His great grandfather was Isaac Bernays , chief rabbi of Hamburg. The Bernays family moved from Vienna to the United States in the s. Ely Bernays became a grain exporter at the Manhattan Produce Exchange, then sent for his wife and children. Fleischman in Later, however, she changed her mind and her name, becoming Doris Bernays. By all accounts, Fleischman played a major though quiet role in the Bernays public relations business—including ghost-writing numerous memos and speeches, and publishing a newsletter.
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While no single person can claim exclusive credit for the ascendancy of advertising in American life, no one deserves credit more than a man most of us have never heard of: Edward Bernays.
The fact that 20 years have elapsed since his death provides a fitting opportunity to reexamine his legacy. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind. The year after his birth, the Bernays family moved to New York, and Bernays later graduated from Cornell with a degree in agriculture.
But instead of farming, he chose a career in journalism, eventually helping the Woodrow Wilson Administration promote the idea that US efforts in World War I were intended to bring democracy to Europe. The success of this effort was manifested in innumerable window displays and fashion shows.
In the s, he promoted cigarettes as both soothing to the throat and slimming to the waistline. But at home, Bernays was attempting to persuade his wife to kick the habit. When would find a pack of her Parliaments in their home, he would snap every one of them in half and throw them in the toilet.
While promoting cigarettes as soothing and slimming, Bernays, it seems, was aware of some of the early studies linking smoking to cancer. Bernays used the same techniques on children. To convince kids that bathing could be fun, he sponsored soap sculpture competitions and floating contests.
These were designed to prove that Ivory bars were more buoyant than competing products. Bernays also used fear to sell products. For Dixie cups, Bernays launched a campaign to scare people into thinking that only disposable cups were sanitary. In the s, Joseph Goebbels became an avid admirer of Bernays and his writings — despite the fact that Bernays was a Jew. Bernays learned that the Nazis were using his work in , from a foreign correspondent for Hearst newspapers.
He later recounted in his autobiography: They were using my books as the basis for a destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked me, but I knew any human activity can be used for social purposes or misused for antisocial ones. Its underlying purpose, in large part, is to make money. By convincing people that they want something they do not need, Bernays sought to turn citizens and neighbors into consumers who use their purchasing power to propel themselves down the road to happiness.
Without a moral compass, however, such a transformation promotes a patronizing and ultimately cynical view of human nature and human possibilities, one as likely to destroy lives as to build them up.
Share Edward Bernays, PR pioneer, late s. Edward Bernays November 22, - March 9, is regarded by many as the "father of public relations," although some people believe that title should be shared with other early PR practitioner, such as Ivy Lee. The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits. He called this scientific technique of opinion-molding the "engineering of consent. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5, physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a hearty breakfast. Beyond his contributions to these famous and powerful clients, Bernays revolutionized public relations by combining traditional press agentry with the techniques of psychology and sociology to create what one writer has called "the science of ballyhoo.
Edward Bernays and the Engineering of Consent
Overview[ edit ] In his own words, Bernays describes engineering consent as "use of an engineering approach—that is, action based only on thorough knowledge of the situation and on the application of scientific principles and tried practices to the task of getting people to support ideas and programs. Their dispassionate approach and methods may be likened to those of the engineering professions which stem from the physical sciences. Consent that is thus engineered is difficult to distinguish in any fundamental way from the consent that supports modern totalitarian governments. Were the manipulated voter to become the normal voter, the government he supports could hardly be said to rest on his consent in any traditional sense of that word.