Sorry, I mislabeled part 3 of the documentary. It is actually called “There is a Policeman Inside My Head.” Part 4 examines Dick Morris style politics and the rise of Bernays’ “Democra-city” vision of democracy.
I have the greatest admiration for your propaganda. Propaganda in the West is carried out by experts who have had the best training in the world, in the field of advertising, and have mastered the techniques with exceptional proficiency. Yours are subtle and persuasive; ours are crude and obvious. I think that the fundamental difference between our worlds, with respect to propaganda, is quite simple. You tend to believe yours and we tend to disbelieve ours.
– A U.S. based Soviet correspondent
Adam Curtis’ argument is simply that using Bernays’ ideas of appealing to the self was the intention from the beginning, although the path that the actual idea took and how it was morphed and removed from context is interesting historically. Bernays always wanted to use Freudian ideas to control mass democracy.
Curtis’ insight that the adoption of Bernays’ ideas and techniques by leftists to regain power fundamentally undermines the social fabric that the left seeks to promote. Satisfying people’s irrational Freudian impulses also leads to disastrous public policy. Of course, everyone would like to have their cake and eat it to, rationally and physically this is impossible.
The cultural shift, which has been driven by for profit corporations ability to utilize vast amounts of capital and human ingenuity in the public relations and advertising apparatus, has turned society into consumers by appealing to people’s subconscious desires. It was always Bernays’ intention that there was a ruling elite benevolently guiding society to become better. The horrifying development is that the elites seem to believe the propaganda also.
Coincidently, this narrative provides an explanation to why Al Gore and John Kerry came off as disingenuous. They were simply following the precedent set by Bill Clinton and Dick Morris in the 1996 campaign. The extent that Gore and Kerry remained unconvincing is a testimony to the fact that they shouldn’t pursue a career in acting. However, it also ignores many of the socio-economic realities of the times, such as George H. W. Bush’s “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” and the recession the nation was in during the 1992 election. However, if the tipping point is truly people’s irrational impulses, it might simply be the case that I overestimate the impact these issues actually have in elections. It was certainly the case for the 2004 election.
I really don’t know how one promotes egalitarian ideas in an age of self-centered consumerism. I don’t even know how one constructs coherent public policy in a political culture that promotes panderers and looters. Are we now the hollow men? Is this the way the world ends? Isolated and abandoned, not with a bang but a whimper?