11 December 2011

Elite Propaganda

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The rise of the power elite rests upon the transformation of the publics of America into a mass society. Life in a society of masses implants insecurity and furthers impotence; it makes men uneasy and vaguely anxious; it isolates the individual from the solid group; it destroys firm group standards. Acting without goals, the man in the mass just feels pointless.

As the scale of institutions has become larger and more centralized, so has the range and intensity of the opinion-makers’ efforts. The means of opinion-making have paralleled in range and efficiency of the other institutions that cradle the modern society of masses. The mass media, especially television, encroach upon the small-scale discussion, and destroy the chance for the reasonable and leisurely and human interchange of opinion.

Alongside the elite, there is the propagandist, the publicity expert, the public-relations man, [Edward Bernays] who controls the very formation of public opinion. The greatest kind of propaganda with which America is beset, the greatest at least in terms of volume and loudness, is commercial propaganda for soap and cigarettes and automobiles; it is to such things or rather to Their Names, that this society most frequently sings its loudest praises.

[1] The media tell the man in the mass who he is – they give him identity.
[2] They tell him what he wants to be – they give him aspirations.
[3] They tell him how to get that way – they give him technique.
[4] They tell him how to feel that he is that way even when he is not – they give him escape.

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