Bernays, Edward L. Freud's American nephew and disciple

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The Science of Ruling http://www.poliedu.net/PCVol4Is9NewsBias.shtml

It all began

with

Sigmund Freud.

More precisely,

it began with

Bernays, Edward L.

Freud's American nephew and disciple.

In the early 20th. century,

Bernays took the crude,

razz-ma-tazz occupation of press agentry,

added psychological manipulation,

laid it all on top of

some of the most shocking elitism imaginable,

and created a little-understood

but all pervasive

pseudoscience--public relations.

Here's

what Bernays believed about people like you and me:


      That we are driven by 
"the passions of the pack in ... mob violence
      and 
the passions of the herd in ... panic."
      That we have 
"logic-proof compartments" in our minds 
that "prevent[us] 
from seeing 
in terms of 
experience and thought, 
rather t
han in
      terms of 
group reaction."

      And that we are 
"remarkably susceptible to leadership."

These weren't just casual observations.

An interviewer

who spoke with Bernays

late in his long life

was struck by the way

he repeated and

repeated

his

distrust

of

ordinary

people,

and

his

belief

that we

not only

don't think,

but can't think.

Bernays believed that

he&other members of the elite

were exactly the leaders

we needed

to save us

from our primitive,

animal-like selves, and

to save orderly society from us.

"If

we

understand

the mechanism

and motives of

the group mind,"

he wrote,

the elite could

"control and regiment the masses

according to our will

without them knowing it ...

just as the motorist

can regulate the speed of his car

by manipulating the flow of gasoline."

He further said,

"The duty of the higher strata of society--

the cultivated, the learned, the expert, the intellectual--

is therefore clear.

They must inject moral and spiritual motives into public opinion."

Inject their idea of "moral" and "spiritual," that is.

And they weren't merely using metaphors.

Bernays and the intellectual, governmental elite

for whom he practiced his new "science"

literally believed that they must

"create man-made gods ... who assert subtle social control"

to

"bring order out of chaos."

Of course,

another word for "chaos" is freedom

--the millions of free choices made by individuals.

What

Bernays and his followers aimed for instead

was a kind of hive-like cooperation.

Their task was to persuade us

to see the world exactly as they wished us to see it,

so that we would then live as they wished us to live,

buy what they wished us to buy,

believe what they wished us to believe,

fear what they wished us to fear,

and

hate

whom they wished us

to hate.

Foundations, "Experts," and Mass Manipulation

The first thing

Bernays did was

to start establishing

"more institutes, funds, institutions + foundations than

Rockefeller, Carnegie + Filene

together."

Why?

Because,

if it's necessary

to "scientifically" manage our "group mind,"

then who better to do it

than certified "experts" and sages

--people we are predisposed to trust without question?

Bernays' institutes, however,

were designed to produce

whatever statistics or pronouncements

Bernays

and

his clients

wished.

For instance,

Bernays neglected to tell the public

that his

Temperature Research Foundation,

whose stated goal was

"to disseminate

impartial, scientific information

concerning the latest developments in temperature control

as they affect

the health, leisure, happiness + economy of the American people,"

was actually funded

by the nice folks

selling

Kelvinator refrigerators.

That pattern

has continued

to this day,

with thousands of (tax-exempt) research foundations

aggressively promoting everything

from genetically engineered foods

(with funding from Montsanto, DuPont + Coca Cola)

to citizen disarmament,

and

with charitable foundations

provoking anxiety

over an endless stream of new,

"scientifically proven" problems.


Governments, War + Catastrophe

Using dubious studies

and well-paid "experts"

to sell products or politics

is, sadly,

not the worst

of Bernays' legacy

as the founder

of modern public relations.

It was Bernays who,

working for the U.S. government,

helped whip Ammericans into World War I

by propagating the mantra

"Make the world safe for democracy."

Just as Bernays was Freud's disciple,

Bernays himself had dicciples.

Here's one you'll recognize--

Josef Goebbels.

Hitler's propaganda chief

used Bernays' book,

Crystalizing Public Opinion,

as the basis

of his campaign

to prepare Germany

for the destruction of the Jews.

Most of the daily PR

that masquerades as news

doesn't produce such

catamities.

Nevertheless,

its overall impact is dangerous.

It helps destroy both

independent thought and freedom.

It helps

transfer

money and power

from individuals to giant institutions.

Are we saying that every journalist working today

is consciously lying with the goal of controlling us?

No.

But

from journalism school onward,

reporters are steeped

in the premises of control

--the belief

that

the duty

of

the communications elite

is not

to find out

the truth

and

convey information,

but

to mold

the masses.

Even when they don't set out to deceive us,

reporters often propagate false

or misleading information.

Because of time pressures,

budget limitations,

demands from their bosses,

personal biases,

and sometimes

through sheer laziness,

reporters often

simply pass along "news"

provided to them by

corporations,

foundations,

political organizations,

and government agencies.

They may trim it,

rearrange it,

reword it a bit,

and add an interview to it.

But

one thing they rarely do

is seriously investigate

the reliability of information

that's handed to them.

And every one of those institutions

producing those news releases

and white papers

has an agenda.

They want your tax money,

your submissiveness,

your contributions,

your faith,

your purchases,

your unquestioning belief in their causes,

and ultimately

they want to control

what you believe,

how you live,

and

what

you think.

Or

what you think you think.


Don't Get Skunked


Here are nine simple tips

to avoid

getting skunked

by biased news

.

1. If you see a statistic, doubt it.


"Three million Americans homeless."

"Twelve students killed by gun violence every day."

"Average home price rises."


Unless you've personally reviewed the data and the methodology,

assume all statistics are untrustworthy.

In the three examples

given here,

the one about homelessness was simply made up

by

political activist

Mitch Snyder

and repeated for years

by

irresponsible journalists.

The claim about dead students

rests on several bizarre assumptions:

first,

that anyone under 24 is a "child,"

then that all "children" are "students,"

then there's a dollop of shere imagination added on top of that.

The one about "average" home prices

--well, if you understand the differences between

"means."

"medians,"

"averages,"

and "modes,"

you can come up with almost

any "average" home price you want,

depending on whether your aim is to puff up

the status of a community or lower its property taxes.

2.

Just because a claim comes from an "expert" doesn't make it true.

Remember that every foundation or institute,

even the most famous, has an agenda.

The most eminent scientists can be bought.

Even the most renown "expert" can be just plain flat wrong.

Dr.Arthur Kellerman

(he of the "43 times more likely to die" claim)

and the gently named

"Americans for Gun Safety"

aren't

trustworthy just because they sound unbiased and authoritative.

And celebrities--even the ones on your side--

don't possess any magical connection to the truth.

3.

Just because something happened after does't mean it happened because of something else.

When you hear a statement like,

"Poverty decreased

after

President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs

went into effect,"

its sounds plausible to assume

the programs caused the drop.

But never assume a cause and effect relationship

unless you can actually demonstrate one.

(In fact, in this case, the connection is unprovable

and the statement is downright false.Poverty rates

had been plummeting before those programs took effect.

They flattened out soon afterward and have remained nearly

static for more than 30 years as the programs have grown bigger

and more plentiful.)

Unless you establish cause and effect,

then it's just as logical to assume

that Al Gore lost the presidential election

because Elvis was sighted at Burger King

in1978,

or that

Hilliary Clinton

was elected to the Senate

because

Monica Lewinsky

gained 90 pounds.


4. Watch for biased language.

Biased language comes in many flavors.

Gun owners

may be most familiar with the kind that's used against us

(like the politically concoted term

"assault weapon," or

"gun violence,"

which

makes it sound as if Glocks and Rugers

are prowling the streets

on their own,

stalking victims).

But

examine the language of any news article.

Look for terms

designed to evoke automatic agreement

or automatic distaste, rather than convey information:

"sensible," "common-sense," "Frankenfoods," "mean-spirited,"

"slash," "moms," "urgent," "needy," "reasonable," "for the

children," "sacred," "greedy," "homeland"--the list is endless.


And yes, you'll catch us using biased words in this article.

Emotional words, judgemental words, angry words, stirring

words belong in writing that's designed to inspire, outrage,

or otherwise move us.

But when you see emotion-evoking words

in the socalled news, beware.


5. Question conventional wisdom.

If "everyone knows" something, but the truth can't be independently verified, then perhaps you should be the one who questions what "everybody knows."


One thing "everybody knows," thanks to incessant propaganda

and misleading statistics, is that guns are more likely to

endanger their owners and owners' children than to prevent

crime. This isn't true, but the myth has prevented many

women (the very people who most need the equalizing protec-

tion of firearms) from learning to use guns and effectively

protecting their families. How many have become victims as

a result of this single bit of propaganda?


Remember, "everybody" once "knew" you could "scientifically"

detect a person's character by feeling the bumps on his head.

"Everybody" once "knew" women shouldn't be educated because

all that brainwork would draw energy away from their repro-

ductive organs. "Everybody" once "knew" the earth was flat.

It's remarkable how often "everybody" gets it wrong.

6. If the news makes you feel fear or anxiety, take a deep breath and give yourself a reality check.

Do you think it's only a matter of time until the oceans are

dead and devoid of living creatures? Do you fear that crimi-

nals lurk on every street corner? Do you worry that the world

will soon collapse in a chaos of starvation? Do you believe

America is suffering from a plague of mental illness, desper-

ately requiring treatment?


Sometimes there's genuine reason to feel anxiety about the

news. There certainly was on 11.Sep.2001. There cer-

tainly is if a serial killer is loose in your neighborhood.

But most of the time, when we read "scientific" or sociolog-

ical "news" reports on "rising tide of gun violence," "threat

to the global environment," or "new health threat to our

children," we need to ask: Who benefits? As often as not,

news stories reporting nebulous threats to our well-being

are created to help some non-profit group get more funding,

help political interests drum up knee-jerk support for new

laws ("We must DO SOMETHING about...!), or persuade you to

buy something. (Isn't it funny how all those stories about

rising depression rates and childhood mental illness match

up so well with the rising tide of drug-makers' feelgood ads

on TV?)

7. Anybody claiming to be "just plain folks" probably isn't.

When 40,000 "gun-control" advocates showed up in Washington

calling themselves the "Million Mom March," they weren't

merely using biased (and inaccurate) language. They were

trying to give a grassroots appearance to an effort driven

by millions of dollars in foundation funding and deep polit-

ical connections. (The media forgot to tell us that the

"ordinary housewife" who organized the group was a former

press secretary for Dan Rather and had family connections

to the Clintons.


Similar tricks are used by corporations, who like to put

ordinary employee' faces in ads and news stories as a means

of saying, "We're not a multi-billion dollar, soulless, in-

ter-global conglomerate; we're 'just plain folks.' Just

like you." Don't believe it unless you know it for sure.

Particularly don't believe any political movement is "grass-

roots" if the approach is slick or if the alleged "grass-

roots" group comes out of nowhere with big money and big

media connections.

8. Don't accept dehumanizing of opponents.

In some ways, dehumanizing opponents is the most obvious of

all forms of bias in the news. It is also the cruelest be-

cause, by setting opponents up as non-humans, it can lay the

groundwork for the annihilation of a minority group or the

destruction of liberty. The classic example is Hitler and

Goebbels using propaganda to persuade Germans that Jews were

nothing but "vermin" or "cancer." Yet we tend not to notice

dehuminization unless we sympathize with the maligned group.

We know that, when government agents and the media use terms

like "extremist," "religious fanatic," "gun nut," or "hate

group," they're justifying injustice against unpopular people.

Yet we may not object to epithets like "Leftwing lunatic,"

"pinko," or "bomb-throwing anarchist." It's a matter of whose

ox is being gored. Nevertheless, when you see any dehunaniz-

ing, demonizing epithets in the "news," no matter who is the

target, it's once again time to beware.

9. Polls tell us more about pollsters than about reality.

A friend of ours was once asked to participate in a survey to

"determine [her] risk of being a victim of 'gun violence.'"

One of the risk factors was, "Have you ever heard gunfire

near your home?" Asked in downtown Washington, D.C., that

might actually assess a risk. But our friend, who lives in

the woods between a shooting range and a quarry where kids

plink at soda cans, just burst into laughter.


This is one of the many problems with polls. They try to

squeeze a complex reality into a soundbite (and often do it

in a biased way, besides). Ask a thousand people, "Do you

favor reasonable gun control?" and an overwhelming majority

invariably says, "Yes!" The media trumpets the figure.

But get specific and its a different story: "Would you

favor Senator Shoehorn's gun registration plan if the cost

were $700 million or higher?" "Do you believe members of your

household would be safer if the law required you to lock your

guns away where you couldn't reach them quickly?" Suddenly,

public support for "reasonable gun control" plummets.


With the exception of a very few well-designed, unbiased

polls, all polls are essentially meaningless. Their value

lies in PR.

Bibliography:

1954 Huff, Darrell."How to Lie With Statistics". W.W. Norton & Company,.
2001 Poe, Richard. "The Seven Myths of Gun Control". Prima Publishing Company,.
2001 Rampton, Sheldon + Stauber, John."Trust Us, We're the Experts".Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam,.
1999 Stevens, Richard W."Dial 911 and Die".Mazel Freedom Press, 
2001 Stevens, Richard W. + Zelman, Aaron."Death by Gun Control-"The Human Cost of Citizen Disarmament".Mazel Freedom Press,.
2002 Tye, Larry."Father of Spin-Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations".Henry Holt & Company,
2002 Wolfe, Claire + Zelman, Aaron."The State vs. the People-The Rise of the American Police State".Mazel Freedom Press,.

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