Friday, March 03, 2006

got PRopaganda?

    In today's world the public relations industry is huge and its impact on society is undeniable. From convincing us that our razor with 3 blades isn't enough and that any decent man would use 5+1 to selling us our leaders as "one of us" and "compassionate", they are continuously affecting our thinking. Over half a million people serve in the public relations and marketing related industries in the United States alone. I think if you look carefully at the public relations industry, the news media, and many other sources of information that is available today you will notice that it is essentially complete propaganda which serves to advance the interests of the powerful elite, those who actually run our so-called democracy and who "own" a great portion of this world's resources. But rather than cite examples today I'd like to explore the origins of the PR industry, which I think suggest a great deal to its nature.

    Public relations really got its start during WWI. Edward Bernays, known as the "father of public relations" got his start during this period. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, talks about his realization that this kind of industry could be useful, saying
When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans....using it. So what I did was try to find some other words, so we found the words Council on Public Relations.

    Bernays was always strikingly clear in what the role of PR would be in our society in the several books that he published, including Crystallizing Public Opinion, Propaganda, and The Engineering of Consent. In Propaganda, for instance, Bernays writes
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

That doesn't sound like a democracy to me. Another great quote from the book is
If we understand the mechanism and the motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible

Bernays also realized that politicians could get their interests served by the media as well. He notes
The newspaperman looks for [the politician] for news. And by his power of giving or withholding information the politician can often effectively censor political news. But being dependent, every day of the year and for year after year, upon certain politicians for news, the newspaper reporters are obliged to work in harmony with their news sources

These quotes are a very good representation of what is in Propaganda, page after page.

    Now of course, just because the founder of the PR industry is extremely explicit in how its purpose is to spread propaganda and to be used as a tool for the powerful few to control everyone else does not mean that we are awash in propaganda today. But I certainly hope this makes you look at the issue more carefully. If you'd like to learn a little about how the media is used for propaganda, both by the government and by powerful business interests (as if they were two different things!), I recommend Manufacturing Consent-The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Noam Chomsky. If Chomsky is new to you, you should really look into his writings and speeches. I really believe that until you recognize the propaganda that bombards you on a daily basis as such you will cease to make progress in your understanding of the world, at least in the political and economic aspects of it. And I don't simply mean Fox News, and it's a sick joke to call it a news station. There's a better fucking case for Christ. I mean all major media outlets, and I urge you to look into it.


SH said...

The problem of course is that there is no "truly" independent media out there...

Delta said...

That's probably true, but it's best to avoid media which has very systematic biases inherent in it. Or if we are forced to use that sort of media by necessity, it's at least important to be aware of the bias. Trouble is, many Americans think the media is neutral, or hell, even liberal.

Most media is owned by large corporations who only make money by selling advertising time to other corporations. The actual news is just filler, and if you can fill it with happy stories or another girl gone missing story, then people will be in the buying mood and will keep your advertisers happy. .

Most "independent" media sources are not independent by virtue of not having opinions, but are independent because they are not constrained by stories that benefit the powerful and wealthy.

Chet Dailey said...

The core problem here is freedom not democracy. In this country we are free to watch and hear what we wish. Marketers use that to their advantage. One would think it would be a problem if they where only deceitful in selling their products. Time has show that it can change a society's culture, good or bad.

Politian’s use propaganda to their advantage too but they don’t seem to be held to a truthful standard. Seems to be factual if not desirable that a lot of folks vote against someone as much if not more than vote for someone.

The best solution I see and I see this as a solution to a lot of our nation's ills, is education. I think it is especially important to tell our school age children the power of this marketing tool since we can't seem to keep them from being exposed to it. People seem to forget that their radio and TV entertainment does have a price. It is the price of their time and attention and if they examined just how much of their life is wasted being marketed to. They would be horrified at just the data that shows how much time they spend seeing and listening to adds that are for things that are not for them.

As far as independent media, you would have to find a way to make them financially independent and supported by a source that has no direct benefit from that media product.