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Book Review: Propaganda, by Edward Bernays

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

By: A. W. Finnegan #BookReviews #Propaganda #EdwardBernays

Propaganda: Enemy of the Great Work
Propaganda Cover

Edward Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and a major proponent of shaping, swaying, and engineering public opinion through the use of propaganda. He was the pioneer who set the foundation of psychological warfare in the American system. This book reminds me a lot of Michael A. Aquino's book, MindWar, which happened to be the book review I did before this one. It is interesting, at times even amusing to me, listening to these people attempting to justify the most detestable beliefs and methodologies of making the world 'a better place.' I do believe Bernays wholeheartedly believed himself to be doing what he thought was the solution to all the world's problems, through the lens of his worldview, what was best for common man and the power system, because he believed the common man was too dumb to know what was best for himself, so we needed people like him to think for us. Bernays justified everything to follow, accordingly.

It is rather eye-opening to read the words of people like this, because you get a first-person glimpse of the way their mind works and how they see the world, and they see the world as though they are so much more important than everyone else. They believe they are the priest class, literally. This book had a similar feel to it as the book written by Jonas Salk in my other book review, the Survival of the Wisest, in which he attempted to say in very modest words, that much of the planet needs to be, more or less, exterminated or sterilized, and new forms of morality are to follow to effectively carry his vision out. The arrogance and self-aggrandizement in both Salk's and Bernay's books are very much alike in that sense.

That being said, lets break down the book itself, without my opinion, just going over the content itself, as we did with my book review on Michael A. Aquino's MindWar, as I think it is best to give a review through the separation of these two aspects, that is, the actual content and my separate opinion. So here is a brief summary of the book's content, in chronological order:

Chapter 01: Organizing Chaos

Bernays states that the world's order and organization rests upon the responsibility of a small few, which he terms the invisible government, who work behind the scenes to study and understand the science of public opinion, from the individual level to what he terms the Group Mind. He mentions an invisible government using propaganda to direct the society and necessary to keep the mechanics of world affairs and society running smooth:

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 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.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

He states that the complexities in motion in this growing world are too voluminous and intricate for the average person to effectively understand, to the extent that if there were not this small few who worked to maintain it, everything would be too confusing and overwhelming for the masses to process for themselves. The chaos he perceives to result from this, should be and is maintained by these elect few who pull the strings behind the scenes and make sure we get what is best for us and able to make informed choices based on what they decide.

He mentions in this first chapter that politics is more or less controlled and the candidates decided by this invisible government:

It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible governors are to the orderly functioning of our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. 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. But the American voters soon found that without organization and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens or hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion. Invisible government, in the shape of rudimentary political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four.

In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.

Chapter 02: The New Propaganda

As he noted in the previous chapter, propaganda is the figurative oil that keeps the world maintained and running smoothly. He then begins to describe the word propaganda, its meaning and the way it has been understood, both favorably and unfavorably, throughout history. Some quotes spell out the overall feel of this chapter:

"...Whatever of social importance is done today, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture, charity, education, or other fields, must be done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government."

He notes its negative connotation:

"I am aware that the word Propaganda carries to many minds an unpleasant connotation. Yet whether, in any instance, propaganda is good or bad depends upon the merit of the cause urged, and the correctness of the information published.

In itself, the word propaganda has certain technical meanings which, like most things in this world, are 'neither good nor bad but customs make them so.' I find the word defined in Funk and Wagnall's Dictionary in four ways:

  1. A society of cardinals, the overseers of foreign missions; also the College of Propaganda at Rome founded by Pope Urban VIII in 1627 for education of missionary priests; Sacred College de Propaganda Fide.

  2. Hence, any institution or scheme for propagating a doctrine or system.

  3. Effort directed systematically toward the gaining of public support for an opinion or a course of action.

  4. The principles advanced by a propaganda."

The next quote of this chapter was a quotation from a Scientific American article, which he quoted to convey the more favorable view of the word propaganda:

"'Propaganda in its proper meaning is a perfectly wholesome word, of honest parentage, and with an honorable history. The fact that it should today be carrying a sinister meaning merely shows how much of the child remains in the average adult. A group of citizens writes and talks in favor of a certain course of action in some debatable question, believing that it is promoting the best interest of the community. Propaganda? Not a bit of it. just a plain forceful, statement of truth. But let another group of citizens express opposing views, and they are promptly labeled with the sinister name of propaganda..."

Bernays goes on to describe at length why propaganda is needed for the world, and applied to all the world's problems, that all angles of the society should be under the vision of applied propaganda, even world peace:

"...It was only natural, after the war ended, that intelligent persons should ask themselves whether it was possible to apply a similar technique to the problems of peace.

As a matter of fact, the practice of propaganda since the war has assumed very different forms from those prevalent twenty years ago. This new technique may fairly be called the new propaganda."

Chapter 03: The New Propagandists

This chapter, building off the previous, goes on to discuss and exemplify the model of propagandists at work today, refined and refocused on the current problems they face in the intricate world with masses of programmable compatibility. The special interests of elite think tanks and experts of public perception, are the New Propagandists, which he refers to as the Invisible Government:

"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.

Now, what is still more important, the extent to which our thoughts and habits are modified by authorities.

In some departments of our daily life, in which we imagine ourselves free agents, we are ruled by dictators exercising great power. A man buying a suit of clothes imagines that he is choosing, according to his taste and his personality, the kind of garment which he prefers. In reality, he may be obeying the orders of an anonymous gentleman tailor in London..."

He continues to lay out some of the inner mechanics of this chain of command and study of public opinion and perception. He then redefines the term to better suit the mind of public opinion, to accept propaganda in more favorable terms: Public Relations.

Chapter 04: The Psychology of Public Relations

This chapter delves into the inner mechanics of the mind and psychological processes involved in the response and reactivity to propaganda, what drives the human mind as an individual, as a group, and the reactionary role involved, as the emotional and impulsive tendencies of the masses. the question is put forward, could the ocean of mass populations be controlled and manipulated without their knowing it? He states:

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. Trotter and Le Bon, who approached the subject in a scientific manner, and Graham Wallas, Walter Lippman 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 motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?

He views the problem like a scientific experiment, on the masses of public opinion and choice, quite literally like we are the lab subjects:

The modem propagandist studies systematically and objectively the material with which he is working in the spirit of the laboratory. If the matter in hand is a nationwide sales campaign, he studies the field by means of a clipping service or of a corps of scouts, or by personal study at a crucial spot. He determines, for example, which features of a product are losing their public appeal, and in what new direction the public taste is veering. He will not fail to investigate to what extent it is the wife who has the final word in the choice of her husband's car, or of his suits and shirts.

This chapter can be summed up with the following quote to best represent the content within it:

This 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.

Chapter 05: Business and the Public

Bernays now takes a deeper look within the mechanics of propaganda in the realm of advertising. This chapter emphasizes the need for propaganda as a public relations think tank for each company to best market and sell their products. He talks about the ins and outs of corporate life in its relation to their customers. He highlights this best in the following quote:

The tendency of big business is to get bigger. Through mergers and monopolies it is constantly increasing the number of persons with whom it is in direct contact. All this has intensified and multiplied the public relationships of business.

The establishment of public relations divisions and studies to assess and understand the need for getting inside the mind of their clients and finding their niche to be part of your daily routine or investments.

The new technique of public relations counsel is serving a very useful purpose in business by acting as complement to legitimate advertisers and advertising in helping to break down unfair competitive exaggerated and overemphatic advertising by reaching the public with the truth through other channels than advertising. Where two competitors in a field are fighting each other with this type of advertising, they are undermining that particular industry to a point where the public may lose confidence in the whole industry. The only way to combat such unethical methods, is for ethical members of the industry to use the weapon of propaganda in order to bring out the basic truths of the situation.

Chapter 06: Propaganda and Political Leadership

In this chapter, Bernays reveals the nature of politics and the use of carefully coordinated and applied propaganda. He talks about the lack of intelligent choice-making by the masses of people, having no significant influence of the system itself:

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.

He spells out the reality of politics in the following two paragraphs:

Political campaigns today are all side shows, all honors, all bombast, glitter, and speeches. These are for the most part unrelated to the main business of studying the public scientifically, of supplying the public with party, candidate, platform, and performance, and selling the public these ideas and products.

Politics was the first big business in America. Therefore there is a good deal of irony in the fact that business has learned everything that politics has had to teach, but that politics has failed to learn very much from business methods of mass distribution of ideas and products.

Again, the underlying reality of politics is laid bare for all to see:

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. In theory, this education might be done by means of learned pamphlets explaining the intricacies of public questions. In actual fact, it can be done only by meeting the conditions of the public mind, by creating circumstances which set up trains of thought, by dramatizing personalities, by establishing contact with the group leaders who control the opinions of their publics.

Chapter 07: Women's Activities and Propaganda

This chapter is focused on the female and her inclusion as a target of propaganda. He states the use of propaganda as a weapon for the woman in today's society:

Women's most obvious influence is exerted when they are organized and armed with the weapon of propaganda. So organized and armed they have made their influence felt on city councils, state legislatures, and national congresses, upon executives, upon political campaigns and upon public opinion generally, both local and national.

He proposes that women can utilize propaganda to find their place in the world, and the common good:

Just as women supplement men in private life, so they will supplement men in public life by concentrating their organized efforts on those objects which men are likely to ignore. There is a tremendous field for women as active protagonists of new ideas and new methods of political and social housekeeping. When organized and conscious of their power to influence their surroundings, women can use their newly acquired freedom in a great many ways to mold the world into a better place to live in.

Chapter 08: Propaganda for Education

The education is the next area of focus here where the use of propaganda in the education system finds its place. He notes the idea that teachers should be trained to understand their job as two-fold, teacher and propagandist for the public school systems, under the direction of its Invisible Government:

The normal school should provide for the training of the educator to make him realize that his is a two-fold job: education as a teacher and education as a propagandist.

Bernays mentions the inadequate nature of today's education systems, and the ineffective nature of its propagandizing, as the education system itself is already dull and problematic. He states:

Propaganda cannot change all that is at present unsatisfactory in the educational situation. There are factors, such as low pay and the lack of adequate provision for superannuated teachers, which definitely affect the status of the profession. It is possible, by means of an intelligent appeal predicated upon the actual present composition of the public mind, to modify the general attitude toward the teaching profession. Such a changed attitude will begin by expressing itself in an insistence on the idea of more adequate salaries for the profession.

He details some of the inner mechanics of the higher education systems and universities, also stating their place in relation to the rest of the system and government:

Many universities now gladly lend members of their faculties to assist in investigations of public interest. Thus Cornell lent Professor Wilcox to aid the government in the preparation of the national census. Professor Irving Fisher of Yale has been called in to advise on currency matters.

In the ethical sense, propaganda bears the same relation to education as to business or politics. It may be abused. It may be used to over-advertise an institution and to create in the public mind artificial values. There can be no absolute guarantee against its misuse.

Chapter 09: Propaganda in Social Service

Next we come to Bernays focus on the use of propaganda in social service, which is a broad term building out from education and societal structuring through propagandizing as public relations:

The public relations counsel is necessary to social work. And since social service, by its very nature, can continue only by means of the voluntary support of the wealthy, it is obliged to use propaganda continually. The leaders in social service were among the first consciously to utilize propaganda in its modern sense.

It is interesting to note that social service also includes healthcare and the approach from medical systems in treating diseases, as well as how the public perceives a given disease:

New ideas, new precedents, are continually striving for a place in the scheme of things.

The social settlement, the organized campaigns against tuberculosis and cancer, the various research activities aiming directly at the elimination of social diseases and maladjustments—a multitude of altruistic activities which could be catalogued only in a book of many pages—have need of knowledge of the public mind and mass psychology if they are to achieve their aims. The literature on social service publicity is so extensive, and the underlying principles so fundamental, that only one example is necessary here to illustrate the technique of social service propaganda.

He then discussed the same angles in racial subjects, in this case he was discussing those in the south, to have the weapon of propaganda applied here too:

As for the practical results, the immediate one was a change in the minds of many southern editors who realized that the question at issue was not only an emotional one, but also a discussable one; and this point of view was immediately reflected to their readers. Further results are hard to measure with a slide-rule. The conference had its definite effect in building up the racial consciousness and solidarity of the Negroes. The decline in lynching is very probably a result of this and other efforts of the Association.

Chapter 10: Art and Science

In this chapter, Bernays talks about the filtering of propaganda through channels such as art and science. The application of art being a valuable tool for promoting or touching up a message, product, or movement. As far as art and propaganda, he states:

Propaganda can play a part in pointing out what is and what is not beautiful, and business can definitely help in this way 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. New inspiration, which to the artist may be a very technical and abstract kind of beauty, must be made vital to the public by association with values which it recognizes and responds to.

As for science, Bernays touches on this only lightly. But here too, we can see that propaganda can be used in the driving of scientific research, much like politics and big business:

The industrial interests can furnish to the schools, the colleges and the postgraduate university courses the exact truth concerning the scientific progress of our age. They not only can do so; they are under obligation to do so. Propaganda as an instrument of commercial competition has opened opportunities to the inventor and given great stimulus to the research scientist. In the last five or ten years, the successes of some of the larger corporations have been so outstanding that the whole field of science has received a tremendous impetus. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Western Electric Company, the General Electric Company, the Westing-house Electric Company and others have realized the importance of scientific research. They have also understood that their ideas must be made intelligible to the public to be fully successful. Television, broadcasting, loud speakers are utilized as propaganda aids.

Propaganda assists in marketing new inventions. Propaganda, by repeatedly interpreting new scientific ideas and inventions to the public, has made the public more receptive. Propaganda is accustoming the public to change and progress.

Chapter 11: The mechanics of Propaganda

Bernays closes the book with an enthusiastic view of applied propaganda in societal structures and social engineering. He noted the importance of media, and its critical function within his vision of propaganda:

If the public relations counsel can breathe the breath of life into an idea and make it take its place among other ideas and events, it will receive the public attention it merits. There can be no question of his "contaminating news at its source." He creates some of the day's events, which must compete in the editorial office with other events. Often the events which he creates may be specially acceptable to a newspaper's public and he may create them with that public in mind.

He also discusses the power of cinema or motion pictures being important channels for propaganda in shaping the minds of national and public opinion in a given society:

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.

He concludes the book with the final quote to close the circle in his undertaking of this in-depth study and discussion of propaganda to direct, manipulate and control public opinion of the masses in society, putting their idea of order to craft the chaos that society has been inclined to:

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.

Review & Commentary

As I said before, it is interesting to me to hear from people like this, who wholeheartedly feel manipulating people to 'be what they want,' is an acceptable, even honorable act. If one were in a relationship with someone else, would we scheme behind their back and attempt to change who they are and make them into someone that you want them to be? That is more or less psychopathic mentality. Controlling others implies that the person has mental problems in which they feel resentful or inadequate. Something tells them they need to externalize it and impose control on others.

Also, growing up in elite circles of high society must be an unfortunate upbringing. They look at the average Joe like they are cattle or lab rats. They instill their Eugenics worldview in the up-and-coming generations of their caste. The snobbery and arrogance reaches such levels that they begin being very open about their amoral philosophies and how they plan to use them in crafting society. They use these channels to propagate and promote moral relativism, to accept the same ideas Jonas Salk spoke about in his book, the Survival of the Wisest. The two are very alike. They speak as though their importance is that of the priest class.

The book is an attempt to justify amoral, even psychopathic behaviors, run by a society that thrives off self-aggrandizement. They think of themselves, in much the same way that George Soros talked about in his interview in 1993, where he revealed his inner fantasies that he was a messianic, god-like individual, but without moral restraints. You can read more about this in the article The Nature of Control and the Power Differential: An Occult Science in Social Dominance,

The book by Bernays is an attempt to justify their bad behaviors. It is likely that through their admission of what they're doing, the karma of ignorance falls on us, because we did nothing about it, or worse, laughed it off as nonsense. They are telling us what they are doing every step of the way here. That is why all of us in the know, are doing what is called The Great Work, by speaking up and actively trying to give people information that will be useful, possibly life-saving, and perhaps bring some form of providence, that is, "the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power", but applied in timely preparation for future eventualities." [1]

It is clear to me how much of a joke politics actually is. How ridiculous it would be for everyone to figure out they've been arguing and fighting about nonsense as it relates to politics, when the political system is already decided beforehand and we are given this illusion of choice. The book really spells out how controlled not just politics is, but the entire system, it is a controlled system, by a network of people who think morality is a relative concept. They are shaping this world accordingly, and we are seeing it every step of the way.

My book review on Michael A. Aquino's MindWar holds a lot of relevance here, as it appears to be building off the foundations Bernays set in motion in psychological warfare and psychological operations. If you check out that review you will notice many similarities, and follow that up with my book review of Jonas Salk's book, the Survival of the Wisest, and you will see a clear picture emerge of the general attitude within these circles.

It is interesting to think about how social media, Artificial Intelligence, engineered movements and political narratives are being weaved together to make a pre-conceived end, the QAnon movement comes to mind. They know our inner desires, wishes and wants much more than anyone realizes, and when Artificial Intelligence software can integrate and pull from the wide net of information that the Group Mind of people they want to control feeds into social media and digital platforms they are in control of, and then based on these inner wishes of a specific group of people, create these narratives that they control, weaving a different picture of world events than is really taking place, you can start to see how integrated it all really is. You can start to see how they are turning their obstacles and opposition (the Freedom and Truth movements) to their agenda by making them think there is some organic, insurrection from within taking place at the highest levels. There is no one coming to save us my friends, understand that and get used to it. The only one who will save us from this mess is ourselves, with the help of those doing the Great Work.

It is very clear when reading this book, what kind of world they are building, and the end game they want to arrive at. They want total control over all aspects of our life and mind. This is not my opinion either, that is what Bernays is essentially saying throughout this book. He is a lot less vague about it than Salk was, who beat around the bush for most of the book he wrote. Bernays is pretty direct and to the point about his vision and promotion of propaganda, and the book is an eye-opening look at how some of those in the high positions of power think, and they think like psychopaths...

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