Edward Bernays: Father of Modern Propaganda

As a German I frequently hear on the Internet how vicious that Nazi propaganda was.

So did the Nazis invent this form of propaganda?

It turns out they didn’t. Nor did they invent the term for it. Rather Göbbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, had a favorite book called PROPAGANDA, written in 1923 by Edward Bernays.

Edward Bernays was the nephew of Siegmund Freud. Befor WW 1, Bernays decided to put the theories of his then unknown in America uncle Siegmund to use and embarked on a marketing, or Propaganda campaign to turn women into smokers – at the time, smoking was a mens only occupation. So he used the idea of Freud that women have penis envy and that any lengthy object symbolizes a penis to connect cigaretts to the blossoming sufragette idea of women’s liberation, which worked so splendidly that Bernays became wealthy; started to promote his uncle Siegmund’s books in the USA and even became advisor to prez. Woodrow Wilson during WW1, of course running the propaganda campaign.

Later he wrote his book – which you might find on the Internet as PDF but as I don’t know about copyright situation I won’t give a direct link.

After the heavy use of Bernaysian propaganda methods by the Nazis

(you gotta give them they’re the most iconic of the socialist movements (Nazi is short for Nationalsozialist, national SOCIALIST, yes I know, all the other socialists keep harping on that these were not actually socialists but rightwingers, but well, Hitler himself, while on top of his power, repeatedly called his party “The German Left” and why would he lie at that time? He had exterminated all other political movements anyway.)),

well the term propaganda fell in disfavour.

(Even though , during WW2, of course the Brits ran an office of PROPAGANDA, noteworthy figure there is Berlin-born, fluent in German Sefton Delmer, and of course Walt Disney’s propaganda animation shorts are well known as well).

and Bernays relabeled his craft “Public Relations” or PR (a propaganda move all in itself).

So everyone did it, all knew the methods, and the handbook came from a New York Jew with experience of the use of propaganda in and after WW1

(Bernays’ idea was it to present Woodrow Wilson to the Europeans as the bringer of freedom and democracy – which sounds way better than “the terminator of the monarchy” in Europe; and the USA is using this as justification for their invasions to this day, as it sounds good. Well of course what Wilson brought was the Versailles treaty which had the purpose of wrecking the German economy to prevent it from ever becoming a threat again, and it worked so well that the Germans voted Hitler into power about 14 years later; basically out of desperation. Some say that was the purpose of the Versailles treaty all along but I think you’d give Wilson and his advisors too much credit there. A government that can plan 14 years in advance AND it works out? Give me a break.)

The whole Edward Bernays story is documented in a part of the documentary The Century Of The Self by British filmmaker Adam Curtis.

This post not marked as “science” because Freudianism is so unscientific that it motivated Karl Popper to define the scientific method clearly. As he explains here.

Well now that I mentioned Popper I clearly have to mark it as “science”. Oh well.

And philosophy. Well well. So be it.

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9 thoughts on “Edward Bernays: Father of Modern Propaganda”

  1. “…what Wilson brought was the Versailles treaty which had the purpose of wrecking the German economy to prevent it from ever becoming a threat again, and it worked so well that the Germans voted Hitler into power about 14 years later; basically out of desperation. Some say that was the purpose of the Versailles treaty all along but I think you’d give Wilson and his advisors too much credit there.”

    “too much credit” indeed!

    Nice bit of history; well told and well referenced. Thanks.

    My “two cents worth.” I was once taught that one of the things Germany was required to do was to dismantle their industry and give it to the French as part of the “reparations.” This of course forced Germany to eventually replace the antiquated technology with what was more modern and efficient.

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    1. Ach. Versailles treaty designates all kinds of things like so and so many horses, cows, and other agricultural products. Basically taking all the added value and then some of the substance.

      This didn’t stop the Weimar republic from running secret weapons research hidden in Russia (German and US companies built the 632 factories for Red Russia for the first 5 year plan. All old factories from the Czar weredestroyed. Henry Ford’s architect Albert Kahn designed the 600+ factories, we built them, for Russian raw materials – and some help with our secret re-armament program. A not so secret part of it was rebuilding the German fleet – but as only destroyer-sized ships were allowed the Germans designed the Westentaschen-Schalchtschiff – mini battleships, extremely crammed full of firepower and tightly built.)

      And, another major economic factor was the chemical industry. Allegedly we dominated the worlds’ artificial dye production. What is little mentioned is that Heroin AND Cocaine were invented in Germany by the same companies and that Berlin was the Bogota of its time… Weimar republic only very reluctantly introduced regulations after the First Opium Conference brought about under the initiative of China suffering from Opium smuggled in by the British and/or Americans (USA took that business from UK after WW1 and started flying it in with the Flying Tigers)….

      Well anyway I *do* have the suspicion that rampant Heroin and Cocaine production by BASF etc. (IG Farben members) gave the Weimar deep state (Prussian junker run military, VERY independent of the elected freuqnetly changing governments) a LOT of black money to re-arm.

      Germany was only allowed a very small army. Border security was not possible (Poland raided us a lot of times at the border). So the Junkers made sure ALL members of that small military were OFFICERS. (Commanding “non-military” “FreiCorps” as their “satellite troopers”…)

      All very clandestine… This was the hidden apparatus that later enabled Hitler to very quickly revitalize army and Luftwaffe. Luftwaffe just added motors to the glider designs made in Goettingen, the worlds’ premier aerodynamics research center…. gliders tested on the Wasserkuppe during Weimar times by enthusiast aircraft designers. Lots of designs to choose from for the 3rd Reich…

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      1. Westentaschen-Schalchtschiff – typo: Westentaschen-Schlachtschiff – lit.: vest pocket battleship

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      2. Ahh, yes, I’ve heard the term “pocket battleship” when watching WWII documentaries. Now I know what it means.

        Also, this sequel was even better than the original.

        Again, thanks.

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      3. Parallels:
        a) Agitating Czar’s opposition, forcing him into abdication, replace by Social Democrat elected government, then putsching that one away after 9 months by Western-Sponsored Lenin + Trotzky : Color Revolution + Puppet regime installation
        b) After 5 year of Red against White Russians civil war and total destruction and a few more years of Lenin’s NEP attempt at restarting the economy and Lenin’s death: West helps Stalin by building him a complete industrial infrastructure, payed for by Russian resources – I guess this is what will happen in Libya , for instance, next.
        c) Stealing the Gold: Before removing the Czar, Rothschild convinced him to send a big part of his Gold hoard to Paris. Unfortunately he DIED before claiming it back. Oh and ALL HIS HEIRS DIED. what a pity! – Parallel: Gadafhi. The 144 tons of Gold went to London. The Libyans will get it back, so it is promised, once they have a stable democracy. I guess the 144 tons will “pay” for us installing some industry there … which will serve to get us their oil. So it will never return (and it can’t: Right after it vanished, Chavez got HIS 150 tons back that he claimed back! Later unfortunately he DIED! And his successor Maduro had to sell the Gold for , well something. I don’t know, toilet paper? Bolicars he ordered printed in the West? Whatever.)

        So all this PNAC regime change stuff is a replay of an old playbook.

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    1. No, he wasn’t. Nazis outlawed Freemasonry.
      The Nazis saw themselves as modernists and copied lots of American ideas.
      FDR and Hitler came to power the same year and started their “New Deals” at the same time, with very similar measures – like an Arbeitsfront / a WPA ; building of highways and dams with far more manual labor than reasonable – to give as many workers as possible an income.

      And, while Nazis are constantly assoziated with “gothic” lettering, they were in fact the ones who introduced a standardized MODERN simple lettering to road signs and such.

      Even Hitler’s election campaign set new standards in Germany but was a known US method: Using a propeller plane to travel quickly and do three events a day; reaching thousands more rural voters than anyone else – and it was their vote that made the difference. This election campaign was bankrolled by Henry Ford, a “Third Way Socialist” – looking for a third way between socialism and capitalism. Ford later got a Reichsadler medal as a thankyou.

      So, copying American marketing methods – Bernays was first of all a marketer of industrial products – came natural to the Nazis. One could argue that all that Arian symbolism was part of the Nazi brand, nothing more.

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  2. Megatons of Feudal Dope could explain the Babylonian promiscuity of Berlin
    during the Weimar Republic days
    much better than some street-corner Jews.

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    1. Yeah sure. That’s what’s described in the movie Cabaret. The regulations were you needed a recipe from a doctor to buy Heroin in a pharmacy. Most of these recipes were crude forgeries, the middlemen – the drug cartels of the day – were called the “Ringvereine”.

      Of course, from 1938 on there was also Pervitin , the methamphetamin.
      A German comment on it from which I got a lot of this:
      http://www.geschichtsforum.de/f63/drogen-der-weimarer-republik-21544/

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