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PR! A Social History of Spin
Chapter 1:
Visiting Edward Bernays
Stuart Ewen
Interviewing Bernays
Bernays and Lippmann
Bernays drew a connection between his work and that of Walter Lippmann.
Bernays holds hierarchical view of society
“Throughout the interview, Bernays expressed an unabashedly hierarchical
view of society.
Interviewing Bernays
The Intellectual Few:
Repeatedly, he maintained that although most people respond to their world
instinctively, without thought, there exist an ‘intelligent few’ who have
been charged with the responsibility of contemplating and influencing the
tide of history.” (9)
Interviewing Bernays
Bernays’ view of Democracy
“Bernays…was clearly no democrat.”
A Political Hallucination
In the interview, he “conveyed his hallucination of democracy: A highly
educated class of opinion-molding tacticians is continuously at work,
analyzing the social terrain and adjusting the mental scenery from which
the public mind, with its limited intellect, derives its opinions.” (10)
Interviewing Bernays
Bernays and the Public Relations Professional
In Bernays words: “by my definition, a public relations person, who calls
themselves [sic] that, is an applied social scientist who advises a client or
employer on social attitudes and actions to take to win the support of the
publics upon whom his or her or its viability depends.” (11)
“Public relations [is] a response to a trans-historic concern: the requirement
that, for those people in power, to shape the attitudes of the general
population.” (11)
Interviewing Bernays
What gave Birth to Modern Public Relations
In Bernays’ view, public relations and propaganda in the modern period was a
response to the rise of a “social conscience” among the masses. (12)
Rise of Social Conscious: Threat to Established Power
The emergence of a “social conscience,” writes Ewen, represented, or
signaled a “historic shift in the social history of property” in Bernays
thinking. (p. 12) This admission on Bernays’ “inadvertently…shed…light on
the conditions that gave birth to the practice of public relations.” (12)
Interviewing Bernays
Rise of Social Conscious: Threat to Established Power
“The ‘social conscience’ to which Bernays had referred arrived at that
moment when aristocratic paradigms of deference could no longer hold
up in the face of modern, democratic public ideals that were boiling up
among the ‘lower strata’ of society.” (13)
New Mechanisms of Social Control
To confront democratic urgings, elites had to devise new mechanisms of
social control. “In the crucible of these changes, aristocracy began to give
way to technocracy as a strategy of rule.” (13)