Spin


The birth of spin…

Edward L. Bernays, known as the “father of public relations,” developed the science of spin in the 1920s.

Bernays argued that “people are not merely unconscious but herdlike in their thinking… remarkably susceptible to leadership” (Rampton & Stauber, 43). Hence, “the scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary to overcome chaos” (Rampton & Stauber, 42).

For more on Bernays, click here.

[Is this how you think of yourself?]

Quote from him: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country” (Rampton & Stauber, 42).

“He helped jump-start sales of bacon, a breakfast rarity until the 1920s, by enlisting a prominent doctor to solicit fellow doctors’ opinions on the salutary benefits of a hearty breakfast and by arranging to have famous figures photographed eating breakfasts of bacon and eggs” (Rampton & Stauber, 45). He also increased the popularity of bananas using similar methods.


"...struggle to determine whether "we, the people" is a spiritual idea embedded in a political reality -- one nation, indivisible -- or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others... I understand what the politician meant who said of the Texas House of Representatives, "If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents"... a society... whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud" (Bill Moyers. "This is Your Story. Pass It On." Texas Observer, 8/13/04: 4-9, 38).


Why so many people get their fundamental economic interests wrong...

"What in the world-gone-to-hell is wrong with the American people? If the corporate and political leadership of the Republican party is as corrupt and inept as it seems to be, how pathetic are American voters for putting all three branches of government in the control of the GOP?...

"Why so many people are acting against their fundamental interests is "the preeminent question of our times," according to Frank. It is "the all-American dysfunction""...

"His answer to that "preeminent question of our times" seems to be that a lot of people are deluded. Deranged. Played for suckers" (Dave Denison. "What's the Matter With Us?" Texas Observer, 8/13/04: 10-11, 40).


"The President runs on fear and character assassination--big fear and big lies... Bush's claims and insinuations are utterly distant from the truth...

"Anything that polarizes public opinion about unknown dangers is assumed to help Bush. Meantime, his war planners are suddenly escalating the "threat" rhetoric surrounding Iran and its nuclear bomb-making. Anything that changes the confersation from Iraq can be helpful too... another attempt to change the subject...

"Bush's great challenge is to divert people from the hard facts of his presidency and get them to focus on a set of fantastic smears of his challenger" (Rick Meyerowitz. "The Republicans Arrive in New York." The Nation, Sep. 13, 2004: 5-8).


"The Bush Administration's strategy has been to promote a culture of denial, in which American abuses are first covered up then acknowledged with shock and horror, then absorbed and neutralized and finally forgotten--so that when new scandals surface, a new cycle can begin" ("Command of the Truth." The Nation, Oct. 4, 2004: 3).


"...the Bush administration has been using nonproliferation policy to demonize foreign governments it doesn't like and to manipulate US public opinion. The most egregious example was the totally discredited claim that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of manufacturing nuclear weapons -- a claim used to manufacture support for the US invasion of Iraq" ("Nonproliferation Politics." The Nation, Oct. 11, 2004: 6).


"...George W. Bush lives in a "fantasy world of spin"... full frontal repudiation of facts known to all. Faced with the absence of WMDs in Iraq he once simply said, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." Faced with a Presidential Daily Brief titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in the US," he and his spokespersons called it "historical." In his universe, faithfulness to delusion is "consistency" (Jonathan Schell. "Why We Must Leave Iraq." The Nation, Oct. 11, 2004: 10).


"...it took me awhile after my time in government to realize that what's important to the journalist is not how close we are to power but how close we are to reality... chalenging the official view of reality and getting as close as possible to the verifiable truth... connect the dots and lay the record bare... as the late Martha Gellhorn once put it, that "serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior"" (Bill Moyers. "Letter From Bill Moyers." Texas Observer, 1/7/05: 39).


Colby Glass, MLIS