Century of the Self Transcript - Part 1 - Happiness Machines
Century of the Self Transcript - Part 1 - Happiness Machines
A hundred years ago a new theory about human nature was put forth by Sigmund Freud. He had discovered he said, primitive and sexual and aggressive forces hidden deep inside the minds of all human beings. Forces which if not controlled led individuals and societies to chaos and destruction.
This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.
But the heart of the series is not just Sigmund Freud but other members of the Freud family.
This episode is about Freud's American nephew Edward Bernays.
Bernays is almost completely unknown today but his influence on the 20th century was nearly as great as his uncles. Because Bernays was the first person to take Freud's ideas about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations for the first time how to they could make people want things they didn't need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires.
Out of this would come a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying people's inner selfish desires one made them happy and thus docile. It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate our world today.
Freud's ideas about how the human mind works have now become an accepted part of society. As have psychoanalysts.
Every year the psychotherapists ball is held in a grand place in Vienna.
"This is the psychotherapy ball. Psychotherapists come, some advanced patients come, former patients come, and many other people - friends as well as people from the Viennese society who like to come to a nice elegant comfortable ball. " - Dr. Alfred Fritz, President World Council for Psychotherapy
But it was not always so. A hundred years ago Freud's ideas were hated by Viennese society. At that time Vienna was the center of a vast empire leading central Europe. And to the powerful nobility of the Hoffman accord Freud's ideas were not only embarrassing, but the very idea of examining and analyzing ones inner feelings was a threat to their absolute control.
Countess Erzie Karolyi - Budapest: You see at that time these people had the power and of course you just weren't allowed to show your bloody feelings, I mean you just couldn't. You know if you were unhappy, can you imagine for instance you see someone in the country in a castle you are deeply unhappy you are a woman; you couldn't go to your mate and cry on her shoulders, you couldn't go into the village and complain about your feelings, it was assailing yourself to someone you just couldn't. You know. Because they had to respect you. Now of course Freud put that very much into question - you see to examine yourself you would have to put other things into question - society, everything that surrounds you and that was not a good thing at that time. Why? Because your self-created empire to a certain extent would have fallen to bits much earlier already.
But what frightened the rulers of the empire even more was Freud's idea hidden inside all human beings were dangerous instinctual drives. Freud had devised a method he called psychoanalysis. By analyzing dreams and free association he had unearthed he said powerful sexual and aggressive forces which were the remnants of our animal past. Feelings we repressed because they were too dangerous.
Dr. Earnest Jones - Colleague of Freud: Freud devised a method for exploring the hidden part of the mind which we nowadays call the unconscious this the part is totally unknown to our consciousness. That there exists a barrier in all our minds which prevents these hidden and welcome impulses from the unconscious from emerging.
In 1914 the Austria Hungarian Empire led Europe into war. As the horror mounted Freud saw it as terrible evidence of the truth of his findings. The saddest thing he wrote, that this is exactly the way we should expect people to behave from our knowledge of psychoanalysis. Governments had unleashed the primitive forces in humans beings and no one seemed to know how to stop them.
At that time, Freud's young nephew Edward Bernays was working as a press agent in America. His main client was the world famous opera singer Caruso who was touring the United States. Bernays' parents had emigrated to America 20 years before, but he kept in touch with his Uncle who joined him for Holidays in the Alps. But Bernays was now about to return to Europe for a very different reason. On the night that Caruso opened in Toledo Ohio America announced that it was entering the war against Germany and Austria. As part of the war effort the US government set up a committee on public information and Bernays was employed to promote America's war aims in the press. The president Woodrow Wilson had announced that the United States would fight not to restore the old empires but to bring democracy to all of Europe. Bernays proved extremely skillful at promoting this idea both at home and abroad and at the end of the war was asked to accompany the President to the Paris Peace Conference.
Edward Bernays - 1991: Then to my surprise they asked me to go with Woodrow Wilson to the peace conference. And at the age of 26 I was in Paris for the entire time of the peace conference that was held in the suburb of Paris and we and worked to make the world safe for democracy. That was the big slogan.
Wilson's reception in Paris astounded Bernays and the other American propagandists. They had portrayed Wilson as a liberator of the people. The man who would create a new world in which the individual would be free. They had made him a hero of the masses. And as he watched the crowd surge around Wilson, Bernays began to wonder if it would be possible to do the same type of mass persuasion but in peace time.
Edward Bernays - 1991: When I came back to the United States I decided that if you could use propaganda for war you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans using it. So what I did is try to find some other words so we found the word Council on Public Relations.
Bernays returned to New York and set up as a Public Relations Councilman in small office off Broadway. Which was the first time the term had even been used. Since the end of the 19th century, America had become a mass industrial society with millions clustered together in the cities. Bernays was determined to find a way to manage and alter the way these new crowds thought and felt. To do this he turned to the writings of his Uncle Sigmund. While in Paris Bernays had sent his Uncle a gift of some Havana cigars. In return Freud had sent him a copy of his General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Bernays read it and the picture of hidden irrational forces inside human beings fascinated him. He wondered whether he might be able to make money manipulating the unconscious.
Pat Jackson - Public Relations Adviser and Colleague of Bernays: What Eddie got from Freud was indeed this idea that there is a lot more going on in human decision making. Not only among individuals but even more importantly among groups that this idea that information drives behavior. So Eddie began to formulate this idea that you had to look at things that will play to people's irrational emotions. You see that immediately moved Eddie into a different category from other people in his field and most government officials and managers of the day who thought if you just hit people with all this factual information they would look at that say go "of course" and Eddie knew that was not the way the world worked.
Bernays set out to experiment with the minds of the popular classes. His most dramatic experiment was to persuade women to smoke. At that time there was a taboo against women smoking and one of his early clients George Hill, the President of the American Tobacco corporation asked Bernays to find a way to break it.
Edward Bernays - 1991: He says we're losing half of our market. Because men have invoked a taboo against women smoking in public. Can you do anything about that. I said let me think about it. If I may have permission to see psychoanalyst to see what cigarettes mean to women. He said what'll cost? So I called up Dr Brille, AA Brille who was the leading psychoanalyst in New York at the time.
AA Brille was one of the first psychoanalysts in America. And for a large fee he told Bernays that cigarettes were a symbol of the penis and of male sexual power. He told Bernays that if he could find a way to connect cigarettes with the idea of challenging male power then women would smoke because then they would have their own penises.
Every year New York held an Easter day parade to which thousands came. Bernays decided to stage an event there . He persuaded a group of rich debutants to hide cigarettes under their clothes. Then they should join the parade and at a given signal from him they were to light up the cigarettes dramatically. Bernays then informed the press that he had heard that a group of suffragettes were preparing to protest by lighting up what they called torches of freedom.
Pat Jackson - Public Relations Adviser and Colleague of Bernays: He knew this would be an outcry, and he knew that all of the photographers would be there to capture this moment so he was ready with a phrase which was torches of freedom. So here you have a symbol, women, young women, debutantes, smoking a cigarette in public with a phrase that means anybody who believes in this kind of equality pretty much has to support them in the ensuing debate about this, because I mean torches of freedom. What's our American point, it's liberty, she's holding up the torch, you see and so all this there together, there's emotion there's memory and there's a rational phrase, all of this is in there together. So the next day this was not just in all the New York papers it was across the United States and around the world. And from that point forward the sale of cigarettes to woman began to rise. He had made them socially acceptable with a single symbolic ad.
What Bernays had created was the idea that if a women smoked it made her more powerful and independent. An idea that still persists today. It made him realize that it was possible to persuade people to behave irrationally if you link products to their emotional desires and feelings. The idea that smoking actually made women freer, was completely irrational. But it made them feel more independent. It meant that irrelevant objects could become powerful emotional symbols of how you want to be seen by others.
Peter Strauss - Employee of Bernays 1948-1952: Eddie Bernays saw a way to sell product was not to sell it to your intellect, that you ought to buy an automobile, but that you will feel better about it if you have this automobile. I think he originated that idea that they weren't just purchasing something that they were engaging themselves emotionally or personally in a product or service. It's not that you think you need a piece of clothing but that you will feel better if you have a piece of clothing. That was his contribution in a very real sense. We see it all over the place today but I think he originated the idea, the emotional connect to a product or service.
What Bernays was doing fascinated Americas corporations. They had come out of the war rich and powerful, but they had a growing worry. The system of mass production had flourished during the war and now millions of goods were pouring off production lines. What they were frightened of was the danger of overproduction, that there would come a point when people had enough goods and would simply stop buying. Up until that point the majority of products were still sold to the masses on the basis of need. While the rich had long been used to luxury goods for the millions of working class Americans most products were still advertised as necessities. Goods like shoes stockings even cars were promoted in functional terms for their durability. The aim of the advertisements were simply to show people the products practical virtues, nothing more.
What the corporations realized they had to do was transform the way the majority of Americans thought about products. One leading Wall Street banker, Paul Mazer of Leahman Brothers was clear about what was necessary. We must shift America, he wrote, from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man's desires must overshadow his needs.
Peter Solomon - Investment Banker - Leahman Brothers: Prior to that time there was no American consumer, there was the American worker. And there was the American owner. And they manufactured, and they saved and they ate what they had to and the people shopped for what they needed. And while the very rich may have bought things they didn't need, most people did not. And Mazer envisioned a break with that where you would have things that you didn't actually need, but you wanted as opposed to needed.
And the man who would be at the center of changing that mentality for the corporations was Edward Bernays.
Stuart Ewen - Historian of Public Relations: Bernays really is the guy within the United States more than anybody else who sort of brings to the table psychological theory as something that is an essential part of how, from the corporate side, of how we are going to appeal to the masses effectively and the whole sort of merchandising establishment and the sales establishment is ready for Sigmund Freud. I mean they are ready for understanding what motivates the human mind. And so there's this real openness to Bernays techniques being used to sell products to the masses.
Beginning in the early 20's the New York banks funded the creation of chains of department stores across America. They were to be the outlets for the mass produced goods. And Bernays' job was to produce the new type of customer. Bernays began to create many of the techniques of mass consumer persuasion that we now live with. He was employed by William Randolph Hurst to promote his new women's magazines, and Bernays glamorized them by placing articles and advertisements that linked products made by others of his clients to famous film stars like Clara Bow, who was also his client. Bernays also began the practice of product placement in movies, and he dressed the stars at the films premieres with clothes and jewelry from other firms he represented.
He was, he claimed, the first person to tell car companies they could sell cars as symbols of male sexuality. He employed psychologists to issue reports that said products were good for you and then pretended they were independent studies. He organized fashion shows in department stores and paid celebrities to repeat the new and essential message, you bought things not just for need but to express your inner sense of your self to others.
Commercial spot from 1920s featuring Mrs. Stillman, 1920s Celebrity Aviator:
There's a psychology of dress, have you ever thought about it? How it can express your character? You all have interesting characters but some of them are all hidden. I wonder why you all want to dress always the same, with the same hats and the same coats. I'm sure all of you are interesting and have wonderful things about you, but looking at you in the street you all look so much the same. And that's why I'm talking to you about the psychology of dress. Try and express yourselves better in your dress. Bring out certain things that you think are hidden. I wonder if you've thought about this angle of your personality.
Clip of man interviewing a woman on the street in the 1920s:
Man: I'd like to ask you some questions. Why do you like short skirts?
Woman: Oh because there's more to see. (crowd laughs)
Man: More to see eh? What good does that do you?
Woman: It makes you more attractive.
In 1927 an American journalist wrote: A change has come over our democracy, it is called consumptionism. The American citizens first importance to his country is now no longer that of citizen, but that of consumer.
The growing wave of consumerism helped in turn to create a stock market boom. And yet again Edward Bernays became involved. Promoting the idea that ordinary people should buy shares borrowing money from banks that he also represented. And yet again, millions followed his advice.
Peter Strauss - Employee of Bernays 1948-1952: He was uniquely knowledgeable about how people in large numbers are going to react to products and ideas, but in political terms if he were to go out I can't imagine he could get three people to stand and listen. He wasn't particularly articulate, he was kind of funny looking, and didn't have any sense of reaching out for people one on one. None at all. He didn't talk about, didn't think about people in groups of one, he thought about people in groups of thousands.
Bernays soon became famous as the man who understood the mind of the crowd, and in 1924 the President contacted him. President Coolidge was a quiet taciturn man and had become a national joke. The press portrayed him as a dull humorless figure. Bernays' solution was to do exactly the same as he had done with products. He persuaded 34 famous film stars to visit the White House, and for the first time politics became involved with public relations.
Bernays speaking in 1991: And I lined up these 34 people and I'd say what's your name, and he'd say Al Jolson, and I'd say Mr. President, Al Jolson. The next day every newspaper in the United States had a front page story President Coolidge Entertains Actors at White House. And the Times had a headline which said President Nearly Laughed, and everybody was happy.
But while Bernays became rich and powerful in America, in Vienna his uncle was facing disaster. Like much of Europe Vienna was suffering an economic crisis and massive inflation which wiped out all of Freud's' savings. Facing bankruptcy he wrote to his nephew for help. Bernays responded by arranging for Freud's works to be published for the first time in America, and began to send his uncle precious dollars which Freud kept secretly in a foreign bank account.
Pat Jackson - Public Relations Adviser and Colleague of Bernays: He was Freud's "agent" if you will, to get his books published. Well of course once the books were being published Eddie couldn't help himself but to promote these books; see that everybody read them, make them controversial; emphasize the fact that 'do you know what Freud says about sex and what he thinks cigarettes are a symbol of' and so on and so forth. How do you suppose all those stories got out? Certainly the academics weren't spreading these around the country Eddie Bernays was. Then when Freud became accepted, well then of course to go to a client and go 'well Uncle Siggy' see then that had some cache. But notice there, first Eddie created Uncle Siggy in the US, made him acceptable secondly, and thirdly then capitalized on Uncle Siggy. Typical Bernays performance.
Bernays also suggested Freud promote himself in the United States. He proposed his uncle write an article for Cosmopolitan, the magazine that Bernays represented, entitled 'A Woman's Mental Place in the Home'. Freud was furious. Such an idea he said was unthinkable, it was vulgar and anyway he hated America.
Freud was becoming increasingly pessimistic about human beings. In the mid 20s he retreated in the summers to the Alps, sometimes staying in an old hotel, the Pension Moritz in Berchtesgaden. It is now a ruin. Freud began to write about group behavior; about how easily the unconscious aggressive forces of human beings could be triggered when they were in crowds. Freud believed he had underestimated the aggressive instincts within human beings; they were far more dangerous than he had originally thought.
Dr. Ernst Federn - Viennese Psychoanalyst: After World War I Freud was basically a pessimist. He felt that man is an impossible creature and a very sadistic and bad species and did not believe that man can be improved. Man is a ferocious animal, the most ferocious animal that exists. They enjoy torture and killing and he didn't like man.
The publication of Freud's work in America had an extraordinary effect on journalists and intellectuals in the 1920s. What fascinated and frightened them was the picture Freud painted of submerged dangerous forces lurking just under the surface of modern society. Forces that could erupt easily to produce the frenzied mob which had the power to destroy even governments. It was this they believed had happened in Russia. To many this meant that one of the guiding principles of mass democracy was wrong; the belief that human beings could be trusted to make decisions on a rational basis.
The leading political writer, Walter Lippmann argued that if human beings were in reality driven by unconscious irrational forces then it was necessary to re-think democracy. What was needed was a new elite that could manage what he called the bewildered herd. This would be done through psychological techniques that would control the unconscious feelings of the masses.
Stewart Ewen - Historian of Public Relations: And so here you have Walter Lippmann, probably the most influential political thinker in the United States, who is essentially saying the basic mechanism of the mass mind is unreason, is irrationality, is animality. He believes that the mob in the street which is how he sees ordinary people, are people driven not by their minds but by their spinal chords. The notion of animal drives, unconscious and instinctual drives, lurking beneath the surface of civilization; and so they started looking towards psychological science as a way of understanding the mechanisms by which the popular mind works specifically with the goal of figuring out how to understand how to apply those mechanisms to strategy for social control.
Edward Bernays was fascinated by Lippmann's arguments and also saw a way to promote himself by using them. In the 1920s he started to write a series of books which argued that he had developed the very techniques that Lippmann was calling for. By stimulating people's inner desires and then sating them with consumer products he was creating a new way to manage the irrational force of the masses. He called it the engineering of consent.
Ann Bernays, Daughter of Edward Bernays: Democracy to my father was a wonderful concept, but I don't think he felt that all those publics out there had reliable judgment, and that they very easily might vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing; so that they had to be guided from above. It's enlightened despotism in a sense. You appeal to their desires and unrecognized longings, that sort of thing. That you can tap into their deepest desires or their deepest fears and use that to your own purposes.
And then in 1928 a President came to power who agreed with Bernays. President Hoover was the first politician to articulate the idea that consumerism would become the central motor of American life. After his election he told a group of advertisers and public relations men "You Have taken over the job of creating desire and have transformed people into constantly moving happiness machines. Machines which have become the key to economic progress."
What was beginning to emerge in the 1920s was a new idea of how to run mass democracy. At it's heart was the consuming self which not only made the economy work but was also happy and docile and so created a stable society.
Stewart Ewen - Historian of Public Relations: Both Bernays and Lippmann's concept of managing the masses takes the idea of democracy and turns it a palliative, turns it into giving people some kind of feel good medication that will respond to an immediate pain or immediate yearning but will not alter the objective circumstances one iota. The idea of democracy at it's heart was about changing the relations of power that had governed the world for so long; and Bernays' concept of democracy was one of maintaining the relations of power, even if it meant one needed to stimulate the psychological lives of the public. And in fact in his mind that is what was necessary. That if you can keep stimulating the irrational self then leadership can go on doing what it wants to do.
Bernays now became one of the central figures in a business elite that dominated American society and politics in the 1920s. He also became extremely rich and lived in a suite of rooms in one of New York's most expensive hotels where he gave frequent parties.
Peter Strauss - Employee of Bernays 1948-1952: Oh my goodness he had a home in the corner suite of the Sherry Netherland hotel and here's this wonderful suite with all these windows looking out on central park and across at the plaza, and on the square, and he would use this place to hold a soiree. The mayor would come, all the media leaders would come, the political leaders, the business leaders, the people in the arts; it was a who's who. People wanted to know Eddie Bernays because he himself became a sort of a famous man a sort of magician that could make things happen.
Ann Bernays, Daughter of Edward Bernays: He knows everybody he knows the mayor, and he knows the senator, and he calls politicians on the telephone as if he did get literally a high or bang out of doing what he did, and that's fine, but it can be a little hard on the people around you. Especially when you make other people feel stupid. The people who worked for him were stupid, the children were stupid, and if people did things in a way that he wouldn't have done them, they were stupid. It was a word that he used over and over - don't be stupid. And the masses - They were stupid.
But Bernays' power was about to be destroyed dramatically, and by a type of human rationality that he could do nothing to control. At the end of October 1929 Bernays organized a huge national event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the light bulb. President Hoover, leaders of major corporations and bankers like John D Rockefeller were all summoned by Bernays to celebrate the power of American business. But even as they gathered news came through that shares on the New York stock exchange were beginning to fall catastrophically.
Throughout the 1920s speculators had borrowed billions of dollars. The banks had promoted the idea that this was a new era where market crashes were a thing of the past. But they were wrong. What was bout to happen was the biggest stock market crash in history. Investors had panicked and begun to sell in a blind relentless fury that no reassurance by bankers or politicians could halt. And on the 29th of October 1929 the market collapsed.
The effect of the crash on the American economy was disastrous. Faced with recession and unemployment millions of American workers stopped buying goods they didn't need. The consumer boom that Bernays had done so much to engineer had disappeared. And he and the profession of public relations fell from favor. Bernays' brief moment of power seemed to be over.
The effect of the Wall Street crash on Europe was also catastrophic. It intensified the growing economic and political crisis in the new democracies. In both Germany and Austria there were violent street battles between the armed wings of different political parties.
Against this backdrop Freud who was suffering from cancer of the jaw retreated yet again to the alps. He wrote a book called Civilization and it's Discontents. It was a powerful attack on the idea that civilization was an expression of human progress. Instead Freud argued civilization had been constructed to control the dangerous animal forces inside human beings. What was implicit in Freud's argument was that the ideal of individual freedom which was at the heart of democracy was impossible. Human beings could never be allowed to truly express themselves because it was too dangerous. They must always be controlled and thus always be discontent.
Dr. Ernst Federn - Viennese Psychoanalyst: Man doesn't want to be civilized and civilization brings discontent but is necessarily to survival so he must be discontent because this would be the only way to keep you within your limits. What did Freud think about the idea of the equality of man? He didn't believe in it.
We had 32 parties and Hitler said "before those parties don't vanish there is no Germany". That's true you can't have 32 parties so they said this one person will put an end to this comedy.
Freud was not alone in his pessimism. Politicians like Adolf Hitler emerged from a growing despair in the 1920s about democracy. The Nazis were convinced that democracy was dangerous because it unleashed a selfish individualism but didn't have the means to control it. Hitler's party the National Socialists stood in elections promising in their propaganda they would abandon democracy because of the chaos and unemployment it led to.
In March 1933 the National Socialists were elected to power in Germany and they set out to create a society that would control human beings in a different way. One of their first acts was to take control of business. The planning of production would in the future be done by the state. The free market was too unstable as the crash in America had proven. Workers leisure time was also planned by the state through a new organization called strength through joy. One of it's mottos was service not self.
But the Nazi's did not see this as return to an old form autocratic control. It was a new alternative to democracy in which the feelings and desires of the masses would still be central but they would be channeled in such a way as to bind the nation together. The chief exponent of this was Joseph Goebbels the Minister of Propaganda.
Goebbels organized huge rallies whose function he said was to forge the mind of the nation into a unity of thinking feeling and desire. One of his inspirations he told an American journalist was the writings of Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays. In his work on crowd psychology Freud had described how the frightening irrationality inside human beings could emerge in such groups. The deep what he called 'libidinal' forces of desire were given up to the leader while the aggressive instincts are unleashed on those outside the group. Freud wrote this as a warning but the Nazis were deliberately encouraging these forces because they believed they could master and control them.
Dr Leoppold Lowenthal - Freudian Psychoanalyst at a rally in Vienna in 2000: Freud was saying that masses are bound by libidinal forces. They love each other and delegate their ideas and feelings through the jack on top. What are libidinal forces? Forces of love. Not hate? No, is delegated on the others outside the mob.
Clip of man speaking "I could see from afar how there were hundreds of thousands of people when they passed Hitler they were completely delirious and shouted Zeig Heil and here I got confirmation how those irrational forces, uncontrollable forces in Germany, in the Germans, had erupted, were brought out running wild where the party was marching, marching onward."
And in America too democracy was under threat from the force of the angry mob. The effect of the stock market crash had been disastrous. There was growing violence as an angry population took out there frustration on the corporations who were seen to have caused this disaster. Then in 1932 a new President was elected who was also going to use the power of the state to control the free market. But his aim was not to destroy democracy but to strengthen it. And to do this he was going to develop a new way of dealing with the masses.
President Roosevelt's in his inauguration speech: "I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of stricken world may require. But in the event that the national emergency is still critical I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis - broad executive power."
It was the start of what would become known as The New Deal. Roosevelt assembled a group of young technocrats and planners in Washington. He told them that their job was to plan and run giant new industrial projects for the good of the nation. Roosevelt was convinced the stock market crash had shown that laissez faire capitalism could no longer run modern industrial economies. This had become the job of government. Big business was horrified but The New Deal had attracted the admiration of the Nazis, especially Joseph Goebbels.
Joseph Goebbels speaking in a news interview: "I am very interested in social developments in America. I believe that President Roosevelt has chosen the right path. We are dealing with the greatest social problems ever known. Millions of unemployed must get their jobs back and this cannot be left to private initiative. It's the government that must tackle the problem."
But although Roosevelt like the Nazis was trying to organize society in a different way, unlike the Nazis he believed that human beings were rational and could be trusted to take an active part in government. Roosevelt believed it was possible to explain his policies to ordinary Americans and to take into account their opinions. To do this he was helped by the new ideas of an American social scientist called George Gallup.
New clip voiceover: "Favorite reading of new deal Washington - the survey of public opinion. From offices at Princeton New Jersey a famed statistician George Gallup tells Washington from week to week what the nation is thinking. And in New York Fortune Magazines analyst Elmo Roper compiles for publication a continuous record of the nations approval or disapproval of how the country is being run."
Gallup and Roper rejected Bernays' view that human beings were at the mercy of unconscious forces and so needed to be controlled. Their system of opinion polling was based on the idea that people could be trusted to know what they wanted. They argued that one could measure and predict the opinions and behavior of the public if one asked strictly factual questions and avoided manipulating their emotions.
George Gallup Jr - Son of George Gallup: Prior to scientific polling the view of many people was that you couldn't trust public opinion, that it was irrational; that it was ill-informed, that it was chaotic, unruly and so forth; and so that it should be dismissed. But with scientific polling I think it established very clearly that people are rational, that they do make good decisions, and this offers democracy a chance to be truly informed by the public giving everybody a voice in the way the country is run. I know my father wouldn't necessarily say that the voice of the public is the voice of God, but he did feel very much that the voice of the people is a rational voice and should be heard.
What Roosevelt was doing was forging a new connection between the masses and politicians. No longer were they irrational consumers who managed by sating their desires, instead they were sensible citizens who could take part in the governing of the country. In 1936 Roosevelt stood for re-election. He promised further control over big business. To the corporations it was the beginning of a dictatorship.
Big business leader speaking in an interview: "Roosevelt interferes with private enterprise and he's running the country into debt for generations to come. The way to get recovery is to let business alone."
But Roosevelt was triumphantly re-elected. Faced with this, business now decided to fight back, to regain power in America. At the heart of the battle would be Edward Bernays and the profession he had invented, public relations.
Stewart Ewen - Historian of Public Relations: Following that lecture business people start to get together and start to carry on discussions, primarily in private and they start talking to each other about the need to sort of carry on ideological warfare against the New Deal. And to sort of reassert the sort of connectedness between the idea of democracy on the one hand and the idea of privately owned business on the other. And so under the umbrella of an organization that still exists which is called The National Association of Manufacturers and whose membership included all of the major corporations of the United States a campaign is launched explicitly designed to create emotional attachments between the public and big business; it's Bernays' techniques being used on a grand scale. I mean totally.
The campaign set out to show dramatically that it was business not politicians that created modern America. Bernays was an advisor to General Motors but he was no longer alone. The industry he had founded now flourished as hundreds of public relations advisors organized a vast campaign. They not only used advertisements and billboards but managed to insinuate their message into the editorial pages of the newspapers.
It became a bitter fight. In response to the campaign the government made films about the unscrupulous manipulation of the press by big business and the central villain was the new figure of the public relations man.
Voiceover from one such film: "They try to achieve their ends by working entirely behind the scenes corrupting and deceiving the public. The aims of such groups may be either good or bad so far as the public interest is concerned, but their methods are a grave danger to democratic institutions."
The films also showed how the responsible citizens could monitor the press themselves. They could create a chart that analyzed the press for signs of hidden bias. But such earnest instruction was to be no match for the powerful imagination of Edward Bernays. He was about to help create a vision of the utopia that free market capitalism would build in America if it was unleashed.
In 1939 New York hosted the World's Fair. Edward Bernays was a central adviser. He insisted that the theme be the link between democracy and American business. At the heart of the fair was a giant white dome that Bernays named 'Democracity', and the central exhibit was a vast working model of America's future constructed by the General Motors corporation.
Ann Bernays - Daughter of Edward Bernays: To my father the World's Fair wan an opportunity to keep the status quo. That is, capitalism in a democracy, democracy and capitalism and that marriage. He did that by manipulating people and getting them to think that you couldn't have real democracy in anything but a capitalist society which was capable of doing anything; of creating these wonderful highways, of making moving pictures inside everybody's house, of telephones that didn't need chords, of sleek roadsters. It was consumerist but at the same time you inferred that in a funny way that democracy and capitalism went together.
The World's Fair was an extraordinary success and captured America's imagination. The vision it portrayed was of a new form of democracy in which business responded to people's innermost desires in a way politicians could never do. But it was a form of democracy that depended on treating people not as active citizens like Roosevelt did but as passive consumers. Because this Bernays believed, was the key to control in a mass democracy.
Stewart Ewen - Historian of Public Relations: It's not that the people are in charge but that the people's desires are in charge. The people are not in charge the people exercise no decision making power within this environment. So democracy is reduced from something which assumes an active citizenry to the idea of the public as passive consumers driven primarily by instinctual or unconscious desires and if you can in fact trigger those needs and desires you can get what you want from them.
But this struggle between the two views of human beings as to whether they were rational or irrational was about to be dramatically affected by events in Europe. Events that would also change the fortunes of the Freud family. In March 1938 the Nazis annexed Austria. It was called the Anschluss. Hitler arrived in Vienna to an extraordinary outpouring of mass adulation but even as he drove through the city behind the scenes the Nazis were systematically whipping up and unleashing the hatred of the crowd against the enemies of the new greater Germany.
Marcel Faust - Resident of Vienna 1930's - The Anschluss was a kind of an explosion of terrible hatred of so called enemies or whatever they considered as enemies, against the Jews totally and also against a lot of Austrians who opposed the Nazis in Austria. They said it's legitimate now you can do what you want so they did it. Stealing and robbing and killing, I can't stay there a while; human depravity was always near to normal behavior it can change very quickly.
As the violence and assassinations raged in Vienna Freud decided he had to leave. His aim was to go to Britain, but he knew Britain like many countries was refusing entrance to most Jewish refugees. But help came from the leading psychoanalyst in Britain, Ernest Jones. He was in the same ice skating club as the Home Secretary Sir Samuel Hall, and Jones persuaded Hall to issue Freud a British work permit and in May 1938 Freud, his daughter Anna and other members of his family set off for London.
Freud arrived in London as Britain was preparing for war and he settled with his daughter Anna in a house in Hampstead. But Freud's cancer was now far advanced and in September 1939 just three weeks after the outbreak of war he died.
The second world war would utterly transform the way government saw democracy and the people they governed. Next week's program will show how the American government as a result of the war became convinced there were savage dangerous forces inside all human beings. Forces that needed to be controlled. The terrible evidence from the death camps seemed to show what happened when these forces were unleashed. And politicians and planners in post war America would come to believe that hidden under the surface of their own population were the same dangerous forces. And they would turn to the Freud family to help control this enemy within. And ever adaptable Edward Bernays would work not just for the American government but the CIA and Sigmund Freud's daughter Anna would also become powerful in the United States because she believed that people could be taught to control the irrational forces within them. Out of this would come vast government programs to manage the inner psychological life of the masses.