It has been a trying couple of weeks for Saudi Arabia. First, a tweet from an account associated with the Saudi government appeared to threaten Canada with a 9/11-style attack if they continued to “stick their nose where it doesn’t belong.” . . . . .
And then, not long afterwards, the Saudi government beheaded and crucified on a public pole a Burmese man found guilty of murder. . . . . .
Then, on August 9, a Saudi jet targeted and destroyed a school bus full of children in Yemen. . . . . .
How does one manage the “optics” for a country that behaves this way? First, you need to recruit as many public relations men and lobbyists as possible. This is exactly what Saudi Arabia has done . . . . . hiring some of the best PR and government relations firms in Washington and London.
These firms know how to mold public opinion. They are heirs to the father of the dark art of “public relations,” Edward Bernays . . . . .
(Michael Horton in The American Conservative, Aug 14, 2018.)
Which brings us to how the United States in particular became the world’s leading practitioner of propaganda.
Contrary to common assumptions, propaganda plays an important role — and certainly a more covert and sophisticated role — in technologically advanced democratic societies, where the maintenance of the existing power and privileges are vulnerable to popular opinion.
In contrast, under authoritarian regimes power and privilege are not open and vulnerable to dissenting public opinion.
— Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy (p.12)
A more anodyne term for propaganda is “business and corporate public relations”.
In the fifty years 1890 to 1940:
|Least experience of democratic institutions||Limited experience of democratic institutions||Longest experience of liberal, democratic institutions|
|Italy & Japan||Germany||England & USA|
|Least competent propaganda||Nationalist Socialist propaganda better organised, more vociferous, more versatile||Public relations propaganda is the most highly coloured and ambidextrous, more-so in USA than England|
Compare the Soviet Union:
One area of social science that is ordinarily assumed to be useful to a totalitarian regime is research on social and political attitudes … Ironically, psychology and the other social sciences have been employed least in the Soviet Union for precisely those purposes for which Americans popularly think psychology would be used in a totalitarian state political propaganda and the control of human behaviour.
Democracy must be seen to be done, but the will of the elite powers-that-be must be protected and advanced. Hence, after Edward Bernays another early propaganda theorist, Harry Lasswell, as early as 1938 wrote that in the modern world more could be done by illusion than coercion and that a professional class had emerged for that purpose:
The modern world is busy developing a corps of men who do nothing but study the ways and means of changing minds or binding minds to their convictions. Propaganda … is developing its practitioners, its teachers and its theories. It is to be expected that governments will rely increasingly upon the professional propagandists for advice and aid.
An early illustration of “democratic propaganda” Continue reading “Masters of Propaganda — tutors of Saudi Arabia, alumni include Hitler”