The Father of Spin

Posted on Feb 23, 2017 in Blog, Musings

I bet you thought that branding, marketing and public relations came into being in the last couple of decades. Nope, you’re way off. In truth, the foundations of the now ubiquitous magic of spin were invented by the masterful communicator Edward Bernays more than a hundred years ago.

From a quick look at Wikipedia: It started when Bernays worked for the administration of Woodrow Wilson with the Committee on Public Information during World War I. He was persuasive in promoting the idea that America’s war efforts were primarily aimed at “bringing democracy to all of Europe.”

“Stunned by the degree to which the democracy slogan had swayed the public both at home and abroad, he wondered whether this propaganda model could be employed during peacetime. Due to negative implications surrounding the word propaganda because of its use by the Germans in World War I, he promoted the term public relations.”

Et voila, we see today that Bernays’ brain child has impacted all aspects of modern life, including politics, fashion and lifestyle and social attitudes. It’s all about psychology. And here’s the most important connection: Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and was deeply influenced by his uncle’s theories about what motivated individuals and groups to do what they do.

More from Wikipedia: “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.” He called this scientific technique of opinion-molding the engineering of consent.

Fast forward to today, when billions of dollars are spent molding public opinion and engineering consent through p.r. and advertising—for good or for ill. Make sure that your public relations program works for the good of your school. Want to know more? Read The Father of Spin by Larry Tye.