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Public Relations is Newspeak for Propaganda

While the record book like to say that public relations as a concept and profession hails from just after the turn of the last century, it wasn't until World War Two that propaganda had become a worthless garbage word, replaced by public relations by Edward Bernays.

Not only was propaganda associated with Hitler's Nazi Germany but it was also the term associated with communist imperialism. A Minister of Propaganda was generally perceived as both evil and nefarious. While undoubtedly effective in grooming culture and the populace and in crowd control, the perceived methods of a Ministry of Propaganda were considered cruel, manipulative, and the antithesis of American liberty and freedom.

In 1952, Bernays published Public Relations following-up to his 1928 book, Propaganda. Essentially, Bernays was able to rebrand and relaunch a military and wartime word associated with oppression into something that was perceived as being transparent and friendly -- and opportunity for organizations, governments, and corporations to be able to better expose themselves to their members, citizens, and customers.

Before Propaganda became public relations, there were advertising, marketing, and publicity firms. It wasn't until the work in psychoanalysis by Bernays' uncle, Sigmund Freud, became popularized and utilized in professional communications and propaganda that modern propaganda was born. Or, at least, until public relations because a more acceptable euphemism for such a tarnished word.

Today, of course, even PR is considered tarnished and sleazy. PR is popularly called "spin" and the entire industry has been painted as using manipulative, calculating, and lethal campaign strategies on behalf of their clients. As a term, PR has been replaced by marketing and communications.

Even so -- and whatever it may be called or labeled -- public relations works, whether used in wartime or in times of peace; to placate a populace or to encourage consumerism; or to repair the reputation of an entire country or just as a way of removing the egg off of the face of a indiscreet CEO. In fact, if used judiciously and long-term, PR can and does groom entire cultures towards destinations both known and unknown, the consequences of which can often be anticipated and mostly planned for.

No doubt that PR is a compelling industry and effective whether or not anyone believes in it any more. Actually, the less people are guarded against the effect of messaging, communications, the media, PR, marketing, advertising, publicity, and sales (and they are beginning to collaborate more and more), the more effective these tools and methods become.

To quote Baudelaire, la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas! Or, in English, the devil's best trick is to persuade you that he doesn't exist!

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