1/08/2014

Rule from the Shadows - The Psychology of Power - Part 1



It has always been in the interest of the ruling class to cultivate illusions which obscure the true nature of the game. Time to look behind the curtain.


“Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”
-President Woodrow Wilson in his book the “The New Freedom” published in 1913
The quest for power is the primary driving force of history, always has been, always will be. Those who fail to recognize this principle are not spared in the grand chess game, but rather are moved and manipulated by forces that they do not understand.

From the perspective of those who dominate the board it is obviously preferable to have a population of ignorant pawns than it is to have an array of opponents which are capable of mounting an effective resistance. To that end it has always been in the interest of the ruling class to cultivate illusions which obscure the true nature of the game.
Elizabeth Sikorovsky: "Manufacturing Consent, What is that is that title meant to describe?"

Noam Chomsky: "Well the title is actually borrowed from a book by Walter Lippmann written back around 1921, in which he described what he called the manufacture of consent as a revolution in the practice of democracy. What it amounts to is a technique of control, and he said this was useful and necessary because the common interests, the general concerns of all people elude the public. The public just isn't up to dealing with them, and they have to be the domain of what he called a specialized class."
Walter Lippmann wasn't speaking theoretically, nor was he commenting on a phenomenon that he had observed from a distance, he was part of that specialized class and he personally influenced the development of this new technique of control.
So what was this new technique that Lippmann was referring to?
The answer to that question takes us back to the beginning of World War I. In 1917 Woodrow Wilson formed the Committee on Public Information, also known as the CPI. It was a propaganda agency and it's purpose was to build support for the war with the American people. The CPI, run by a man named George Creel was known for its crude tactics, blatant exaggerations and outright lies. However one member of the CPI, Edward Bernays, had a much more subtle approach. Rather than resorting to low brow tactics Bernays studied the mindset of the American people, then based on his observations he created a campaign to promote the idea that America's purpose in the war was to "make the world safe for democracy". This meme was wildly successful, so much so that continues to be used even to this day.
Edward Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, and like his uncle he was avid student of human psychology. Some documentarians such as Adam Curtis in his film "The Century of the Self" have mistakenly assumed that the psychological techniques that Bernays went on to develop were merely the practical application of Freud's theories. However, though Freud had a significant influence on his nephew, the reality of the matter is that he was not the source of these ideas.


Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann all subscribed to a school of thought that was first put forth in 1895 by a French social psychologist named Gustave Le Bon. Le Bon wrote several books, the famous of which was entitled "Psychologie des Foules”. It was translated into English as "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind".
"The Crowd" was a revolutionary piece of work. In it Le Bon not only presented an in depth description of group psychology and how it differed from individual psychology but he also outlined a very simple set of principles that enable leaders to spark ideological contagion and thereby rise to power.
Hitler, Goebbels, and Mussolini all studied Le Bon's writings and applied his techniques to the letter. The results they attained were precisely those that Le Bon claimed that they would have. Funny how they leave that little detail out of most history books don't you think?
Sigmund Freud's book "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego" was in fact a direct critique of the writings of Gustave Le Bon and William McDougall which focused on the relationship between individual psychology and group psychology, and explained how human groups can be controlled for long periods of time through the manipulation of group identity, belief systems and social structures.
Edward Bernays studied Freud, Le Bon, Wilfred Trotter, Walter Lippmann and many others. He then combined their perspectives and synthesized them into an applied science. He named that science public relations.
The success of his "make the world safe for democracy" meme during the war, both at home and abroad, planted the seed of an idea in his mind. Could group psychology tactics be applied during peacetime? After the Committee on Public Information was disbanded he decided to find out, and in 1919 he opened the world's first pubic relations agency. He referred to his office as The Council on Public Relations.

This was Bernays' specialty, engineering social trends for clients, and he was very, very good at it. Perception was now a commodity for sale to the highest bidder.
Bernays aided the CIA and United Fruit Company (known today as Chiquita Brands International) in a successful campaign to topple a democratically elected Guatemalan government in 1954, he headed up the public relations campaign to garner support for the fluoridation of municipal water supplies on behalf of the aluminum mining Alcoa Inc, who was looking for a cheap way to dispose of their industrial waste, and he even helped a company convince the American public to eat heavier breakfasts so that they would buy more bacon.
What made Bernays so successful was his skill in applying of 3 psychological tactics:
1. Creating carefully calculated associations with the subconscious fears and desires of individuals.
2. Influencing opinion leaders and perceived authority figures in order to reach those who followed them.
3. Initiating the contagion of behaviors and ideas through social conformity.
Bernays wrote several books promoting these psychological tactics including "Propaganda" and "Crystalizing Public Opinion". In these books he specifically encouraged governments and corporations to use his methodology to manipulate public perception.
This suggestion did not fall on deaf ears.
His techniques worked so well that they were adopted by virtually every sector that sought to influence the public: media, politics, advertising, even the military. As Walter Lippmann had indicated, it was a revolution.
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, found Bernays' approach very useful. Bernays acknowledged this fact in his 1965 autobiography entitled "Biography of an Idea" where he wrote:
"Karl von Wiegand, foreign correspondent of the Hearst newspapers, an old hand at interpreting Europe and just returned from Germany, was telling us about Goebbels and his propaganda plans to consolidate Nazi power. Goebbels had shown Wiegand his propaganda library, the best Wiegand had ever seen. Goebbels, said Wiegand, was using my book Crystallizing Public Opinion as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked me. ... Obviously the attack on the Jews of Germany was no emotional outburst of the Nazis, but a deliberate, planned campaign." (Biography of an Idea, page 652)


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