The Film “The Century of The Self” by Adam Curtis, opened with Sigmund fraud’s theory about the dangerous instinctual drives inside humans. His nephew, Edward Bernays eventually figured out how to use those drives to manipulate large quantities of people. Bernays was able to show companies that products can be marketed to someone’s unconscious desires and emotions. One of his earliest successes was getting women to smoke cigarettes because it was considered a taboo. Throughout the ’20s he was able to market many products and eventually was able to develop social control for politicians. When the Great Depression hit mobs formed and attacked big industries. When Roosevelt became president, he and George Gallup believed humans were rational and knew what they wanted. Through asking factual questions they could use responses to influence policies Eventually, after the New Deal, the big business wanted control back and during the 1939 New York World Fair Bernays was able to shift the focus back to the way it was. I was very interested in how minor changes in how something is presented can alter the collective’s opinions and thoughts. During the documentary, I was interested to hear how Sigmund created a method by looking at dreams and free association that he named psychoanalysis. It’s fascinating how he was able to learn about sexual and aggressive forces from our animal past, which the Viennese society hated to believe because of the people in power were afraid that his theory about our inner remnants of the past were true. Also, because the rulers thought that speaking their negative emotions to people could disrupt respect the people had for them. Thankfully over the last 100 years it became accepted so much so that Vienna even holding a yearly ball for psychoanalysts. It was very unfortunate however that Fraud got evidence that he was correct with World War 1 and that Governments had unleashed those primal forces in us. Even more unfortunately was when Fraud became pessimistic about human beings saying that the forces where stronger than he originally realized.
However, I was amazed that Edward Bernays was able to promote America’s goals in the press war effort with the spread of democracy instead of fixing what was already in place. It worked amazingly it was employed again after World War 2 during the Cold War with the Vietnam War and the Korean War. What the big surprise was that Bernays attended the peace conference with the president to spread that exact message of the world safe for democracy to the whole world. After the Paris Peace Conference when Edward returned to the United States, the ways, he was able to manipulate the masses using the unconscious for personal gain is astonishing. We still see most of his advertising strategies still used today to market by connecting mass-produced goods to the people’s unconscious desires. He had hired psychologists to give reports which said products were better for you. In fashion, he hired famous people and models to wear clothing for fashion shows in department stores so you would want to buy clothing because you’ll feel better if you had a piece of clothing. Today, the fashion show has become a large part of national culture to show and sell clothing lines. Bernays was also able to take magazines and use famous actors to advertise products and it worked! So well in fact that most advertisements still employ a similar strategy up to this very day in almost all forms of advertising. He showed car manufacture companies that they could market cars as a sign of male sexuality and that you will feel better if you own it and like today. Another example of Bernays tactics still living on today is the use of clothing, jewelry, and other products in films. Product placement is still so much of predominant thing because of two thing and it’s because it works, and it makes money. Today in the united states and other places around the world, Bernays has alter how we are presented products and how we as people see them with psychological tricks that has truly turned our society into a consumer society. Also, it’s astonishing how Bernays’s influence was able to extend his reach into the world of political too. His direct influences allowed politicians to change their appearance in the eyes of the public like with president Coolidge.
The people thought he was a boring joke and 34 famous actors where able to turn that around and put Collide on the front page of almost ever paper in the united states and the fact that turnaround happened with a simple action astounds me. What is more surprising on the other hand is the fact that president hoover agreed with Bernays and that consumerism would become the center of American life. after his election he had told advertisers and public relations people that they have the job of creating desires and have turned people in to moving machines of happiness. One of the biggest things that hits hard is that Edward Bernays changes the ideas democracy form about changing the relations of power that had governed us to a democracy of maintaining the power, even if it meant altering the psychological lives of the citizens of the united states. Eventually Bernays became one of the central figures in the business industry that dominated society and politics which was an unfortunate thing. All that changed, however, with the great depression.
Thankfully when Hoover came to office he wanted to change everything, but unfortunately it involved taking almost all of the power away from big business. I However feel the it was unfortunate that Bernays found a way to change things again back to the way they were before, which I feel might be what’s happening again today. To conclude, Edward Bernays was indeed a great mind of his time for better or for worse. However, with the knowledge he had received from his uncle, he could have done some things for the good of the people and not for personal gain. His actions still affect the way we see products and services every day. Think about how often we see advertisements in our everyday life in television, movies, magazines, billboards, the internet, and even in video games. Then think about how everything is actually advertised to us day to day. He was able influence the masses and appease them to create his vision of democracy. Honestly I feel that it is very unfortunate that Bernays is not historically well known because he still affects us and our everyday life and if we are not carful history just might repeat itself again.
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