Entry 7: Response to "Propaganda"

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Hi all:

Sometimes it's good to read old stuff.  This piece was written in 1928.

It's sort of an eye-opener.  The author says things that few would dare to say today (at least in public).  We are so polite.  But he makes no bones about it.

This is Edward Bernays on the uses of propaganda (advertising).

Pick a quotation, type it into the box, and say why you found it interesting.

Nick

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"Formerly the rules were the leaders. They laid out the course of history, by the simple process of doing what they wanted. And if nowadays the successors of the rulers, those whose positions or ability gives them power, can no longer do what they want without the approval of the masses, they find in propaganda a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval. Therefore propaganda is here to stay."

I thought that this was interesting because it's a simple process of how people rise to the top of power. In this article, I found that it very fitting to the title of "History is a Weapon." It proves how propaganda has taken over and has taken control of society. For propaganda to work, we must believe in the majority and that's what society is today. We think all as one and listen to one another because we believe it is the right thing to do. We never stand up for what we believe in because we don't know if it is the right choice. We are all influenced by one another no matter what we try to believe in.

"And if nowadays the successors of the rulers, those whose position or ability gives them power, can no longe do what they want without the approval of the masses, they find in propoganda a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval" (75).

I chose this quote because it reminds me of the presidential election and the prooganda that is used throughout the presidntial race. In order to win the race, candidates use propoganda to persuade the people of the country to vote for them. Much like companies advertising products, the presidential candidates try to sell themselves to the country with positive prooganda that makes themselves look favorable. They also use negative propoganda to bash their opponents which also makes them look more favorable. The election shows how propoganda can be tied into advertisement even when the product is not something you can buy with money as well as showing how people use propoganda in order to gain and assert a position of power.

"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." (Page 70)

This quote reminded me of the advertising today. The companies hire famous celebrities to say a quote about their "amazing" product, when in reality we have no idea who is actually selling the product. For example, when we buy CoverGirl make-up we have no idea who is actually selling it. Who actually comes up with the ideas for the advertisements? I sure don't know. And because the ads say something witty that make you feel like a better person, you're willing to waste your money on something you don't actually need. Our society has made this acceptable and we buy into everything they say.

“In our present social organization approval of the public is essential to any large undertaking. Hence a laudable movement may be lost unless it impresses itself on the public mind…Propaganda does exist on all sides and of us, and it does change our mental pictures of the world. Even if this be unduly pessimistic—and that remains to be proved—the opinion reflects a tendency that is undoubtedly real”(Bernays 75). I chose these two quotes because they illustrate just how propaganda and consumerism are related and how they continue brainwashing our society. They are similar in several ways and are found nearly everywhere. The media continues to deceive us with the idea that somehow accumulating more materialistic items will lead to ultimate satisfaction. They both convey approval of the public and how increasingly important that is becoming in our generation. Fitting in and being accepted is an innate desire of humans and these different types of propaganda such as Band-wagoning feed off of our insecurities in order to lure us in and influence our attitude towards the chosen position. Propaganda has a more negative connotation and presents only one side of an argument. All in all, consumerism and propaganda are both deceiving and ultimately do not lead to genuine contentment.

"We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions." It's interesting to think about this concept. Who does society let run our issues and standardize what is right/wrong? At the end of this article, it states that people and groups like the President, members of Congress, Senators, chairmen, presidents of companies, authors, editors, and even leaders in fashion compromise what is acceptable in life. These are the people that basically tell us how to live our lives, how we should look, what we should accept, and what things we should admire. Even though this has been the system for a while now, I personally don't feel like it has taken a toll in my life. I feel like I am my own individual and feel like for example the President and Congress are here to protect this country and move it forward. I don't mind there being leaders in many fields trying to advocate how to live perhaps more peacefully. When it affects many people, they lobby for change and it is sometimes created. It is a cycle that perhaps will never end but is very interesting to witness.

"Any society, whether it be social, religious or political, which is possessed of certain beliefs, and sets out to make them known, either by the spoken or written words, is practicing propaganda" (73)
I chose this quote because I think it shows the brighter and more practical side of the word "propaganda". This person describes propaganda is as a natural human process. The way that I interpret his definition of propaganda, is that it is essentially the way that people promote their own ideas. I believe that through the evolution of promoting ideas, propaganda has earned a negative view because the evolution of propaganda itself, allowed certain techniques to surface that make the promotion of ideas much easier. Techniques such as subliminal messaging, the use of nationalism, and many other techniques that get a person to want to believe in an idea. Propaganda has shown that getting people to believe in an idea sometimes comes questionable means.

“It remains a fact that 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—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
I think this quote captures the construction of propaganda as a whole and how it is used as an attempt to practically govern the actions of society. Although we all have the ability of free will, it is scary to think that there are human beings who try to either maintain or alter our thought processes. I believe the “trifling fraction” represents the media, which is comprised of a small group who have the ability to take advantage of millions of people and use our own actions against us. They use how we cooperate in society and in our communities to send messages with the intension of brainwashing us so that we will agree or disagree with certain issues that may not fit in with our natural moralities.

"It has been found possible so to mold the mind of the masses that they will throw their newly gained strength in the desired direction. In the present structure of society, this practice is inevitable. Whatever of social importance is done to-day, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture, charity, education, or other fields, must be done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government." (pg. 73)

This quote caught my attention because of the mention of the "invisible government." In our society today, media advertisement basically runs everything. These advertisements instill into our minds the want for new products that aren't necessary. The propaganda that we see as part of our everyday lives doesn't solely focus on marketing. It has also placed its roots, as mentioned in the quote, in all the critical parts of our society. Certain products are manufactured at higher rates, some charities are considered more important than others, and politicians pose as advocates of the masses all because of the way in which the media manipulates the importance of certain things.

“Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group. The important thing is that it is universal and continuous” (74). I find this quote interesting because it shows the true purpose of advertisements. The ads that are presented all have a common goal, which is to condemn the consumer causing them to feel unhappy with themselves and results in consumption. Whether it is in magazines, TV, social media, etc. they all tell people what they should do, how they should dress, and act. Americans are trapped in a world where if you want to fit in you have to have a certain product. We keep buying and buying in order to fit in and hoping we look like the models. In reality, we all know that they are all photoshopped and airbrushed yet we are still trick by the commercials that tell us buying this and that will improve our life. Americans are so easily tricked into this propaganda because it is universal and it is continuous. We can’t help but try something new because we always think what do we have to lose right? However, it leads to a cycle of overconsumption in which only the big corporate businesses win.

“ It might be better to have, instead of propaganda and special pleading, committees of wise men who would choose our rulers, dictate on conduct, private and public, and decide upon the best upon clothes for us to wear and the best kind of food for us to eat.” (Page 70)

This reminds me of the book “The Giver”, a perfect manipulated utopia. How much better would the world be if there was no uncertainty, no competition, just peace? That is basically what this quote is referring to. No confusion about anything, just a standard way of living and it’s as simple as that. Instead of all these marketing deploys and constant commercial/advertisements, maybe we would be more focused on our sciences and technology, possibly finding a cure to many illnesses we yet to fix. However, if one were to take away that freedom for free marketing, I believe that the social competition would decrease and thus hurt our society thru the absence of self-motivation. Oh! Then, people would not be so focused on self as much as we are now, and possibly learn to be focused on others and their happiness. It all ties into to each other, but we truly do not know what our lives would be like in a utopia. No telling if some will oppose, or even if all follows.

“In our present social organization approval of the public is essential to any large undertaking. Hence a laudable movement may be lost unless it impresses itself on the public mind" (75)
This quote justifies how propaganda has developed a negative connotation throughout the years as the reader describes. Nowadays deceit and brainwashing have become essential aspects of propaganda. In order for businesses to "gain approval from the public" to sell their product and make money they have created unrealistic models that are molds of perfect human beings in order for them to sell their products. For this reason, propaganda has become a very dark, deceiving way of trying to push people into believing that they need the products that they are selling, when in reality they are merely trying to ensure that they continue to make a massive amount money by tricking us into buying their products.

" Any society, whether it be social, religious or political, which is possessed of certain beliefs, and sets out to make them known, either by the spoken or written words, is practicing propaganda " (73)

This quote was just so true that I had to share it. I find it ironic how propoganda has such a negative connotation while the churches, that is stereotyped to influence positive emotions, practice it. I am/is/was a church boy and I agree that we do practice this idea of "creat[ing] or shape[ing] events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group" (74). There was nothing more than my realization of propaganda, to this quote. However, I do say that the type of propoganda that the churches use has its good and bad in it. One where you are influencing good morals is the good type of propoganda whereas forcing your beliefs onto people is the bad part. Also sometimes, the church go-ers that do present the holy type of propoganda sometimes show as hypocrites. Guilty as charged, but I try my best to present my "holiness" the best way I can.

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society....We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes are formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." (70)
This quote is very interesting to me because the first sentence essentially states that a democratic society must contain a special kind of propaganda. It's suggesting that as a society, we must have uniform habits and opinions. This is true, because how can we be a stable nation if we each have differing ideas? I have never thought that manipulating the masses could be a good thing. Its happens all the time, and I've always seen it negatively. However, to unify a nation or bring consensus amongst a quarreling group, it may be necessary. For the author to state that democratic society revolves around this idea of manipulation so bluntly is nearly shocking, but it really made me think. The second sentence basically just states that there's an incredible amount of influence in our lives that we may not even acknowledge. When we do notice that our opinions are not truly our own, we can't place where we've received these ideas. much of our lives are controlled by extraneous sources that need us to have certain opinions. They influence the general public in extreme yet subtle ways.

"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. "

I find this quote interesting because it is how mass media manipulates the mind. We are fooled into thinking we need items we don't need and feel like everything shown in ads and commercials are necessary in life. We make it seem as if everything that is advertised is the norm in life and that we need to have it. Since big corporations are able to easily manipulate the minds of others, they are the ones who have the true power to convey a message.

"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. "

I find this quote interesting because it is how mass media manipulates the mind. We are fooled into thinking we need items we don't need and feel like everything shown in ads and commercials are necessary in life. We make it seem as if everything that is advertised is the norm in life and that we need to have it. Since big corporations are able to easily manipulate the minds of others, they are the ones who have the true power to convey a message.

"There is no word in the English language, " it says, "whose meaning has been so sadly distorted as the word 'propaganda'" (73). I chose this quote because it is interesting. Propaganda never was meant to be a negative thing but its view on the word since it came out has been viewed differently. Propaganda is viewed negatively because it is used to persuade an audience to think a specific way by appealing to their beliefs during war to gain more support. I can see how any society would use propaganda and it is neither a good or bad thing.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Tingle published on December 7, 2012 11:49 AM.

Entry 6: "What Is Wrong with Happiness?" was the previous entry in this blog.

Blog Entry 8: Response to Consuming Kids is the next entry in this blog.

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