Bernay’s Propaganda Questions – Feb.7

1. What is the origin of the term ‘propaganda’?

Whatever importance is done today, whether it be politics, finance, etc. it must be done with the help of propaganda. With literacy inevitably comes propaganda. The term “propaganda” dates as far back to the 17th century when the word related to a congregation of cardinals tasked with the oversight of foreign missions in 1627. (Bernays 21)

3. Why does Bernays believe that all organizations, even charitable ones, must engage in the practice of shaping the public mind using propaganda?

Commendable causes also must partake in the practice of propaganda or it may lose its impressionability on the public mind.  Charities have had to adopt the practice of propaganda because the public organized into giving money. Organizations like The Near East Relief have to work on public opinion as if they were selling a product. (Bernays 26)

4. Why is fashion a form of propaganda according to Bernays?

In the reading, Bernays discusses a point in time when velvet manufacturers where facing ruin due to velvet being out of fashion. Thus created a velvet fashion service supported by manufacturers. Its purpose was to contact silk manufactories and couturiers to help in the exploitation of velvet. A hired Parisian then induced fashion houses to utilize velvet in their gowns and hats. The same Parisian also arranged those of noble birth such as Duchesses to wear specific hats and gowns. Then came publications about velvet by American magazines and fashion reporters. Bernays states this is a form of new propaganda, having to regard society as a whole and realizing the desires of the masses. (Bernays 28-30)

5. What are the five roles of the public relations professional, according to Bernays?

According to Bernays, the public relations counsel is the agent working with modern media of communication and informs the public of an idea. Bernays also states the public relations professional is concerned with courses of action, systems and opinions and gaining public support for them. The public relations professional acts as an adviser to his/her client similar to a lawyer. A public relations professional focuses on the public contracts of his/her client’s businesses. He/she also helps shape the actions of his/her client so that they can garner public interest and approval. (Bernays 38-39)

6. “Men do not need to be gathered in a public meeting to be subject to the influences of mass psychology,” notes Bernays. How do propagandists influence people?

According to Bernays “if you can influence the leaders you automatically influence the group in which they sway”. Bernays describes people sociable by nature. People retain patterns which have been established by group influences. Impressions from outside influences unconsciously control our thoughts. For example, a man might believe he bought a car due to careful study and thought on its technical features when that is highly likely not the case. He bought it perhaps because a wealthy friend bought it last week, or a neighbor believed he wouldn’t be able to afford the car or because its the colors of his college fraternity. Propagandists influence people very subtly. They influence people by implementing it into our society through our peers so minutely we rarely identify it as propaganda. (Bernays 49-51)