Quote-to-Quote: Edward Bernays on Propaganda

Every day, we are seeing the teachings of the ‘Father of Public Relations,’ Edward Bernays, played out in our media and political discourse. The propaganda techniques of Bernays have been used by Nazi flack Josef Goebbels as well as Frank Luntz and Karl Rove and, unfortunately, they usually work. Until the public realizes they are being hoodwinked by psychological mumbo-jumbo and dismisses the fearmongering and deceptions of the propagandists, the country has little hope of digging out of the ditch that’s been dug for us by the monied elite who pay the propagandists to practice their dark, democracy-killing art.

“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. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
— Edward Bernays (1891-1995), “Propaganda” (1928).

“[The] average citizen is the world’s most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts. His own ‘logic proof compartments,’ his own absolutism are the obstacles which prevent him from seeing in terms of experience and thought rather than in terms of group reaction.”
— Edward Bernays, “Crystallizing Public Opinion” (1923).