposition and disable the Constitution to take over in the confusion of power and establish a terror state" embedded in his work. He did not have to because a great admirer of the Jew Bernays took this work from him. Joseph Goebbels.

If you realize that 90 years have passed since the book was published, it is difficult to suppress a growing discomfort and goosebumps. These ingenious diabolical concepts were already of a frightening efficiency without electronic aids. With the parallel development of ever more sophisticated PR techniques and the digital revolution, the influencing mechanisms are getting closer and closer to the degree of perfection. In combination with increasingly powerful computers, big data, widespread surveillance, scary political tendencies in Western democracies, and the emergence of populism and religious fundamentalism, a disturbing development. Thanks to computer support, empirical, probability, statistics and consensus all desired scenarios, options, and wanted final results can be flexibly varied, calculated in advance, planned, adapted to the circumstances and implemented in the shortest possible time.

The thesis of guiding the masses through intelligent and well-meaning elites to the delight of all involved is a double-edged sword. If a state becomes dependent on the heated mood of the people's soul, not necessarily through reflection or personal opinion-building, but rather through its influence, the danger of conflicts and national discrepancies increases considerably.

This is in the broadest sense more democratic than the practiced alternative, but unfortunately not better. Faced with this frustrating fact many smart men from the fields of sociology, ethics, anthropology, and psychology despaired already. Is the direction of the elites, inciting to abuse of power, better than the rule of the mob under the command of those who are the most demagogic?
Unlike other critical scientists, Bernays sees his profession as a positive endeavor for all involved. Having engaged in a PR code of conduct throughout his life and ceasing to work in the tobacco lobby after learning of the harmfulness of smoking, his ambivalent relationship to the truth is difficult to assess. The fact that the chapters on social work, art and science seem like retrospective distractions speaks volumes. Not only that they are kept relatively short and do without examples or significant content. No, they also look more like concealment of true intentions under the guise of offering options for charity.

Because of Bernay's razor-sharp calculation, one can classify the probability that he would have been convinced of the noble intentions of his clientele in the realm of myths. Above all, because of an unwholesome, until today ravages of incalculable extent causing, dogma swells from the pages of the book. The outrageous, but unfortunately to a doctrine ascended insanity, that in a free market, bad manufacturers would be selected Darwin style, pushed from the market and ruined by mature, informed customers by a kind of "survival of the most decent", is hilarious. Because of the messages spread by these same companies, it would be possible to classify them as good or bad. As a fairy tale quite entertaining, in reality, pure horror show.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this, yuck, ugh, boo, completely overrated real-life outside books:



Grundsteinlegung von Manipulationstechniken für Politik, Wirtschaft und Interessensvertretungen

Zutiefst befremdlich mutet dieses 1928 erstmals erschienene Werk des Gurus der Öffentlichkeitsarbeit an, in dem er einem interessierten Publikum aus Wirtschaft und Politik die Grundlagen der Lenkung und Beeinflussung von Menschen darbringt.
Ursprünglich waren die Kapitel aus Fachzeitschriften für Industrie und potentielle Kunden gedacht und mit den Beispielen aus der bemerkenswerten Karriere des Autors gespickt. Doch ganz im Sinne der Optimierung wurden die Artikel sowohl zu einem Manifest der Positivität von Öffentlichkeitsarbeit als auch zu einem Werbeprospekt für Bernays selbst.
Wären die Techniken der schleichenden Manipulation zur Formung von Meinungen nur zur Steigerung des Verkaufserfolgs eingesetzt worden, könnte man sie als subtile, aber außer für die Haushaltskasse, unschädliche Umsatzbringer definieren.
Das Problem liegt in der Anwendbarkeit auf Politik, wie seit dem Aufkommen der Konzepte eindrucksvoll und grauenhaft bewiesen wird. Wie nur wenige andere Werke befähigt das Buch in den Händen von Kriegstreibern und angehenden Diktatoren zur besseren, effizienteren Umsetzung ihrer Weltherrschaftspläne. Es fehlte nur noch, dass Bernays auch dafür Beispiele nach dem Schema „Wie eliminiere ich unter Zuhilfenahme anfangs noch demokratischer Prinzipien die politische Opposition und hebele die Verfassung aus, um im Zuge der Verwirrung die Macht zu übernehmen und einen Terrorstaat zu etablieren“ in sein Werk eingebettet hätte. Musste er nicht, denn ein großer Bewunderer des Juden Bernays nahm ihm diese Arbeit ab. Joseph Goebbels.
Wenn man sich vor Augen führt, dass seit Erscheinen des Buches 90 Jahre vergangen sind, kann man ein aufkeimendes Unbehagen samt Gänsehaut nur schwer unterdrücken. Diese genial diabolischen Konzepte waren schon ohne elektronische Hilfsmittel von einer erschreckenden Effizienz. Mit der parallelen Entwicklung von immer ausgefeilteren PR-Techniken und der digitalen Revolution gelangen die Beeinflussungsmechanismen immer näher an den Grad zur Perfektion. In Kombination mit immer leistungsfähigeren Computern, Big Data, flächendeckender Überwachung, beängstigenden politischen Tendenzen in westlichen Demokratien und dem Erstarken von Populismus und religiösem Fundamentalismus eine beunruhigende Entwicklung. Dank Computerunterstützung, Empirie, Wahrscheinlichkeitsrechnung, Statistik und Konsorten lassen sich alle gewünschten Szenarien, Optionen und erwünschten Endresultate flexibel variieren, vorab berechnen, planen, an die Umstände anpassen und in kürzester Zeit umsetzen.
Die These von der Lenkung der Massen durch intelligente und wohlmeinende Eliten zur Freude aller Beteiligten ist ein zweischneidiges Schwert. Macht sich ein Staat von der hitzigen, nicht unbedingt durch Nachdenken oder persönliche Meinungsbildung, sondern eben eher durch Beeinflussung geprägten Stimmung der Volksseele abhängig, steigt die Gefahr von Konflikten und innerstaatlichen Diskrepanzen beträchtlich. Das ist zwar im weitesten Sinn demokratischer als die praktizierte Alternative, nur leider eben nicht besser. Mit dieser frustrierenden Tatsache konfrontiert verzweifelten schon viele kluge Männer aus den Bereichen Soziologie, Ethik, Anthropologie und Psychologie. Ist die Lenkung durch die Eliten, die zum Machtmissbrauch nur so anstachelt besser als eine Herrschaft des Pöbels unter dem Kommando derer, die am demagogischsten kreischen?
Im Gegensatz zu anderen, kritischen Wissenschaftlern betrachtet Bernays sein Metier als ein für alle Involvierten positives Unterfangen. Da er sich Zeit seines Lebens für einen Verhaltenskodex der PR-Branche einsetzte und seine Tätigkeit für die Tabaklobby, nachdem er von der Schädlichkeit des Rauchens erfahren hatte, einstellte, lässt sich sein ambivalentes Verhältnis zur Wahrheit nur schwer einschätzen.
Dass die Kapitel zu Sozialwesen, Kunst und Wissenschaft wie nachträglich eingefügte Ablenkungen wirken, spricht Bände. Nicht nur, dass sie relativ kurz gehalten sind und ohne Beispiele oder nennenswerten Inhalt auskommen. Nein, sie erscheinen eher auch noch wie eine Kaschierung der wahren Absichten unter dem Deckmantel der Offerierung von Optionen für karitative Zwecke. Denn aufgrund Bernays messerscharfer Kalkulation kann man die Wahrscheinlichkeit, er wäre von den hehren Absichten seiner Klientel überzeugt gewesen, in das Reich der Mythen einordnen.
Vor allem weil ein unheilsames, bis heute Verheerungen uneinschätzbaren Ausmaßes verursachendes, Dogma aus den Seiten des Buches quillt. Die hanebüchene, aber leider zur Lehrmeinung aufgestiegene Irrsinnigkeit, in einem freien Markt würden lügende Hersteller von mündigen, informierten Kunden durch eine Art „Überleben der Anständigsten“ frei nach Darwin ausselektiert, vom Markt gedrängt und ruiniert. Denn durch die von eben diesen Firmen verbreiteten Botschaften wäre es möglich, sie als gut oder schlecht einzustufen. Als Märchen unterhaltsam, in der Realität grauenhaft.
Profile Image for P.E..
753 reviews508 followers
May 19, 2021
His Master's Voice

'We Can Do It!' (aka Rosie the Riveter) Propaganda Poster, J. Howard Miller, 1943

'Daisy' Political Advertisement for LBJ, 1964


This textbook has been written by one of the fathers of PR, marketing and mass advertisement.

In this essay, Sigmund Freud's nephew develops the applications of propaganda in various fields, something he terms right away as 'The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses' and assesses it as 'an important element in democratic society', the modern instrument by which intelligent men use subconscious motives to bypass conflict, and bring 'order out of chaos'.

Some of the means/media used by Bernays to sway the public opinion: physicians, radio shows, movies, the press, politicians, fashion, the education system, women associations, social services...

I'm going to sleep on it, then I'll wrap up my notes and embark on Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Paradise), which, I surmise, is not worlds apart from Bernays' essay... :)


Key statements:

'Now “public opinion” stood out as a force that must be managed, and not through clever guesswork but by experts trained to do that all-important job.'

[Same starting point in Gustave Le Bon's [book:Psychologie Des Foules|18782218]]

'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.'

'Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. It may seem an exaggeration to say that the American public gets most of its ideas in this wholesale fashion. The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine.'

'The public is not an amorphous mass which can be molded at will, or dictated to. Both business and the public have their own personalities which must somehow be brought into friendly agreement.'

'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. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders...'

'Men (people) are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions.'

' [...] men are very largely actuated by motives which they conceal from themselves… It is evident that the successful propagandist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons which men give for what they do.'

'Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.'

'Continuous interpretation is achieved by trying to control every approach to the public mind in such a manner that the public receives the desired impression, often without being conscious of it. High-spotting, on the other hand, vividly seizes the attention of the public and fixes it upon some detail or aspect which is typical of the entire enterprise.'

'It is not necessary for the politician to be the slave of the public's group prejudices, if he can learn how to mold the mind of the voters in conformity with his own ideas of public welfare and public service. The important thing for the statesman of our age is not so much to know how to please the public, but to know how to sway the public. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.'

'We have, therefore, the anomalous situation of the college seeking to carry on a propaganda in favor of scholarship among people who are quite out of sympathy with the aims to which they are asked to subscribe their money. Men who, by the commonly accepted standards, are failures or very moderate successes in our American world (the pedagogues) seek to convince the outstanding successes (the business men) that they should give their money to ideals which they do not pursue. Men who, through a sense of inferiority, despise money, seek to win the good will of men who love money.'

'The great political problem in our modern democracy is how to induce our leaders to lead.'

'There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.'

'If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway.'

'Undoubtedly the public is becoming aware of the methods which are being used to mold its opinions and habits. If the public is better informed about the processes of its life, it will be so much the more receptive to reasonable appeals to its own interests. No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership. If the public becomes more intelligent in its commercial demands, commercial firms will meet the new standards. If it becomes weary of the old methods used to persuade it to accept a given idea or commodity, its leaders will present their appeals more intelligently. Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.'

Edward Bernays' weak exculpatory clauses:

'It is asked whether, in fact, the leader makes propaganda, or whether propaganda makes the leader. There is a widespread impression that a good press agent can puff up a nobody into a great man. The answer is the same as that made to the old query as to whether the newspaper makes public opinion or whether public opinion makes the newspaper. There has to be fertile ground for the leader and the idea to fall on. But the leader also has to have some vital seed to sow. To use another figure, a mutual need has to exist before either can become positively effective. Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously, wants to hear.'

'The only propaganda which will ever tend to weaken itself as the world becomes more sophisticated and intelligent, is propaganda that is untrue or unsocial.'

'Truth is mighty and must prevail, and if any body of men believe that they have discovered a valuable truth, it is not merely their privilege but their duty to disseminate that truth. If they realize, as they quickly must, that this spreading of truth can be done upon a large scale and effectively only by organized effort, they will make use of the press and the platform as the best means to give it wide circulation. Propaganda becomes vicious and reprehensive only when its authors consciously and deliberately disseminate what they know to be lies, or when they aim at effects which they know to be prejudicial to the common good.'

E. Bernays involvement in the 1954 Guatemala coup backed by CIA, cementing United Fruit positions in the country:

'Torches of Freedom' Campaign for Lucky Strike & other campaigns for Marlboro orchestrated by E. Bernays

[image error]

The advent of the Almighty Bacon & Eggs Breakfast in the United States:

More on that matter:

Bacon & Eggs and Public Relations

The American Breakfast was a PR Stunt?


Other political ads & commercial stunts for the curious:

French Presidential Campaign Poster for candidate François Mittérand, Jacques Séguéla, Janvier 1981

Another advertisement for Citroën by Jacques Séguéla...

Fly-posting for LREM party, September 2020

Further reading:

Psychologie Des Foules

On the media:
La Langue des medias : Destruction du langage et fabrication du consentement
Travels in Hyperreality

On specialized authorities and their legitimate powers:
God and the State

On advertisement:

Musical suggestions:

Heinz Baked Beans - The Who

Democracy - Killing Joke

This is the New Sh*t - Marylin Manson
Profile Image for Craig Werner.
Author 12 books155 followers
October 1, 2011
There's nothing quite like this. An absolutely unapologetic argument in favor of propaganda as the key tool available to the elite who form the "invisible government" directing the course of modern society. Published in 1928, the book is an attempt to rehabilitate "propaganda" as a nece3ssary and ultimately benevolent part of a democratic society. While that attempt failed in the narrow sense--it was running an uphill battle in the wake of WW I with Hitler and Stalin just down the road--Bernays is damn near prophetic in his vision of Public Relations as the central organizing principle of every sphere of modern life: business, politics, education, art....

What's stunning is how absolutely open Bernays is about his vision. Today, those who hold to it and run with it cloak it in all kinds of evasions (an approach Bernays would certaintly understand). Almost everything I can't stand about modern American life is the result of his ideas being put into practice. It's sort of like picking up your opponent's playbook after leaving the locker room following a 73-0 loss.

I'm sticking with the one star rating--I hate everything about the vision Bernays asserts--but I'll add the footnote that anyone interested in the world we're living in should probably read it.

The introduction by Mark Crispin Miller is excellent. You can get most of what's in the book by reading it, but that would be like settling for the abstract of a Stephen King novel. The horror's in the unfolding.
Profile Image for Stefania Dzhanamova.
515 reviews296 followers
May 17, 2021
While no single person can be exclusively credited for the rise of advertising in American life, no one deserves credit more than a man most of us have never heard of: Edward Bernays – the 20th century' foremost salesman of ideas and the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Often referred to as the father of public relations, Bernays published his essential work, Propaganda, in 1928, a book both scary and eye-opening. In it he concisely and confidently preaches his philosophy of PR: "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, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. ... we are dominated by the relatively small number of per- sons ... who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world." Creepy, isn't it?
Drawing upon the insights of Uncle Sygmund, Bernays developed an approach he dubbed "the enginnering of consent." He provided leaders the means to "control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it." To do so, it is necessary to appeal not to the rational mind, but to the unconscious. Not surprisingly, Bernays acquired an impressive list of clients, ranging from General Electric and American Tobacco Company to CBS and Calvin Coolidge, and his publicity campaigns became the stuff of legend.
To overcome sales resistance to cigarette smoking among women, for instance, he promoted Lucky Strikes by convincing women that the forest green hue of the cigarette pack was among the most fashionable colors. And as he explains in Propaganda, it is not at all that hard to establish a fashion trend. You simply need to induce "Lanvin and Worth, Agnes and Patou, and others" to use forest green in their gowns and hats, and then convince "Countess This or Duchess That [or pop star This or movie star That]" to wear a forest green hat or gown. The American woman will simply be shown the forest green creations in the attelier – she will buy them because they are "in fashion", and the American magazines and fashion reporters, "likewise subjected to the actual (although created) circumstance," will relfect the new trend in their news. The result, concludes Bernays, will be a flood of demand for forest green.
In 1930s he promoted cigarettes as both soothing to the throat and slimming to the waistline, but at home he was trying to persuade his wife to quit the unhealthy habit – every time he found a pack of her cigarettes he would snap each one of them in half and flush them down the toilet. While educating the American public about the "benefits" of smoking, it seems that the father of proganda was also aware of the early studies linking cigarettes to various health problems.
With the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, Bernays's writings acquired a fervent admirer – none other than Joseph Goebbels, the best known and most quoted propagandist in history. Goebbels sought to develop Bernays's ideas to the fullest extent possible; most notably, he turned Adolph Hitler from an obscure mediocrity into the idol of millions. Thus, what Bernays's theory of PR provides is not, as he claims, the only way to organize chaos and maintain democracy, but an efficient means for shaping public opinion for any purpose whatsoever – regardless of whether it is beneficial to society or not. Its key underlying purpose is making money by convincing people they need what they actually do not need.
"Propaganda does exist on all sides of us, and it does change our mental pictures of the world," writes Bernays. "... In fact, its use is growing as its efficiency in gaining public support is recognized." In his own words, the father of propaganda explains to us that anyone with sufficient influence can lead sections of the public at least for a time and for a given purpose. Before, the kings, emperors etc. were the leaders, but nowadays those in power can no longer do what they want without the visible approval of the masses. In propaganda they find a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval. "Therefore," concludes Barneys ominously, "propaganda is here to stay."
Propaganda is a disturbing but highly important book every single one of us should become familiar with. Because – let's face the truth – most of us are not members of the exclusive group, of the invisible government Bernays writes about. We are "the masses," the manipulated ones, the ones whose choices and decisions are framed by men we have never seen or heard of.

Note: For anyone interested, Accounting for Tastes is an astonishing economic approach to a part of Bernays's ideas. It reveals how exactly our tastes are manipulated... scientifically.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books344 followers
May 4, 2022
if you don't have time to read the entire book, this essay captures the essence of it and the influence of Bernays on Joseph Goebbels....



“The rational brain is not good at being rational, but instead is good at simply rationalizing what the emotional brain has already decided to do, and this happens non-consciously.”

An expert concisely breaks down an example of the propaganda techniques of Tucker Carlson. He repeatedly quotes Putin to support his points.



Profile Image for Traveller.
223 reviews705 followers
January 16, 2015
The fact that I am struggling to come up with a rating for this book, because I feel extremely ambivalent about its contents, doesn't mean it is not a book that shouldn't be read. It's an extremely important history book for anyone interested in how society really works...
Profile Image for Eric G..
57 reviews30 followers
March 29, 2007
I give this book no stars because it is a chilling read into the virtual manifesto of who some have labeled as the "father of modern public relations." In this book, Bernays hails 'the engineering of consesnt,' as new and glorious process that has been enabled with the advent of new and technological innovation. With such tools, as Bernays argues, it will be easier and more necessary to augment the minds of the masses in order to seperate the realm of politics and social life. The 'engineering of consent,' which is seemingly a spin from Lippman's term 'the manufacture of consent,' is in Bernays eyes, a process that must be utilized by a specialized class of men in order to influence, control, and direct the minds of the common man. I speak in general terms because Bernays speaks in generalized terminology. This book is in agreement with Walter Lippman's "Public Opinion,' in that control of these processes is crucially reserved to specificed private enterprise in order to keep decision making out of the realm of the public. In this book as well as Lippman's, there is an underlying belief that "the common man," left to his own will is lost and bewildered, and must be controled and regimented in order to make 'proper' and 'correct' decisions. The one thing I do appreciate about this text is the title, at least in the early 20th century they were a bit more honest with their line of business.
Profile Image for Tyler.
175 reviews1 follower
October 3, 2021
"The invisible, intertwining structure of groupings and associations is the mechanism by which democracy has organised it's group mind and simplified its mass thinking"

"The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions"
Profile Image for Cărăşălu.
239 reviews73 followers
March 5, 2013
You'll hardly find anything new in this book. Well, the author's opinion may surprising to a certain extent. He's one of the fathers of PR (a term he used instead of propaganda, because the latter word had acquired some negative connotations after the War) and he seems steel confident that propaganda is an absolutely necessary tool in a democratic society. His honesty and apparent naiveness are what make the book worth reading. He shows how propaganda is and must be used in business, politics, education, arts and so on. It's true that at times the purposes for which he recommends propaganda are good ones, but he is too unconcerned with the risk and dangers of propaganda. He simply states that there are no guarantees against its misuse. An that's all. He, one of those who revolutioned propaganda, simply says that "yes, it may be abused and misused" and that's all. No tools for controlling it, no methods of fighting it, just a tiny, tiny code of ethics which is hardly convincing. His naivety may easily be explained by the fact that this book is itself a form of propaganda, it's propagandising propaganda and trying to make it more acceptable to the public opinion. In other words, the man is just advertising his profession. He may not fool a modern reader, but in 1928 he may have well succeeded.
Profile Image for Rakan.
126 reviews62 followers
May 11, 2013

نحن نعتقد أننا نملك حرية الإرادة المطلقة، حرية إختيار ما نريد وقتما نريد. كما أننا بارعون في تقديم أسباب منطقية لتصرفاتنا. لكن توقف قليلاً.. ماذا أكلت على مائدة الإفطار هذا الصباح؟ بالطبع لم يكن على مائدتك خروف محشي! وماذا عن طراز ثوبك، هل هو نفس الطراز الذي كنت تلبسه قبل عام من الآن؟ وما المنزل الذي تريد العيش فيه؟ وما هي سيارة أحلامك؟.. ربما تظن أنك كنت حراً في اختياراتك وأحلامك تلك، لكن ما لا تعلمه هو أنك لست سوى مستهلك أعمى ذو سلوك حتمي، يمكن توقعه والسيطرة عليه. أنت كنت، كأغلب الناس، أحد ضحايا إدوارد بيرنيز!ـ

إدوارد بيرنيز هو رائد في "فن" البروباجندا. مستعيناً بعمه سيغموند فرويد، استطاع بيرنيز تطويع وتطوير البروباجندا من أجل السيطرة على عقول العامة وتوجيهها، وليعلن بذلك بداية عصر المستهلك. ولأن مصطلح البروباجندا يحمل دلالات سلبية، قام إدوارد بإختراع مصطلح جديد وهو "العلاقات العامة". وكان هذا الإنجاز، مهما بدا لنا بسيطاً، هو أول نجاح يسجل لبيرنيز.

قبل ذلك الوقت كان التسويق قائماً علي وظيفة السلعة و حاجة الإنسان إليها. كان من المعتاد أن توصف السلعة بأنها قوية التحمل، أو طويلة العمر، أو رخيصة السعر، وهكذا. لكن بيرنيز أتى بفكرة جديدة. اكتشف بيرنيز أن هناك غرائز ودوافع خفية تتحكم في سلوك الإنسان، وأن هذه الدوافع الخفية يمكن استخدامها من أجل التسويق لسلعة ما، وذلك عن طريق إشباعها. ليس بالضرورة أن يكون المرء محتاجاً لسلعة ما لكي يشتريها، بل يجب أن يشعر المستهلك بأن حياته ناقصة دونها. وهذه المادة الإعلانية خير مثال، الإعلان لا يتحدث عن ميزات هذا النوع من البنطلونات، بل يحاول، قدر الإمكان، ربط هذه الماركة بالرغبات الإنسانية الدفينة (كالجنس، وحب الشهرة والتملك والمرتبة العالية) وكأن الماركة هي المسؤولة عن هذا كله.

يرى بيرنيز كذلك أن الناس أغبياء بطبعهم وغير منطقيين، وبالتالي لا يُؤتمنون على اتخاذ القرارات المهمة التي تخصهم وتخص دولتهم. لذلك يرى إدوارد أن البروباجندا هي الوسيلة الوحيدة لكي يستطيع الصفوة من المتنورة السيطرة على الغالبية الغوغاء. وهذا ما حصل فعلاً، فأعمال بيرنيز كانت مصدر إلهام لجوزيف غوبلز، وزير الدعاية السياسية والبروباجندا في عهد هتلر. ولا نستطيع أن ننسى جمهورية الموز أيضاً!ـ

هذا الكتاب عبارة عن كتيب إرشادي يقدمه بيرنيز لكيفية إستخدام البروباجندا في توجيه الشعوب. يعتقد بيرنيز أن البروباجندا يمكن استخدامها لأغراض سلمية وإيجابية، كوسيلة لإعلاء صوت الأقليات والمقهورين، أو لنشر قيم مجتمعية معينة كالعدل وتقبل الآخر، لكن ربما هذه وسيلة أخرى من وسائله لتسويق سلعته هذه المتمثلة في هذا الكتاب. قد أختلف كثيراً مع الكاتب في أكثر من نقطة، لكنه كتاب يستحق القراءة بالفعل.

هذا الفيلم الوثائقي مكون من 4 أجزاء، ويتحدث عن إدوارد بيرنيز وعن صراع البروباجندا وإرهاصاته.
The Century Of The Self - BBC

Profile Image for howl of minerva.
81 reviews394 followers
February 25, 2016
"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, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. [...] They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure."


"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. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.

"Fortunately, the sincere and gifted politician is able, by the instrument of propaganda, to mold and form the will of the people."
Profile Image for Roberta Parry.
10 reviews5 followers
October 12, 2016
This book was originally published in 1928, with a new edition in 2005 with an added introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at NYU, known for his writing on American media and his activism on behalf of democratic media reform. It's quite possibly the best part of this book, which gives the basic tenants of the positive and negative aspects of propaganda since its first use in World War I. These basic tenants boil down to the disturbing but not unknown means by which "public relations" experts shape and manipulate public opinion in the interests of government and corporations. Author Edward Bernays pioneered the "scientific" technique (my quotes) of what he called the engineering of consent, and what the back-cover blurb terms his "prescient vision for regimenting the collective mind." It's a slim book, 168 pages in paperback. The major points are made, and remade, in the first 95 pages. The remaining 73 pages can be rapidly skimmed. But those first 95 pages are essential reading for all of us who, as the publisher states, "wish to understand how power is used by the ruling elite of our society." Especially at this time in our country's history when greed is ruling our economy and craziness is threatening to take over our government.
Profile Image for Billie Pritchett.
1,069 reviews84 followers
June 29, 2016
Edward Bernays' book Propaganda is about public relations (PR). Bernays invented PR, but in this book it is called by a more honest name: 'propaganda'. In the old days, propaganda just meant what modern-day PR means: advocating on behalf of an organization (or government or business) and explaining and justifying the institution to the public.

Here are some choice quotes from Bernays' book:
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...

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...

Business realize that its relationship to the public is not confined to the manufacture and sale of a given product, but includes at the same time the selling of itself and of all those things for which it stands in the public mind...

The public relations counsel should anticipate such trends of public opinion and advise on how to avert them, either by convincing the public that its fears or prejudices are unjustified, or in certain cases by modifying the action of the client to the extent necessary to remove the cause of complaint. In such a case public opinion might be surveyed and the points of irreducible opposition discovered...

Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion...

Present-day politics places emphasis on personality. An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality. A charming candidate is the alchemist's secret that can transmute a prosaic platform into the gold of votes.
This work was published in 1928.

If you're not interested in reading the book, there is a great podcast from the guys at Stuff You Should Know, in an episode called "How Public Relations Works."
Profile Image for Michelle Curie.
716 reviews349 followers
November 19, 2017
"Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realise that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos."

Propaganda is a loaded term. And not many associations we have with it today are positive - it makes us think of politicians trying to get your vote, companies trying to get your purchase. But in Propaganda, Edward L. Bernays examines the origins and functions of a concept that he sees as the fundamental part of basically any society there is. It's an examination of how propaganda shapes public opinions and how it influences politics, business, art and science.

It's worth mentioning that Edward L. Bernays himself is a rather interesting figure as well. The nephew of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is today known as the Father of Public Relations and is the reason why we consider bacon today an All-American Breakfast or why it became acceptable (or even fashionable) for women to smoke in public.

Propaganda fits rather nicely into his background. He argues that every democracy works on basis of common agreement to let an invisible government narrow choices down for us when it comes to making decisions of what to consume, invest in or even approve of.

"We accept a standardised code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time."

A lot of it might seem like common knowledge today, but it's astonishing when you think about the fact that this has been written in 1928 - almost a century ago! And still it is relevant, when we look at how social media influences what teenagers consider beautiful, when we think of how runway trends shape the latest fashion trends or even how adverts convince us of the superiority of a product.

It's a short, but fascinating and somehow even scary read. We are being lured into having opinions and even being aware of it doesn't necessarily "free" you from the influences that others have on you. Food for thought.
Profile Image for Kirk.
Author 38 books216 followers
December 26, 2007
Bernays is popularly known (sometimes in competition with Ivy Lee) as the "father of public relations," and PROPAGANDA is a large part of why. It's a wholly enthusiastic and spirited call for business leaders and politicians of the 1920s to shape the mind (singular, not plural) of the masses. I suspect that it's the sheer shameslessness of Bernays's attitude toward his subject that is the reason contemporary critics like Mark Crispin Miller, Neil Postman, and Stewart Ewen keep discussing him. (Not to mention that he was Sigmund Freud's nephew and only died in 95 at 104!). The first sentence says it all: "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society." Just how we reconcile 'manipulation' with 'democracy' isn't something Bernays is particularly worried about---for him, business leaders are exemplums of Social Darwinism who have risen to the top because they're best suited to save society from the messiness of mob mentality. Bernays was personally something of a comic figure---a Groucho-esque character---which is why much of the vituperation leveled at his Rovian heirs escapes him. Still, PROPAGANDA is a pretty chilling reminder that some people genuinely do believe that consent MUST be engineered for America and democracy to exist. Strangely enough, those folks often nominate themselves to be the engineers. Best read with a dollop of Walter Lippmann as an antidote.

PS. Miller's intro to the 05 edition offers an excellent history of the word 'propaganda.' Especially interesting is how the pejorative connotations of it didn't become its dominant meaning until the post-WWI era.
13 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2012
I didn`t believe Propiganda was real till I read this easy to read Book on Controling human beings minds Withouth their Knowledge. This book is the most powerful book on mind control of the masses ever allowed to be seen by the public. It is a tool all governments and Cororations aspire to. It is all about Controling others without their knowledge. The writer I feel was a sociopathic if not psychopathic manipulator, people like this writer are why we are killing off one another...yep another great book written by a souless Socipoathic (or) Psychopathic Head Case...Amazing info though, thanks for sharing your work with the masses in what your Corporate, Government and all other Human Manipulating Machines out there do best...Manipulate to their own Psychopathic ends :) See you in Hell Bernays ;) I give you 5 stars because you let me know Propiganda is Alive and Well...thing is in order for it to work, I have to Not be aware of it...you made me aware and for this you get 5 Stars...Again I say See you in Hell Bernays ;) !
Profile Image for Margarita Garova.
418 reviews162 followers
May 24, 2022
“Пропагандата никога няма да умре.”

Исторически, демократизирането на знанието е овластявало все повече обикновени хора за сметка на предишните авторитети – кралски или религиозни, като е превърнало масите хора в носители на обществено мнение, с което всеки, който иска да прокара определени политики (разбирани в най-широк смисъл) непременно трябва да се съобрази.

Днешното разбиране за пропагандата има негативен оттенък, но нейната етимология (от латинското propagare – “разпространявам) внушава по-скоро неутралност. Тя не е нищо повече от целенасочено и последователно разпространяване на определени идеи с цел мобилизиране на обществена реакция. Като такава може да е инструмент за постигане на значими социални каузи (избирателни права за жените, изкореняване на полиомиелита), за чисто политически цели (привличането на обществена подкрепа за включване на САЩ в Първата световна война) и разбира се, в търговията (популяризирането на дадена стока или услуга, чрез създаване на потребност от нея). Пропагандата, както показва и съвременният опит, може да бъде социална злина, ако се използва за съзнателно разпространение на лъжи, ако дезинформира, оклеветява и изкривява реалността.

Даваме ли си сметка за това доколко нашите потребителски и ценностни избори са повлияни от добре таргетирани пропагандни послания? Колко от нас например са си купили парфюма на Chanel Mademoiselle Coco, само защото им е допаднал как ухае? И не сме ли го пожелали не само заради непосредственото му предназначение, но и заради това, че е много повече от материалния си носител – благоухание в красиво шишенце. Легендата, която стои зад бранда и придружаващата я емоционална натовареност, стилната реклама с Кийра Найтли, социалният престиж, идеята за “френското” – всичко това са инструменти на пропагандата. Без значение е това дали си даваме сметка, че сме облъчени. Желанието за малко красота винаги ще е налице, следователно винаги ще има кой да ни продаде тази идея за красота. Парфюмът се продава успешно, именно защото е повече от парфюм.

“Пропагандата” е базова книга, но не в смисъл на елементарна. Тя просто казва как и откъде започва всичко, а то започва от племенника на Фройд – Едуард Бернайс. Оправдавайки напълно роднинския ген, Бернайс е изучил добре психологическите механизми за обработка на обществеността, които прилага през Първата световна война. Сигурно е минавала и за цинична навремето, сега просто констатира реалности, които всички приемаме по силата на негласно споразумение. Разбира се, инструментите са доста видеоизменени – Бернайс би поклатил (доволно?) глава, ако можеше да види влиянието на днешните социални мрежи и ходещите реклами, наречени инфлуенсъри.

Публиката също е различна. Като електорат - по-безкритична, внушаема и объркана спрямо политически и политизирани послания, заради по-големия обем информация и илюзията за образованост. Но и по-взискателна в качеството си на потребител, който настоява за зелени практики, справедливо заплащане във фабриките и корпоративна отговорност и прозрачност.

Трите звезди са заради многобройните примери в книгата, които вече са разбираемо остарели, предвид годината на издаване - 1928 г. Но механизмите не са.

Profile Image for Griffin Wilson.
129 reviews30 followers
July 15, 2019
A famous work, wherein Mr. Bernays paints a very rosy picture of propaganda as the way by which benevolent politicians, businessmen, artists, and educators facilitate the opinions of the masses for the good of all.

I personally have learned more about this topic from assorted case studies and other thinkers (notably Le Bon, Nietzsche, etc.), and found this work to be somewhat of a disappointment that did not match the expectations that many others have thrust upon it. However, still worth reading.
22 reviews3 followers
January 7, 2013
In a modern mass democracy, the elite cannot force the serfs to accept unpopular or unproven ideas. Therefore, the elite has the problem of governing the rabble in a mass democracy.

So, the elite promotes and shapes information to influence the desires of the masses - thereby garnering the consent of the governed. The masses may even believe themselves to be the source of societal, economic or political change.

I think the takeaway for you is to consider the role of information in a society and what marketing may be called upon to do from time to time.

Edward Bernays (a nephew of Sigmund Freud no less!) wrote the book. This was one of the first books to articulate this concept (1928).
Profile Image for Maria.
229 reviews41 followers
August 3, 2020
Начални елементарни познания за връзките с обществеността, които днес са ясни и на децата. Бил ли е светът някога толкова обикновен и наивен? Трудно ми е да си го представя, но почти стоте години, които ни делят от написването на тази книга са си сериозно време за упражняване, развиване, усъвършенстване и опорочаване на дейността "пропаганда". Така и не е постигната целта на Бернайс за изчистване на имиджа на понятието.
Profile Image for Kevin K.
139 reviews27 followers
April 4, 2017
Bernays came to my attention through Adam Curtis' fascinating documentary The Century of the Self. I wanted to learn more, so I picked up this book. Mostly, these are quaint reflections on the rise of public relations in American commerce in the post-WWI period. Mixed in, however, are some disturbing truths on the power of propaganda to control the masses.
"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."
As modern humans, we like to think our status/dignity derives from the ability to make choices — to find oneself, or shape one's own destiny and identity. But I have to admit: I'm haunted by the view of Nietzsche, who said the "dignity of man" is "slavery hiding from itself."

Bernays talks about old-fashioned, turn-of-the-century advertising: "YOU (perhaps with a finger pointing at the reader) buy O'Leary's rubber heels — NOW." The idea was to break down sales resistance through hectoring and emphasis. Bernays' new propaganda, on the other hand, sets up "psychological and emotional currents" which move the customer to buy while thinking it's "his own idea."

It's deep and sinister stuff, informed by Freud (who was Bernays' uncle) and the unconscious mind. It recognizes that "men are very largely actuated by motives which they conceal from themselves."

A great illustration (not touched on in this book) is Bernays' "Torches of Freedom" campaign to encourage women to smoke cigarettes. In 1929 he paid women to march in the Easter Sunday parade flaunting their cigarette smoking as a symbol of women's liberation. The campaign was very effective, with revivals over many decades like "You've come a long way, baby."

But step back, and refocus. Women are being manipulated into lives of slavery to tobacco by invisible wirepullers (as Bernays call people like himself). Yet at the same time, they are convinced they are making this choice entirely of their own accord. Expressing their self, and their freedom, and their identity. As Orwell put it: "Freedom is Slavery." One can't help but wonder: Is the modern "self" entirely a manufactured product? Once you see it, you see it everywhere. It's like the signature idea of the world in the 21st century.
Profile Image for Vagabond of Letters, DLitt.
594 reviews261 followers
December 27, 2019

This book is propaganda for propaganda - metapropaganda - but didn't teach me how to detect, disseminate, or analyze propaganda. Bernays uses propaganda in the old, value-neutral sense of propagating an idea. Put this through the media using mass psychology and you have his 'New Propaganda' - public relations.
Profile Image for Pieter.
387 reviews53 followers
May 20, 2021
Propaganda has a negative connotation, but for no reason according to Bernays. It is just to propagate a particular doctrine using a consistent, enduring effort to create events to gain public support for a specific idea, enterprise or group. It was first used during WW I referring to Huns and German barbarism to discredit the enemy in Berlin. After the war, it was applied for business purposes too, in corporate ads.

The author cites Gustave Le Bon's "Psychologie des foules" that studies herding and mass psychology. Since the Industrial Revolution and universal suffrage, political and economical control was more equally spread. Propaganda helped for the "happy few" to regain its control. Public behaviour was studied more scientifically to serve the client wanting to make us of propaganda. Traditionally in economy, demand triggered supply. E.g.: a city needed bread, so a bakery shop was established. But since mass production, supply drives demand. Marketeers and sales teams needed to create new markets to sell to. But it would be to straightforward just to advertise the buyer's interest ("buy product X!"). Better is to use influencers that are respected for their taste or opinion. In the field of art, art critics play this role. For scientific inventions, professors or doctors can put their reputation on the line to market the new products via the media. Do not emphasize on the usefulness of a product or service, but relate it to a certain desire or symbol. E.g.: cars are not sold because they bring you from point A to point B, but because they may impress your wife, symbolize success in life or consolidate your social position.

Given the large budgets corporates spend on PR, lobbying and marketing it is fair to say that Bernays was visionary with the role of propaganda in our day-to-day life. He even mentions the principle of corporate social responsibility (CSR), a hot topic in which a company and its directors should take responsibility for its customers and society. He's also right that business overtook politics in terms of propaganda although the latter was first to implement its ideas. Politics has the benefit towards the media that the latter is constantly in need for news. As politics is about creating circumstances, high spotting significant events and dramatising important issues, there is natural match. It goes without saying that political leaders are eager to use the media to mold the public opinion as far as they can stretch it. The interaction between media and politics has even increased during the Trump era. It is unprecedented that social media filter/ censor US president messages or live meetings of his press secretary are interrupted. It would be wrong to think that propaganda can fool all the people all the time. Impact is a matter of thorough organisation and should be enduring. Nevertheless, its impact works in diverse and sometimes mysterious ways. One of the current pillars of US hegemony is related to the Hollywood industry that for decades helped to carry its ideas and opinions.

Although the book is quite concise and not up-to-date (latest version dates back from 1955), it has opened a whole industry of marketeers, advertisers, lobbyists and PR people. Look at an ad, hear a politician's speech or any other news and remind yourself that all is intended to impact your ideas, opinions and way of living.
Profile Image for Cav.
638 reviews82 followers
April 4, 2020
This was a great short read. Author Edward Bernays is often regarded as the father of propaganda. He felt that propaganda was a laudable and necessary component of democratic government.
The book begins with a great introduction by Mark Crispin Miller. Miller talks a bit about Bernays; he was almost single handedly responsible for the relatively new trend of women smoking, a topic which is covered in more detail in Adam Curtis's documentary "The Century of the Self". He was also almost solely responsible for the addition of a "music room" inside houses:
"Bernays sold Mozart pianos, for example, not just by hyping the pianos. Rather, he sought carefully “to develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home”—selling the pianos indirectly, through various suggestive trends and enterprises that make it de rigeur to have the proper space for a piano.
The music room will be accepted because it has been made the thing. And the man or woman who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of the parlor as a musical corner, will naturally think of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own idea."

The book continues on, describing the varied applications of propaganda; in everything from dissemination of government narratives, to guiding consumer choices and trends.
"Propaganda" is very well-written, and I found it extremely interesting material.
I'll include just one more quote, which was very insightful for its time (circa 1928). Keep an eye open next time you watch a movie. They are full of social propaganda:
"The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions.
The motion picture can standardize the ideas and habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize and even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather than stimulate new ideas and opinions.
The motion picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which are in vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey news, it seeks to purvey entertainment."

I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in psychology, and the mechanisms that make propaganda an effective tool.
5 stars.
Profile Image for Brahm.
460 reviews50 followers
August 10, 2020
Written in 1928, it didn't stand the test of time, in my opinion.

The book is a basic primer on advertising, campaigning, and public relations for a 1920s audience, including a lot of about the ethics of public relations. It's informing that audience about the basics of advertising and manipulation of public opinion so they can (in modern terms) be woke to its effects. Despite the aggressive red-text and fist-punching modern cover, it's more about toothpaste than fascism; the modern equivalent would be Terry O'Reilly's Age of Persuasion CBC Radio show/podcast.

The problem is that Bernays (an ad-man, public relations guy, political consultant - see Wikipedia) is trying to resurrect and protect and promote the term "propaganda" as positive in 1928, when the word had already acquired a negative meaning starting around 1917, 1918 during WWI.

This argument for "propaganda" to lose its negative connotation and be re-embraced strikes me as so fantastically tone-deaf for someone in public relations. One the one hand, it's true the term used to be neutral. On the other hand, there are plenty of once-neutral words and symbols that have fallen out of public favour.

Perhaps the main benefit to Bernays' argument is getting audiences to think critically about what is truly "propaganda" in the negative or positive sense, and creating that connection in how similar persuasive techniques are used whether you're selling toothpaste or selling an ideology. But this book is definitely not a primer on early-20th century political propaganda, as I assumed from the cover.

Found & listened to as an audiobook solely because it was narrated by the great Grover Gardner. Well-narrated and thankfully short!
Profile Image for Will Robinson Jr..
840 reviews16 followers
May 13, 2019
A well documented look into the history of propaganda and its application in society. It is very riveting read that raises so many questions about the forces what we think, eat, and wear today. The process of how propaganda influences public opinion was clearly explain well by Bernays. I was a bit surprise to find out propaganda's benign origins. Which just shows that all good ideas start off harmless enough but ultimately it is our dark nature that corrupts them. I really enjoyed the book. I think it is definitely worth the read.
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