Edward Lewis Bernays has often been called “the “the Father of Spin” and has stood out as one of the most influential founders of public relations. He was born in Vienna in November of 1891 and was oddly enough the nephew of Sigmund Freud. His family background and customs contributed greatly to his future in public relations through the power of ideas. Within the first year of his birth, his family moved to New York City, where Bernays spent the rest of his childhood. After obtaining his high school degree, Bernays attended Cornell University and earned a degree in agriculture. Despite his studies at college, he followed his intuition and established a career in journalism. His career started during World War I under Woodrow Wilson’s administration and his ideas and techniques on propaganda and democracy influenced much of the public information during the war.
During his time spent on Wilson’s Committee on Public Information (CPI), Bernays aimed to reverse the negative public view on war and instead, promoted the slogan “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI incorporated several advertising, marketing and psychology techniques into its forms of propaganda at the time. As a result, Bernays then took these techniques and his overall experience working on the committee as a way to further reach the public for the democratic government. Bernays was actually the one of the first people to influence public opinion using the subconscious. In other words, he felt that manipulation was necessary in society and reaching the public. This technique most likely derived from his uncle Sigmond Freud, who was one of the founders of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the physiological theory that says human behavior, experience, and cognition are determined by innate and irrational drives. Freud developed a technique to get into the world of the subconscious and from there developed tools for understanding desires of large proportions. Bernays then took these tools and used them to manipulate the masses.
Given that Edward Bernays used his experience and knowledge of psychology in his public relations efforts, his techniques influenced many people. Of these, was a French writer, Gustav LeBon.
Gustav LeBon originated the theory of crowd psychology. Crowd psychology is a branch of social psychology in which ordinary people can gain power by acting collectively. The main idea is that people can merge ideas in groups and form a single way of thinking. This technique of manipulation of consciousness was used as a transition to democracy. People like Bernays wanted to develop new attitudes and ideology in society and did this kind of manipulation through propaganda. Here is a final video of Edward Bernays’s propaganda efforts.