The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Public Relations’

The Situation of Public Relations

Posted by Adam Benforado on June 19, 2010

Here at the Situationist, we spend a lot of time focused on new research from the mind sciences and, as a result, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there are other individuals and entities (besides academics and universities) out there working tirelessly to uncover what makes us tick.

Some of these individuals and entities are well intentioned: they want to know how humans think and behave to design better government policies that reduce suffering and improve outcomes or to create products or services that better serve our needs and wants.

Yet, there are others out there whose goals are less meritorious.  Like mind scientists, they understand that people are powerfully influenced by their situations, but their aim is not to use this knowledge to nudge people towards healthy eating choices that save lives and minimize costs or long-term savings that can help people thrive into old age.  Rather, their sole aim is to maximize profits.

Take Richard Berman, head of the public relations firm, Berman and Company.  I (along with Situationist contributors Jon Hanson and David Yosifon) became familiar with Berman’s work a number of years ago while doing research on how fast food corporations use third-party messengers to alter the debate over the causes of the current obesity epidemic.  As documented in a resulting article, Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America (Emory Law Journal, 2004), Berman is a master at altering seemingly settled issues—like whether high fructose corn syrup is good for you and whether there should be a minimum wage—because he understands how people think.

Rachel Maddow exposed some of Berman’s more recent public campaigns in an interesting segment below.

On Thursday, Stephanie Strom at the New York Times, had a nice piece on how Berman uses the nonprofit loophole to accomplish his goals:

Across two decades, Mr. Berman has founded the Center for Consumer Freedom and five other nonprofits with similarly innocuous names. His industry donors — including restaurant chains whose costs could rise if living conditions for animals have to be improved, and wine and spirits companies that might sell less liquor if MADD has its way — can claim a deduction for charitable donations or business expenses. And since nonprofit groups do not have to disclose their donors, Mr. Berman’s groups offer an even more valuable asset — anonymity for companies that would rather their customers not know they are behind certain attacks.

His critics say Mr. Berman’s organizations are little more than moneymakers for his for-profit communications firm, Berman and Company. Last month, in what appears to be a new tactic by those critics, the Humane Society and MADD filed a complaint with the New York Commission on Public Integrity, charging that the American Beverage Institute and Berman and Company were in fact lobbying and had failed to register with the state as lobbyists.

I, for one, am curious to see how this plays out.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Deep Capture – Part VII,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “The Century of Dispositionism – Part I, Part II, and Part III,”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Relations, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The Century of Dispositionism – Part III

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 2, 2010

From BBC Website :

Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

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To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

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The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.

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Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

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The videos from Episode Three, “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed,” are below. Here is the BBC‘s overview:

In the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian ideas in America. They were inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freud’s, who had turned against him and was hated by the Freud family. He believed that the inner self did not need to be repressed and controlled. It should be encouraged to express itself.
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Out of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people’s minds by business and politics.
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This programme shows how this rapidly developed in America through self-help movements like Werber Erhard’s Erhard Seminar Training – into the irresistible rise of the expressive self: the Me Generation.
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But the American corporations soon realised that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner desires of the new self.

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Part I of this series is here.  Part II is here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “Industry-Funded Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Marketing, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Century of Dipositionism – Part II

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 18, 2010

From BBC Website :

Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

* * *

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

* * *

The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.

* * *

Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

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The videos from Episode Two, “The Engineering of Consent,” are below. Here is the BBC‘s overview:

The programme explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud’s ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses.

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Politicians and planners came to believe Freud’s underlying premise – that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind.

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Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, and his nephew, Edward Bernays, provided the centrepiece philosophy. The US government, big business, and the CIA used their ideas to develop techniques to manage and control the minds of the American people. But this was not a cynical exercise in manipulation. Those in power believed that the only way to make democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage barbarism that lurked just under the surface of normal American life.

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It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

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Part I of this series is here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “Industry-Funded Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Ideology, Public Policy, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Century of Dipositionism – Part I

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 13, 2010

From Wikipedia:

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings. His influence on the twentieth century is generally considered profound. The series describes the ways public relations and politicians have utilized Freud’s theories during the last 100 years for the “engineering of consent.”

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Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed. Freud’s daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as is one of the main opponents of Freud’s theories, Wilhelm Reich, in the third part.

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Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

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The business and, increasingly, the political world uses psychological techniques to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people’s rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites Paul Mazer, a Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in the 1930s: “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

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The videos from Episode One, “Happiness Machines,” are below.  Here is the BBC‘s overview:

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.
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Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.

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His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.

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It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “Industry-Funded Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Deep Capture, History, Marketing, Politics, Public Policy, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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