Paul Bieleski from Nelson sent this in as a comment on the last post … I found it interesting. – P
The “Congregation for Propagating the Faith” founded by the Catholic Church in 1622 is where our use of the word propaganda has come from. Its activity was aimed at “propagating” the Catholic faith in non-Catholic countries. From the 1790s, the term began being used also for propaganda in secular activities. The term began taking a pejorative connotation in the mid-19th century, when it was used in the political sphere. This is also shown in a 1961 dictionary where it had “Organised method and system of propagating or disseminating principles and doctrines.” but a more recent 1998 dictionary had “The organised spreading of doctrine, true or false information, opinions etc.”.
Edward Louis Bernays (1891 – 1995) is the author of a book “Propaganda.” published in 1928. He was an Austrian-American who was a nephew of Sigmund Freud. He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle. He saw that the use of the word Propaganda had acquired some negative connotations so invented the words Public Relations as an alternative. He is referred to in his obituary as “the father of public relations”.
Gustave Le Bon (1841 – 1931) was a French social psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, inventor, and amateur physicist. He is best known for his 1895 work “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind”. His writings incorporate theories of national traits, racial superiority, herd behaviour and particularly crowd psychology.
Bernays, working for the administration of Woodrow Wilson during World War I with the Committee on Public Information, was influential in promoting the idea that America’s war efforts were primarily aimed at “bringing democracy to all of Europe”. Following the war, he was invited by Woodrow Wilson to attend the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. This thinking was heavily shared and influenced by Walter Lippmann, one of the most prominent American political columnists at the time. Bernays and Lippmann sat together on the U.S. Committee on Public Information, and Bernays quotes Lippmann extensively in his seminal work “Propaganda”. In 1919, he opened an office as Public Relations Counsellor in New York. He held the first Public Relations course at New York University in 1923, publishing the first groundbreaking book on public relations entitled Crystallizing Public Opinion that same year.
The mantra of promoting democracy is the mainstay of US propaganda and is still in use.
Bernays refined and popularized the use of the press release. He proved his ability in the manipulation of public opinion with his first exercise for the tobacco industry. He arranged for the staging of the 1929 Easter parade in New York City, to show models which he organised holding lit Lucky Strike cigarettes, or “Torches of Freedom”. After the historic public event, women started lighting up more than ever before. It was through him that women’s smoking habits started to become socially acceptable. Bernays created this event as news, which it was not. Bernays convinced industries that the news, not advertising, was the best medium to carry their message to an unsuspecting public. Now TV is saturated with “infomercials”.
One of Bernays’s favourite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead his clients’ causes. “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway.” he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat heavy breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as an ideal heavy breakfast and superior for health to the then traditional breakfast of tea (or coffee) and toast.
Hitler and Goebbels read avidly Bernays and applied his doctrine very successfully. Goebbels was using Bernays’ book “Crystallizing Public Opinion” as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked the journalist who reported this. Obviously the attack on the Jews of Germany was no emotional outburst of the Nazis, but a deliberate, planned campaign. Adolf Hitler is said to be source of the quote “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
Bernays’s most extreme political propaganda activities were said to be conducted on behalf of the multinational corporation United Fruit Company (today’s Chiquita Brands International) and the U.S. government to facilitate the successful overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. Bernays’s propaganda (documented in the BBC documentary, “The Century of the Self”), branding Arbenz as communist, was published in major U.S. media. According to a book review by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of Larry Tye’s biography of Bernays, “The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & The Birth of PR”, “The term ‘banana republic’ actually originated in reference to United Fruit’s domination of corrupt governments in Guatemala and other Central American countries.” There was not even an embassy for the USSR in Guatemala but the fear of Russia and the “reds” became a well orchestrated PR campaign and swallowed completely by the Am
erican public and continues today.
Operation Mockingbird was a secret campaign by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to influence media. Begun in the 1950s, it was initially organized by Cord Meyer and Allen W. Dulles, it was later led by Frank Wisner after Dulles became the head of the CIA. The organization recruited leading American journalists into a network to help present the CIA’s views, and funded some student and cultural organizations, and magazines as fronts. As it developed, it also worked to influence foreign media and political campaigns, in addition to activities by other operating units of the CIA.
If one is awake, it must be apparent that there has been a persistent campaign to get people to believe, first that Iraq was making an atomic bomb. Remember the face of Colin Powell with all the sincerity he could muster, that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” An attack based on this lies has not found any trace of such weapons in Iraq while reeking much destruction and deaths of Iraqis.
Ever since last century (1992), Israel has been “warning” us that Iran has been making an atomic bomb. If you make a carful study of the statements made you can see that we have been given a shortening time to when their bomb would be ready. And this is from a country that has 180 atomic bombs (standard deviation of this estimate: 50 bombs) and started with stolen uranium (google search PLUMBAT). Israel is not accommodating to end the atomic weapons in the hands of psychopaths.
The statements made by a girl, Nayirah before a Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 hearing that she had seen Kuwait babies in incubators being thrown out. She said “I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital with twelve other women who wanted to help as well. I was the youngest volunteer. The other women were from twenty to thirty years old. While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor.[crying] It was horrifying.”
In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah’s last name was al-Sabah. and that she was the daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. It was revealed that her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Following this, al-Sabah’s testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern wartime propaganda. The girl was coached by the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton. Hill & Knowlton is estimated to have been given as much as $12 million by the Kuwaitis for their public relations campaign.
There is an underground media which presents a different view of political activity. Some of these people working in this environment do magnificent investigative work counteracting the spin provided by the mainstream media. The universal use of filming devices, cameras and cell phone have provided proof of alternative news. Thorough work has often exposed doctored photos. But one of the amazing exposures from such detailed work is the film seen over the internet of the Prime Minister of Australia giving a speech (on March the 18th 2003) giving a speech on the weapons of mass destruction etc. in Iraq and simultaneously showing the exactly the same speech being given by the Prime Minister of Canada (on March 20th 2003) to their respective houses of Parliament. It must have taken much detailed work to uncover this “coincidence”. We are left to wonder where this PR spin has come from.
For internet users:
A recent and more egregious example of the way the public is “spun” comes from the once respected BBC and their journalist Ian Pannel. In August 2013 a news item was played coming from the war in Syria. A doctor was interviewed while working on some victims. She says it was “some form of napalm”. In September 2013 the BBC broadcast the same clip, but the reference to napalm had been changed to “chemical weapons”. We must be grateful that there was an observant person who spotted it. The BBC has yet to explain who and how the clip was doctored.
The term ‘public relations’ is morphing into ‘corporate communications’.
— previously published in the Nelson Institute Review.