Monday, July 15, 2019

Propaganda, Public Education and Mass Media

I found these two short videos from the Academy of Ideas interesting. The first is about Edward Bernays, who was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and is sometimes called the father of public relations. Edward Bernays wrote his book Propaganda in 1928. It's written as a defense of propaganda, the ideas are straightforward, and it's  a pretty quick read at only 168 pages. Bernays intellectual hero was Walter Lippmann who was also a propagandist and wrote about propaganda in books such as Public Opinion published in 1922.

I find Walter Lippmann's writing more interesting than Bernays. Bernays wrote propaganda extolling the benefits of propaganda in a sort of upbeat pollyannaish voice. Lippmann tends to be more critical and covers a broader range of ideas. He proposed that democracy was a myth in our country because people could not be expected to obtain the knowledge required to intelligently participate in a democracy, and therefore society would be better off governed by a committee of experts.

Jacques Ellul's book Propaganda - The Formation of Men's Attitudes published in 1973 is a look at propaganda in relation to technology and modern society. Ellul essentially says propaganda is omnipresent and necessary to allow man to live with the dehumanizing effects of technology and modern culture. Ellul's book took a fair amount of time to read and was harder to understand than either Bernays or Lippmann's books. It's worth it if you like that sort of thing though.

When Bernays book was released in 1928, propaganda didn't have the negative connotation it has today. He considered propaganda, public relations and advertising to be essentially the same. This video takes some of what he wrote and highlights it with images that sort of amp up the "scare" factor.

For me these two videos are just expressing some ideas - maybe some good and worth further thought or study, maybe some baloney that isn't worth wasting time on - but you'll have to decide that for yourself.