Have you ever wondered how you and the Big Dick have survived two terms in office without being impeached and shipped over to The Hague to be tried as war criminals? The answer can be summed up in two words: Edward Bernays.
To call Bernays the father of public relations is to do him a disservice. He indeed was the father of that noble industry that gave us the stolen Kuwaiti incubators story that was so instrumental in stirring up public opinion in favor Gulf War I.
But his greatest accomplishment was the creation of the methodology that made Democratic Corporatism possible. His pioneering work gave rise to the Pavlovian politics of Karl Rove in which the repetition of key buzz words elicit predictable responses.
The truth is that Bernays created Democratic Corporatism by accident. His main concern was solving a pending crisis facingAmerican industry. In the early part of the century, all sorts of new products and inventions were hitting the market, inventions like the automobile, the vacuum cleaner, the electric light bulb and roll-on deodorant.
So, here was industry with a plethora of products ready to be sold, but tragically confronted by a traditionally frugal public whose guiding principle was, “Use it up, wear it out; make do or do without.” It was a public that had to be loosened up.
Bernays realized that the problem was that Americans only bought what they needed. The future health of the American economy was to seduce the public into buying what they “wanted” even if it wasn’t necessary.
Had Bernays stopped there, he would have made his mark. But he went on to tackle another problem: corporate America had taken a major hit because of the Great Depression. Its reputation was lower than whale shit.
Bernays was one of the creators of a PR campaign called “The American Way,” that sought to equate “free enterprise in the public consciousness with free speech, free press and free religion as integral parts of democracy.”
It was truly a study in irony, this linking of free enterprise with political freedom, even though the two are mutually exclusive. Corporatism requires a submissive and ignorant workforce willing to fall on its sword if the well being of the economy requires it.
Bernays then made the statement that created Democratic Corporatism. According to writer Jeffrey Kaplan, Bernays felt that “the choices available in the voting booth are akin to those at the department store: both should consist of a limited set of offerings that are carefully determined by an ‘invisible government’ of public-relations experts and advertisers working on behalf of business leaders.”
Edward Bernays gave us the tepid election campaigns we have today in which candidates for office are more concerned with being well manicured than with exhibiting anything that resembles critical thinking. Above all, a candidate must be marketable. This means packaging is of greater importance than content.
George, you are living proof that Bernays called it right. You have shown the world that any airhead with a bland smile can ascend to the highest office in the land as long as his PR is in place.