This reading carries on from here.
The ninth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda in Social Service’.
By “Social Service,” Bernays refers to what would today be known as the welfare system. He states that the welfare system requires constant propagandising, on account of that its continued existence is contingent on the will of the wealthy. Here he states the maxim that “Civilization is limited by inertia.”
One striking feature of today’s world, Bernays contends, is the democratisation of propaganda opportunities. Back in the day, change was effected by autocratic rulers who decreed it, but today any person is able at least to try changing public opinion about something.
In this chapter Bernays again underlines the significance of appealing to the leaders of the various groups within society. If a variety of leaders of different social groups can be brought on board, it’s not too hard to get the people they influence on board too. With this achieved, it’s possible to use the approval of these leaders to further propagandise.
Bernays states here that “Social service… is identical with propaganda in many cases.” By this he means that all efforts to effect social change are propaganda efforts. The efforts of the welfare state to raise the wellbeing of people necessitates a propaganda effort. This is especially true when new scientific advances suggest certain changes (as they did in Bernays’s time in the case of prison reform).
He concludes this chapter with the statement that “Social progress is simply the progressive education and enlightenment of the public mind in regard to its immediate and distant social problems.” In this regard, the propagandist has an extremely important role. It’s perhaps telling, though, that Bernays doesn’t write about how the propagandist knows whether they’re enlightening or misleading people with their work.
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