31 January 2016

Vote Propaganda

Propaganda by Edward Bernays, 1928, Excerpts

In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. But the American voters soon found that without organizations and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens of hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion. We have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four. To avoid confusion, society consents to have its choice narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention through propaganda of all kinds. There is consequently a vast and continuous effort going on to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or commodity or idea.

An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality. A charming candidate is the alchemist’s secret that can transmute a prosaic platform into the gold of votes. It is asked whether, in fact, the leader makes propaganda, or whether propaganda makes the leader. There is a widespread impression that a good press agent can puff up a nobody into a great man.

Those whose position or ability gives them power can no longer do what they want without the approval of the masses. They find in propaganda a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval. The use of propaganda, carefully adjusted to the mentality of the masses, is an essential adjunct of political life. Given our present political conditions under which every office seeker must cater to the vote of the masses, the only means to lead is through the expert use of propaganda.

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