This article was published on Turkish national newspaper Milliyet, on November 4th, 2016.
The two main tools that destroy the culture are American television and Hollywood movies, and this applies not only to Turkish culture, but also to the societies with centuries old cultures such as Russia, China, France, Germany, Italy and many others. We can easily count the number of people in the world who would not give up everything and go to Los Angeles to act in a movie with a Hollywood star. Hollywood and American television, which created and fueled this folly of fame, are manipulating the entire world, (including the American society itself) with an excessive effectiveness. This business started in the 1920s when many American companies and the US government used Edward Bernays, the nephew of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, to develop these methods. Bernays was so effective in guiding the society that even just by reading Bernays’ books, we can realize how many choices in our lives are imposed on us. Even some of the titles of his books, such as “Crystallizing Public Opinion”, “Propaganda”, “Engineering Public Consent”, are troubling enough.
After the Hitler era, the word “propaganda” was used in a negative sense and sounded too harsh and political, therefore, Bernays created a new terminology and became the eponym of the term “Public Relations”. In other words, the author of the books on manipulation techniques, was also the person with the devilish intelligence, who thought of giving propaganda a nicer name and he called it “Public Relations”. Naturally, Bernays’ most important weapon in manipulating the masses was the psychoanalytic techniques of his uncle Freud. The first important job offer for Bernays was creating a campaign for a tobacco company. He focused on the differences between individual psychology and social psychology, and organized campaigns with serious social effects,.
Traditional Breakfast !
The tobacco company envisaged to double the sales by including women in their customer profiles. In the 1920s, it was still considered taboo for women to smoke in public. The tobacco company was convinced to work with Bernays for propaganda. He found a group of women and hired them to march in the New York City Easter Day parade on April 1st in 1929. He told the press that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom”. The women lit their cigarettes in front of the eager photographers.
After this first successful job, he became quite wealthy by the job offers for the public relations of many companies. It guided the preferences of the American public in many areas such as boosting the pork industry by making people believe that bacon and eggs is the traditional American breakfast.
Even today, when I talk about this event, New Yorkers are shocked when they learn that their traditional breakfast was made-up by someone who cared only about propaganda. After these campaigns for big companies, Bernays manipulated the public on many issues by working with the American government and the CIA. The worst result of these works was the coup d’état in Guatemala in 1954. The turmoil that Bernays caused over the conflict between the American fruit industry and the Guatemalan banana companies turned into a civil war. The phrase “Banana Republic” comes from Guatemala from those days.
Another important Bernays organization was the largest world fair ever held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, in New York City in 1939. Considering that approximately 44 million people from all over the world visited this fair between 1939-1940, it won’t be wrong to say that it was one of the greatest brainwashing events in history to direct the future in such a way that only the big companies would benefit. This psychological pressure, which started with Bernays in the 1920s, continued throughout the 20th century in the US, spread to the world through TV and Hollywood and still continues.
Let’s protect our own culture.
Now everyone in the US is debating whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be elected president. If the US was a country that had built a rooted culture throughout the centuries which would stand up to the manipulations of Bernays we would not have seen these two candidates in the presidential election in the world’s leading country.
So is it the American people who should take the responsible for this disaster? Maybe partially, because most Americans are unaware of what is going on in the world because of the shallow information available to them through TV and the press. On the other hand, they are satisfied with this shallow information and allow these powers to brainwash them. Those who access news from various sources are not in the majority. If this situation sounds familiar to Turkish readers, it means that the manipulation initiated by Bernays has reached the Turkish society as well.
The only weapon to stand up against this propaganda is to protect the culture and develop a new and better culture. Of course there are many benefits in adapting the beautiful aspects of other cultures, but in order to stand up against manipulation, it is important to transform into a society that embraces its own culture and a society that does not let go of its foundations, traditions and history easily.
Protecting the culture does not mean turning our back to the breakthroughs in technology, science and art just because it’s coming from another culture and to be trapped in our own culture. That would be an unintelligent and a backward approach. Not buying the self-centered content that lacks kindness and love; not excepting the imposition of absurd programs or films that instill and glorify ignorance to the whole world through American television and Hollywood would be the most straight forward way to protect the culture.
We, as the people of the world and the people in the US shouldn’t forget that the term propaganda originally didn’t have a negative connotation, it was the greedy people who used propaganda in a corrupt way and that’s why Bernays could take it even further to create a nice sounding term as “Public Relations” to cover up for his own propaganda. Now we can use propaganda for goodness and kindness and give a lesson to the horrific human being; Edward Bernays.