“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.” These words were originally published in 1928 by Edward L. Bernays in the Book “Propaganda”. He further specifies that “We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.” It is not commonly recognized how necessary these invisible “governors” are to the orderly functioning of the group life of humanity. We have come accustomed to the structures that have formed around us. We are guided at each step. Yet, what is the use of governors, if the masses are capable of governing themselves efficiently? In theory, each citizen may vote for whomever they wish. “Our Constitution does not envisage political parties as part of the mechanism of government, and its framers seem not to have pictured to themselves the existence in our national politics of anything like the modern political machine.”
Within a world that has come to be owned by less a dozen, it has become a primary motivator to rigidly separate the upper classes further from the lower classes. However, as the civilisations have become more complex, the requirement for an invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented. The modern means of communication provide the means of receiving nearly instantaneous replies and conduct effective discussions that opened up a new realm of political progresses. In regards to the vast probabilities of modern inventions, H.G. Wells once stated in the New York Times that “Ideas and phrases can now be given an effectiveness greater than the effectiveness of any personality and stronger than any sectional interest. The common design can be documented and sustained against perversion and betrayal. It can be elaborated and developed steadily and widely without personal, local and sectional misunderstanding.”
Nevertheless, the invisible, intertwining structure of groupings and associations forms the mechanism by which democracy has organised its group consciousness, as it may, and simplified its mass thinking. Bernays holds the viewpoint that “To deplore the existence of such a mechanism is to ask for a society such as never was and never will be. To admit that it east’s, but expect that it shall not be used, is unreasonable.”
The common definition of the term “Propaganda”, although the word originally confined itself to the German language, represents the systematic propagation of a doctrine, belief, cause or information reflecting the viewpoints and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause. Truth be told, there exists no word within the English language that has been so deeply distorted, according to Bernays. The change in definition of the term occurred during the First World War. If the concept was not the cause for it… Nonetheless, it is stated within the Stanford Dictionary that the word was previously applied to a congregation or society of cardinals for the care and oversight of foreign missions which was instituted at Rome in the year 1627. It was applied also to the College of the Propaganda at Rome that was founded by Pope Urban VIII, for the education of the missionary priests. Hence, in the years to come the term came to be applied to any institution or scheme for propagating a doctrine or system.
“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 the 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.”
However, modern propaganda consists of nothing less than the enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group. This practice of creating circumstances and of creating pictures in the minds of millions of persons is very common. In essence, it is rather similar to the conception of constructing a problem in order to then provide the solution. “Virtually no important undertaking is now carried on without it, whether that enterprise be building a cathedral, endowing a university, marketing a moving picture, floating a large bond issue, or electing a president.” At times, the effect upon the public is created by a professional propagandist or by an amateur deputed for the job. The significant factor is that it is universal and continuous. And in its total sum, it is regimenting the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers. Propaganda does exist on all sides of us, and it does change our mental pictures of the world.
Within decades, numerous large corporations were employing public relations counsels under one title or another, for they had come to recognize that they depended upon public opinion for their continued financial existence. It was no longer true that it was “none of the public’s business” how the affairs of a corporation were managed. They were obliged to convince the public that they were conforming to its demands as to honesty and fairness. Thus a corporation might discover that its labour policy was causing public resentment, and might introduce a more enlightened policy solely for the sake of displaying general good will. Although the ideal of the profession is a pragmatic one. It is to influence the producer, whether that producer be a legislature making laws or a manufacturer making a commercial product comprehend what the public wishes and to influence the public into understanding the objectives of the producer.
Psychology Of The Masses
The systematic study of mass psychology revealed the potentialities of invisible governments of society by manipulation of the motives which actuate the individual 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 studies of the group mind, and conclusively established that the group has mental characteristics distinct from those of the individual. It is motivated by impulses and emotions which cannot be explained on the basis of what the professionals at the time knew of individual psychology. One may arrive at the inference that if one understood the mechanism and motives of the group mind in their entirety, would it not be possible to control and regiment the masses according to the will of another without their awareness of it?
The practice of social manipulation has shown its capabilities around the year of 1928 up to a certain point, however within certain limitations. Trotter and Le Bon concluded that the group mind does not confine itself within a strictly logical spectrum of the phenomenal world. In place of thoughts, it has impulses, habits and emotions. In making up its mind its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles of mass psychology. “It operates in establishing the rising or diminishing prestige of a summer resort, in causing a run on a bank, or a panic on the stock exchange, in creating a best seller, or a box-office success.” Yet, in instances, when the example of the leader is not present and the herd is forced to think for itself, it seems to do so by the means of clichés, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences. Countless years ago, it was only necessary to tag a political candidate with the word “interests” to stampede millions of individuals into voting against him, as anything associated with “the interests” seemed necessarily corrupt any of the candidate’s efforts. Furthermore, the general principle that men are very largely actuated by motives, which they conceal from themselves, is as true of mass as of individual psychology. 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. It is not sufficient to understand only the mechanical structure of society, the groupings and cleavages and loyalties. An engineer may know all about the cylinders and pistons of a locomotive, but unless he knows how steam behaves under pressure he cannot make his engine run. 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.
In applied and commercial art, propaganda creates greater opportunities for those involved than in other areas of society. This arises from the fact that mass production reaches an impasse when it competes on a price basis only. It must, therefore, in a large number of fields create a field of competition based on esthetic values. Business of many types capitalizes the esthetic sense to increase markets and profits. Propaganda nowadays plays an essential part in pointing toward that which is considered beautiful and that which is not. Additionally, business can definitely help in this manner to raise the level of American culture. In this process propaganda will naturally make use of the authority of group leaders whose taste and opinion are recognized. “The public must be interested by means of associational values and dramatic incidents.”
As in art, so in science, both pure and applied. Pure science was once guarded and fostered by learned societies and scientific associations. At present, pure science has found support and encouragement also in industry. Numerous of the laboratories, in which abstract research is being pursued are connected with large corporations that is quite willing to devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to scientific study, for the sake of one golden invention or discovery, which may emerge from it. Large business gains heavily when the invention emerges. Yet, at that very moment it assumes the responsibility of placing the new invention at the service of the public. It assumes also the responsibility of interpreting its meaning to the public. Officially, propagation heads towards a direction of public openness and progress. However, if the public relations counsel can breathe life into an idea and influence it to take its place among other ideas and events, it will receive the public attention that it merits. There can be no question of “contaminating news at its source.” Often the events which are constructed may be specially acceptable to a newspaper’s public and may be created with that public in mind. Undoubtedly the public is becoming aware of the methods, which are applied to mould its viewpoints, conformity and habits. If the public is better informed about the processes of its own 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. Yet, as the public evolves, as does the propaganda. If the public becomes more intelligent and mindful 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 support in providing order out of chaos.
Propaganda by Edward L. Bernays