Thursday, June 12, 2008

Conflict of Interest or Propaganda?

A number of years ago I read "Propaganda" by Edward Louis Bernays. Bernays was Sigmund Freud's nephew. He had taken it upon himself to write about the history and nature of propaganda. It was a small book, but it carried much weight in 1928 when it was written. No doubt the dictators of Europe all knew about that booklet, because it gives insight into the psychological aspects of how to get people to join in a cause and sway them by using psychology.

The word propaganda was first used by bishops in the catholic church after the reformation had decimated the faithful. The church needed to recruit new members. The bishops decided to use certain measures to keep the faithful in the church and to add members to the congregation. The bishops used propaganda. The Latin word propaganda, the gerund of propagare, means to be propagated. The church used those measures very effectively to retain old members and sign up new ones. The Jesuits did this with great skill. One might say that the arts, the music, everything that might influence the church members to want to be catholic was used. Ornateness was the order of the day. No expense was spared. The 30-years war was fought to fulfill the church's need to not lose ground. "The end justified the means."

Gradually the word became a more secular word until the age of psychology started a whole new way of thinking about the world of influence. Propaganda thus became influence by any means. Check out Bernays. He is thought to be one of the most influential men of the 20th century.


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