Monday, May 22, 2006

Book Review: PROPAGANDA by Edward Bernays


No matter what political position you take, or do not take, PROPAGANDA is a must-read.

Edward Bernays (1891-1995), the world's pre-eminent and most influential propagandist, was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, to whom he refers in his book PROPAGANDA a couple of times. Bernays considered the dissemination of propaganda, that is the shaping and manipulating of public opinion, not only respectable, but absolutely necessary in modern society. He considered it a science, most certainly based on psychology, and appeals to the authority of the eminent uncle in order to convince business people and especially politicians that the "engineering of consent" can, and must, be carried out coldly and systematically – and all this for the benefit of society.

In addition to his uncle Sigmund Freud, Bernays was influenced by and worked with Walter Lippmann who coined the blood chilling phrase "the manufacture of consent". He was also influenced by the research of Ivan Pavlov (!).

Bernays' clientele was most impressive and achievements were formidable. It is not for naught that he was called the "father of public relations". Counted among his clients were President Calvin Coolidge, Proctor & Gamble, CBS, the American Tobacco Company, John D. Rockefeller and General Electric. His propaganda campaign for the United Fruit Company is said to have led to the CIA's overthrow of the government of Guatemala.

The candor with which Bernays speaks about propaganda is remarkable. Actually, it is his most brash, and one assumes he thought most effective, propagandistic technique. He is so very sure of the absolute sway that propaganda has over the public imagination that he has no qualms whatsoever about informing society of what he is doing. He is quite certain that knowing that they are being propagandized will in no wise protect the public against it. Quite the contrary, in informing the public about the power and persuasiveness of "scientific" propaganda being administered by expert hands it is his intention to have the public surrender to it as inevitable, omnipresent and irresistible. Evidently, he succeeded.

Bernays informs us that the modern "science" of propaganda, used to control and "regiment" public thinking, as he puts it, is a direct outgrowth of the propaganda that was used in order to demonize the Germans in the eyes of the US public during WWI. In fact, he apprises us of the fact that the very self-same people who engaged in wartime propaganda are now the propagandists "regimenting public opinion" in peacetime. He and Lippmann were among those people. During WWI they worked together on the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), those who "sold" the idea of the war to the U.S. public by inventing the phrase "make the world safe for democracy".

Bernays refers to crackerjack propagandists as "invisible governors". Propagandists, while employed by big business people and politicians, are not their servants and not acting at their behest. It is the propagandists who are the invisible pullers of the politicians' and business people's strings. The propagandists, Bernays informs us in no uncertain terms and wholly devoid of inhibition, control every level of society from large numbers of former proletarians who were recently (as of 1928) allowed to go upscale socio-economically and attain parity with the lower rung of the petit bourgeoisie in order to stave off revolution all the way up to the level of big business and politicians. He goes on to apprise us of the fact that "propaganda is here to stay". That is not so much a statement of fact as a command to become resigned to the fact, like it or not.

In 1928 there were still enough Americans who were socially aware and Left-oriented that propagandists had a bad name. Bernays attempts in his book PROPAGANDA to give propagandists a better name, to make them appear more society-friendly, but he lets the public know that their acceptance of propaganda or not will not be the determining factor in whether or not it is influential and certainly not whether or not it continues to exist and exert tremendous influence.

In his book PROPAGANDA Bernays devotes a chapter to a brief overview of how propaganda can be made to affect and can, in turn, be put into effect by:

Political Leadership
Social Service
Arts and Science

Those that are "scientifically" and "well" propagandized become, in turn, agents for the dissemination of propaganda.

The edition of PROPAGANDA presently available is published by Ig Publishing (See: is riddled with typographical errors, the most amusing of which is: "Czechoslovakia officially became a free state on Monday, October 28, 1918, instead of Sunday, October 17, 1918 [sic] because Professor Masaryk realized that the people of the world would receive more information and would be more receptive to the announcement of the republic's freedom on a Monday morning than on a Sunday, because the press would have more space to devote to it on Monday morning."

The most entertaining aspect of reading Edward Bernay's PROPAGANDA, of course, is finding as many propagandistic techniques in it as one can.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Friday, May 19, 2006


OK, Doreen goes into impertinent mode.

The net is full of whine and cheesy posts and I'm getting nauseous from it already.

Many of you post a lot of "Isn't fascism getting ridiculous?" posts. Obviously you're disturbed by what's going down around you - so you brandish your keyboard and post a link. When you really go ballistic, you get sarcastic or sardonic. The ubiquitous injustice hurts you - but not quite enough.

What are you going to DO about where your country is going besides being a total limp dick and posting outrage after outrage on the net? How about a bit of uprising? (Nice pun, Doreen)

By calling Bush "Shrub" in post after post you do nothing to diminish his power. You diminish yours. You create the illusion in your mind that you have diminished his power. You make yourself sound not only peurile, but worse, impotent.

How about organizing demonstrations of the HIQ community? How's about organizing to brainstorm about what can be DONE to ameloriate the conditions for Joe Citizen?

The internet was invented:
1) the better to disseminate State-sanctioned modes of thinking, values, fnords and cliches
2) to provide the masses with the illusion that they are doing something when they post
3) to monitor what people are thinking when they go for the bait described in point (2)

By doing nothing and merely posting you are playing right into their hands. You are providing them with the information they want from YOU and effecting NOTHING.

The mega-message that you're sending is: I don't like what I see, but I'm a wuss who can't do anything about it but write. Governments LOVE immasculated intellectuals.

Observe Bakunin. Observe Louise Michel. Observe Emma Goldman (it is said that she never went to a speaking engagement without a book so that when she was hauled off to jail she had something to read). Observe Margaret Sanger. Observe Gustav Landauer.... They were intellectuals, surely of stature not less than yours. They wrote, to be sure, and if they were alive today they would, no doubt, avail themselves of the internet. But they principally took ACTION. They were people of action first and foremost. They put not only their brains at the disposal of the masses but also put their asses on the line for the sake of others. They didn't bellyache. When they wrote it was to enlighten the masses and galvanize them into a formidable force, not in order to alleviate their conscience and not in order to express themselves in such a way as to keep themselves safe. They acted. They took personal risks. They were, in a word, REAL intellectuals.

Now excuse me. I have to go back to working on the program for revision of Israel's electoral system that I've been batting my head against a wall for months working out with other intellectuals in a number of countries who are, like me, dedicating their lives to the real bettering of conditions of the citizens of their respective countries.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Sunday, May 07, 2006

An Anarchist Explains why Israel is Not an Imperialist State

The State of Israel is semi-fascist to be sure, but it is not Imperialistic.

Too many critics fail to discern between Imperialism and Fascism. They assume that they are identical or that the one cannot exist without the other.

In circles of the critics of the one, the leveling of accusations of the other is well-nigh de rigueur. Among those circles are the Anarchists, to which I belong. It behooves me, then, to clarify this conflation.

My essay "An Anarchist Explains why Israel is Not an Imperialist State" comes to elucidate how it is that while the modern State of Israel is semi-fascist, it cannot correctly and fairly be said to be Imperialistic.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign
Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!