16. Edward Bernays

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it”

…. so said Edward Bernays, pioneer of public relations and propoganda. Also nephew of Sigmund Freud. His most famous campaign Torches of Freedom encouraged women to smoke a feminist brand of cigarettes.

His philosophy was of a utopian society where humans’ dangerous energies could be harnessed by the corporate elite to make profit. The idea was that society’s dark side could be redirected to save society from itself. Bernays used the principles of psychoanalysis and the unconscious to manipulate the mind. Like hypnosis the hypnotised person doesn’t know they have been hypnotised.

Another family member Anna Freud was intent on figuring out how the Nazis were capable of what they did. She wanted to control chaos so that it wouldn’t happen again. She believed that society’s irrational behaviour was created by the repression of childhood trauma. If members of the society could follow the rules: chaotic behaviour could be supressed.

Bernays used the fear of communism as a powerful weapon to control the the public in the cold war. He also thought that people in the society needed help for their own good by a “capable few”.

Freud himself turned down his nephew’s schemes of promotion of his own work. Perhaps he realised that there were two sides of his creation – psychoananlysis. Light and Dark.

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