You’ve heard of Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s infamous propaganda minister who enabled Hitler’s rise to power. Goebbels also provided the inspiration and the methodology for America's Far Right resurgence of the last few decades.
Would you believe, Goebbels learned everything he knew from an American (born in Austria, nephew of Sigmund Freud) — Edward Bernays.
Edward Bernays is considered the father of public relations. The PR industry idolizes him; nobody else has even heard of him. His first major assignment was with President Woodrow Wilson’s administration — drumming up support for American participation in World War I. Bernays’ other claims to fame include:
Working with the American Tobacco Company in the 1920s to make smoking acceptable, even glamorous, for women;
Helping the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) get rid of a bunch of industrial waste products by convincing the American public that water fluoridation was not only safe, but absolutely necessary for everyone’s health;
In the 1930s he helped to sell jillions of Dixie Cups by convincing the public that it’s dangerous and unsanitary to wash and re-use the same cup. The only way to be completely safe is to use disposable cups;
Bernays’ most disgraceful PR campaign was for United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands International). He spun out a massive propaganda campaign to convince the public that Guatemala’s elected president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, was a dangerous communist who needed to be overthrown. We all know how that worked out.
So, the next time you see one of Goebbels’ famous quotes —
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,”
“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly — it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over” —
Remember where he learned his PR skills.
I got all of the above information from a letter to the editor in our local paper a few days ago. I Googled it; you can find lots of information here and here.