Sunday, April 08, 2012

Torches of Freedom

Suffragette banner.
One of the banners, the women who
picketed the White House carried in 1917-18
Image via Wikimedia Commons
There's a well known account (via Adam Curtis' Century of the Self) where Edward Bernays (inventor of 20C public relations) is said to have gloated at how easy he found it to leverage the suffragettes movement in the early 19 hundreds, using them and their cause to successfully market cigarettes to half the population that - as yet, did not smoke (due to it being associated with a masculine past time). Berneys scored a photo of the leading suffragettes, posing in front of the Statue of Liberty, each smoking a cigarette, and then ran the photo in the papers with the heading, "Torches of Freedom". So began the film industry's indorsement of Berney's construct, who then adopted the simbolism throughout their productions for the next 100 years, enjoying the money from the tobacco industry that came with it. 

Berneys went on to do the same for the auto industry, shutting down trams and railways, by constructing the idealised suburban lifestyle around the automobile.

Torches of Freedom was pulled off 100 years ago, using theory's from Bernay's uncle, Sigmund Freud. Over those 100 years, they have honed their skills through WW1, The Great Depression, WW2, The Cold War, Pop Music, and Globalism and now the early stages of data-driven, massive propaganda in social media. The Public Relations industry has come a long way since Torches of Freedom. 

It's based on this simple observation that I have no trust what so ever in groups of people susceptible to that industry's messages. Just look at the polarisation, disrespect and name calling that goes on between people who probably agree on more things than they disagree! 

Ours is a manufactured disconsent. A new politik of divide and conquer, or opportunism over the new tribalism. 

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