Maarten Maartensz

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    Welcome to my Edward Bernays pages!

  Edward Bernays (*)

Let me start saying why is this book in my logic-section.

The main reason is that I came to see that this book clearly and cynically articulates an attitude to society, humanity, morality and science that since then has become dominant in various forms, such as with postmodernism in philosophy and literary criticism, and with the media, corporations and political groups and parties, and also with the public information supplied by governments, cities, NGO's and many nominal "public" institutions.

The keywords here are "clearly" and "cynically": It is because it is much more outspoken than more modern users, proponents or professionals "public relations" is suitable for their purposes that the book is here.

To contrast Bernays' definition of the term "propaganda" with my own, as given in my Philosophical Dictionary, long before I learned about E. Bernays' existence and opinions:

Bernays' definition:

Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring ef-
fort to create or shape events to influence the rela-
tions of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.

Maartensz' definition:

Slanted, biased, prejudiced or partial presentation of something that is meant to produce a state of belief that is not proportional to the evidence.

Note that in either case the goal may be - according to you, me or anyone - good or bad: The difference is that for me what is fairly called "propaganda" ("public relations"), as opposed to the giving of veridical and unbiased information, the deliberate presentation of informatiom that is false or biased, with the intent to evoke a certain kind of judgement in those exposed to it.

Edward Bernays must have been quite aware of this kind of alternative definition, even in 1928, when the term "propaganda" was considered less negative that it became briefly after it, namely  since Hitler's and Stalin's governments made so much use of propaganda to gain their ends and to mobilize their subjects' support, but he mostly sings ambivalently around it instead of fairly meeting the difficulty that propaganda, public relations, advertisements, and governments' public statements are generally slanted, biased and partial, rather than straight, unbiased and fair.

As is now, there is just the text of "Propaganda": My notes to it will come later. The text I converted from a pdf-file with all of the text to the present edition with that text divided over 11 chapters.

Since then, I found a good edition of the text in html in one file. It is here at "History is a weapon"


On the moment, my notes are not done, but the sources are there, at present in the form of a copy of Bernays' text in my edition, ready to be annotated by me, I suppose with considerable sarcasm, because I neither like nor admire Bernays, and I don't think he was honest, fair or unbiased: He wrote a propagandist book about propaganda to advertise his own willingness to make paid propaganda for others, and made quite a few claims in it he must have known were either false or quite doubtful and with little evidence.

Then again, this is what makes Bernays' text useful to understand the real purpose of propaganda, also in combination with what he probably considered to be his hardboiled realism about human beings - probably appropriated from his reading of Nietzsche and Bernays' uncle Sigmund Freud - and indeed a superficial glance at his uncle's rise to fame and career may have convinced Bernays that human beings are on average very easily manipulated and tricked, when made the subject of clever propaganda, disguised as "science", "morals", "amusement" or "information".

And indeed, he and I agree that "Mundus vult decipi," but we disagree on its Machiavellian, cynical, manipulative, egoistic addition "ergo decipiatur".

As is, the full text of Propaganda in my edition has been divided over 12 files: The title page+TOC and the 11 chapters it consists of. The files are linked at the top with arrow-keys that when clicked do the following:

Previous  - to the previous file in the series (text or notes)

- to the associated notes-file or text-file, depending

 Next - to the next file in the series (text or notes)

The term "Propaganda" in the title of each file (both in texts and in notes) links to the TOC.

I have not changed the text that I found on the internet, except in two superficial respects (apart from using another font):

  • I have divided it into 11 chapters plus a titlepage+TOC.
  • I have paragraphed by adding an empty line between two paragraphs (instead of leaving out the empty line but indenting the first word of the paragraphs).

Both changes are meant to make the text easier to read on a computer screen.

My notes in the text are within square brackets and link to the notes file to the right note, at the end of which there is an underlind "Text" that when clicked leads back to the paragraph in the text where the note occurs.

The end of this set-up is to make either series of files (text or notes) capable of being read independently of the other series (notes or text).

But as I said: On the moment the notes remain to be done: All there is now is the 1928 text of Mr. Bernays.

last update: 23-Apr-2012