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.