The doors of our perception are carefully and precisely
regulated. Who cares, right?
It is an exhausting and endless task to keep explaining to
people how most issues of conventional wisdom are
scientifically implanted in the public consciousness by a
thousand media clips per day. In an effort to save time, I
would like to provide just a little background on the
handling of information in this country.
Once the basic principles are illustrated about how our
current system of media control arose historically, the
reader might be more apt to question any given story in
If everybody believes something, it's probably wrong. We
call that Conventional Wisdom.
In America, conventional wisdom that has mass acceptance is
usually contrived: somebody paid for it. Examples:
Pharmaceuticals restore health
Vaccination brings immunity
The cure for cancer is just around the corner
When a child is sick, he needs immediate antibiotics
When a child has a fever he needs Tylenol
Hospitals are safe and clean.
America has the best health care in the world.
And many many more
This is a list of illusions, that have cost billions and
billions to conjure up. Did you ever wonder why you never
see the President speaking publicly unless he is reading? Or
why most people in this country think generally the same
about most of the above issues?
How This Set-Up Got Started
In Trust Us We're Experts, Stauber and Rampton pull together
some compelling data describing the science of creating
public opinion in America.
They trace modern public influence back to the early part of
the last century, highlighting the work of guys like Edward
L. Bernays, the Father of Spin. From his own amazing
chronicle Propaganda, we learn how Edward L. Bernays took
the ideas of his famous uncle Sigmund Freud himself, and
applied them to the emerging science of mass persuasion.
The only difference was that instead of using these
principles to uncover hidden themes in the human
unconscious, the way Freudian psychology does, Bernays used
these same ideas to mask agendas and to create illusions
that deceive and misrepresent, for marketing purposes.
The Father Of Spin
Bernays dominated the PR industry until the 1940s, and was a
significant force for another 40 years after that. (Tye)
During all that time, Bernays took on hundreds of diverse
assignments to create a public perception about some idea or
product. A few examples:
As a neophyte with the Committee on Public Information, one
of Bernays' first assignments was to help sell the First
World War to the American public with the idea to "Make the
World Safe for Democracy." (Ewen)
A few years later, Bernays set up a stunt to popularize the
notion of women smoking cigarettes. In organizing the 1929
Easter Parade in New York City, Bernays showed himself as a
force to be reckoned with.
He organized the Torches of Liberty Brigade in which
suffragettes marched in the parade smoking cigarettes as a
mark of women's liberation. Such publicity followed from
that one event that from then on women have felt secure
about destroying their own lungs in public, the same way
that men have always done.
Bernays popularized the idea of bacon for breakfast.
Not one to turn down a challenge, he set up the advertising
format along with the AMA that lasted for nearly 50 years
proving that cigarettes are beneficial to health. Just look
at ads in issues of Life or Time from the 40s and 50s.
Smoke And Mirrors
Bernay's job was to reframe an issue; to create a desired
image that would put a particular product or concept in a
desirable light. Bernays described the public as a 'herd
that needed to be led.' And this herdlike thinking makes
people "susceptible to leadership."
Bernays never deviated from his fundamental axiom to
"control the masses without their knowing it." The best PR
happens with the people unaware that they are being
Stauber describes Bernays' rationale like this:
"the scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary
to overcome chaos and conflict in a democratic society."
Trust Us p 42
These early mass persuaders postured themselves as
performing a moral service for humanity in general -
democracy was too good for people; they needed to be told
what to think, because they were incapable of rational
thought by themselves. Here's a paragraph from Bernays'
"Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society
constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling
power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, our
tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have
never heard of.
This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic
society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must
cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a
smoothly functioning society.
In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of
politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical
thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of
persons who understand the mental processes and social
patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that
control the public mind."
Here Comes The Money
Once the possibilities of applying Freudian psychology to
mass media were glimpsed, Bernays soon had more corporate
clients than he could handle. Global corporations fell all
over themselves courting the new Image Makers. There were
dozens of goods and services and ideas to be sold to a
susceptible public. Over the years, these players have had
the money to make their images happen. A few examples:
Philip Morris Pfizer Union Carbide
Allstate Monsanto Eli Lilly
tobacco industry Ciba Geigy lead industry
Coors DuPont Chlorox
Shell Oil Standard Oil Procter & Gamble
Boeing General Motors Dow Chemical
General Mills Goodyear
Though world-famous within the PR industry, the companies
have names we don't know, and for good reason.
The best PR goes unnoticed.
For decades they have created the opinions that most of us
were raised with, on virtually any issue which has the
remotest commercial value, including:
medicine as a profession
fluoridation of city water
household cleaning products
cancer research and treatment
pollution of the oceans
forests and lumber
images of celebrities, including damage control
crisis and disaster management
genetically modified foods
food additives; processed foods
Bernays learned early on that the most effective way to
create credibility for a product or an image was by
"independent third-party" endorsement.
For example, if General Motors were to come out and say that
global warming is a hoax thought up by some liberal
tree-huggers, people would suspect GM's motives, since GM's
fortune is made by selling automobiles.
If however some independent research institute with a very
credible sounding name like the Global Climate Coalition
comes out with a scientific report that says global warming
is really a fiction, people begin to get confused and to
have doubts about the original issue.
So that's exactly what Bernays did. With a policy inspired
by genius, he set up "more institutes and foundations than
Rockefeller and Carnegie combined." (Stauber p 45)
Quietly financed by the industries whose products were being
evaluated, these "independent" research agencies would churn
out "scientific" studies and press materials that could
create any image their handlers wanted. Such front groups
are given high-sounding names like:
Temperature Research Foundation
International Food Information Council
Center for Produce Quality
Tobacco Institute Research Council
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
Air Hygiene Foundation
American Council on Science and Health
Industrial Health Federation
Global Climate Coalition
International Food Information Council
Alliance for Better Foods
Sound pretty legit don't they?
Canned News Releases
As Stauber explains, these organizations and hundreds of
others like them are front groups whose sole mission is to
advance the image of the global corporations who fund them,
like those listed on page 2 above.
This is accomplished in part by an endless stream of 'press
releases' announcing "breakthrough" research to every radio
station and newspaper in the country. (Robbins) Many of
these canned reports read like straight news, and indeed are
purposely molded in the news format.
This saves journalists the trouble of researching the
subjects on their own, especially on topics about which they
know very little. Entire sections of the release or in the
case of video news releases, the whole thing can be just
lifted intact, with no editing, given the byline of the
reporter or newspaper or TV station - and voilá! Instant
news - copy and paste. Written by corporate PR firms.
Does this really happen? Every single day, since the 1920s
when the idea of the News Release was first invented by Ivy
Lee. (Stauber, p 22) Sometimes as many as half the stories
appearing in an issue of the Wall St. Journal are based
solely on such PR press releases.. (22)
These types of stories are mixed right in with legitimately
researched stories. Unless you have done the research
yourself, you won't be able to tell the difference.
The Language Of Spin
As 1920s spin pioneers like Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays
gained more experience, they began to formulate rules and
guidelines for creating public opinion. They learned quickly
that mob psychology must focus on emotion, not facts. Since
the mob is incapable of rational thought, motivation must be
based not on logic but on presentation. Here are some of the
axioms of the new science of PR:
technology is a religion unto itself
if people are incapable of rational thought, real democracy
important decisions should be left to experts
when reframing issues, stay away from substance; create
never state a clearly demonstrable lie
Words are very carefully chosen for their emotional impact.
Here's an example. A front group called the International
Food Information Council handles the public's natural
aversion to genetically modified foods.
Trigger words are repeated all through the text. Now in the
case of GM foods, the public is instinctively afraid of
these experimental new creations which have suddenly popped
up on our grocery shelves which are said to have DNA
alterations. The IFIC wants to reassure the public of the
safety of GM foods, so it avoids words like:
Instead, good PR for GM foods contains words like:
It's basic Freudian/Tony Robbins word association. The fact
that GM foods are not hybrids that have been subjected to
the slow and careful scientific methods of real
crossbreeding doesn't really matter. This is pseudoscience,
not science. Form is everything and substance just a passing
Who do you think funds the International Food Information
Council? Take a wild guess. Right - Monsanto, DuPont,
Frito-Lay, Coca Cola, Nutrasweet - those in a position to
make fortunes from GM foods. (Stauber p 20)
Characteristics Of Good Propaganda
As the science of mass control evolved, PR firms developed
further guidelines for effective copy. Here are some of the
dehumanize the attacked party by labeling and name calling
speak in glittering generalities using emotionally positive
when covering something up, don't use plain English; stall
for time; distract
get endorsements from celebrities, churches, sports figures,
street people - anyone who has no expertise in the subject
the 'plain folks' ruse: us billionaires are just like you
when minimizing outrage, don't say anything memorable, point
out the benefits of what just happened, and avoid moral
Keep this list. Start watching for these techniques. Not
hard to find - look at today's paper or tonight's TV news.
See what they're doing; these guys are good!
Science For Hire
PR firms have become very sophisticated in the preparation
of news releases. They have learned how to attach the names
of famous scientists to research that those scientists have
not even looked at. (Stauber, p 201)
This is a common occurrence. In this way the editors of
newspapers and TV news shows are often not even aware that
an individual release is a total PR fabrication. Or at least
they have "deniability," right?
Stauber tells the amazing story of how leaded gas came into
the picture. In 1922, General Motors discovered that adding
lead to gasoline gave cars more horsepower.
When there was some concern about safety, GM paid the Bureau
of Mines to do some fake "testing" and publish spurious
research that 'proved' that inhalation of lead was harmless.
Enter Charles Kettering.
Founder of the world famous Sloan-Kettering Memorial
Institute for medical research, Charles Kettering also
happened to be an executive with General Motors.
By some strange coincidence, we soon have the Sloan
Kettering institute issuing reports stating that lead occurs
naturally in the body and that the body has a way of
eliminating low level exposure.
Through its association with The Industrial Hygiene
Foundation and PR giant Hill & Knowlton, Sloane Kettering
opposed all anti-lead research for years. (Stauber p 92).
Without organized scientific opposition, for the next 60
years more and more gasoline became leaded, until by the
1970s, 90% of our gasoline was leaded.
Finally it became too obvious to hide that lead was a major
carcinogen, and leaded gas was phased out in the late 1980s.
But during those 60 years, it is estimated that some 30
million tons of lead were released in vapor form onto
American streets and highways. 30 million tons.
That is PR, my friends.
In 1993 a guy named Peter Huber wrote a new book and coined
a new term. The book was Galileo's Revenge and the term was
junk science. Huber's shallow thesis was that real science
supports technology, industry, and progress.
Anything else was suddenly junk science. Not surprisingly,
Stauber explains how Huber's book was supported by the
industry-backed Manhattan Institute.
Huber's book was generally dismissed not only because it was
so poorly written, but because it failed to realize one
fact: true scientific research begins with no conclusions.
Real scientists are seeking the truth because they do not
yet know what the truth is.
True scientific method goes like this:
1. Form a hypothesis
2. Make predictions for that hypothesis
3. Test the predictions
4. Reject or revise the hypothesis based on the research
Boston University scientist Dr. David Ozonoff explains that
ideas in science are themselves like "living organisms, that
must be nourished, supported, and cultivated with resources
for making them grow and flourish." (Stauber p 205)
Great ideas that don't get this financial support because
the commercial angles are not immediately obvious - these
ideas wither and die.
Another way you can often distinguish real science from
phony is that real science points out flaws in its own
research. Phony science pretends there were no flaws.
The Real Junk Science
Contrast this with modern PR and its constant pretensions to
sound science. Corporate sponsored research, whether it's in
the area of drugs, GM foods, or chemistry begins with
It is the job of the scientists then to prove that these
conclusions are true, because of the economic upside that
proof will bring to the industries paying for that research.
This invidious approach to science has shifted the entire
focus of research in America during the past 50 years, as
any true scientist is likely to admit.
Stauber documents the increasing amount of corporate
sponsorship of university research. (206) This has nothing
to do with the pursuit of knowledge. Scientists lament that
research has become just another commodity, something bought
and sold. (Crossen)
The Two Main Targets Of "Sound Science"
It is shocking when Stauber shows how the vast majority of
corporate PR today opposes any research that seeks to
It's a funny thing that most of the time when we see the
phrase "junk science," it is in a context of defending
something that may threaten either the environment or our
This makes sense when one realizes that money changes hands
only by selling the illusion of health and the illusion of
environmental protection. True public health and real
preservation of the earth's environment have very low market
Stauber thinks it ironic that industry's self-proclaimed
debunkers of junk science are usually non-scientists
themselves. (255) Here again they can do this because the
issue is not science, but the creation of images.
The Language Of Attack
When PR firms attack legitimate environmental groups and
alternative medicine people, they again use special words
which will carry an emotional punch:
outraged sound science junk science sensible scaremongering
phobia hoax alarmist hysteria
The next time you are reading a newspaper article about an
environmental or health issue, note how the author shows
bias by using the above terms. This is the result of very
Another standard PR tactic is to use the rhetoric of the
environmentalists themselves to defend a dangerous and
untested product that poses an actual threat to the
environment. This we see constantly in the PR smokescreen
that surrounds genetically modified foods.
They talk about how GM foods are necessary to grow more food
and to end world hunger, when the reality is that GM foods
actually have lower yields per acre than natural crops.
(Stauber p 173)
The grand design sort of comes into focus once you realize
that almost all GM foods have been created by the sellers of
herbicides and pesticides so that those plants can withstand
greater amounts of herbicides and pesticides. (The Magic
Kill Your TV?
Hope this chapter has given you a hint to start reading
newspaper and magazine articles a little differently, and
perhaps start watching TV news shows with a slightly
different attitude than you had before.
Always ask, what are they selling here, and who's selling
it? And if you actually follow up on Stauber & Rampton's
book and check out some of the other resources below, you
might even glimpse the possibility of advancing your life
one quantum simply by ceasing to subject your brain to mass
That's right - no more newspapers, no more TV news, no more
Time magazine or Newsweek. You could actually do that. Just
think what you could do with the extra time alone.
Really feel like you need to "relax" or find out "what's
going on in the world" for a few hours every day? Think
about the news of the past couple of years for a minute.
Do you really suppose the major stories that have dominated
headlines and TV news have been "what is going on in the
world?" Do you actually think there's been nothing going on
besides the contrived tech slump, the contrived power
shortages, the re-filtered accounts of foreign violence and
disaster, and all the other non-stories that the puppeteers
dangle before us every day?
What about when they get a big one, like with OJ or Monica
Lewinsky or the Oklahoma city bombing? Do we really need to
know all that detail, day after day? Do we have any way of
verifying all that detail, even if we wanted to? What is the
purpose of news?
To inform the public? Hardly. The sole purpose of news is to
keep the public in a state of fear and uncertainty so that
they'll watch again tomorrow and be subjected to the same
Oversimplification? Of course. That's the mark of mass media
mastery - simplicity. The invisible hand. Like Edward
Bernays said, the people must be controlled without them
Consider this: what was really going on in the world all
that time they were distracting us with all that stupid
vexatious daily smokescreen? Fear and uncertainty -- that's
what keeps people coming back for more.
If this seems like a radical outlook, let's take it one step
What would you lose from your life if you stopped watching
TV and stopped reading newspapers altogether?
Would your life really suffer any financial, moral,
intellectual or academic loss from such a decision?
Do you really need to have your family continually absorbing
the illiterate, amoral, phony, uncultivated, desperately
brainless values of the people featured in the average
nightly TV program? Are these fake, programmed robots
Do you need to have your life values constantly spoon-fed to
Are those shows really amusing, or just a necessary
distraction to keep you from looking at reality, or trying
to figure things out yourself by doing a little independent
Name one example of how your life is improved by watching TV
news and reading the evening paper.
What measurable gain is there for you?
Planet of the Apes?
There's no question that as a nation, we're getting dumber
year by year. Look at the presidents we've been choosing
lately. Ever notice the blatant grammar mistakes so
ubiquitous in today's advertising and billboards?
Literacy is marginal in most American secondary schools.
Three fourths of California high school seniors can't read
well enough to pass their exit exams. (SJ Mercury 20 Jul 01)
If you think other parts of the country are smarter, try
this one: hand any high school senior a book by Dumas or
Jane Austen, and ask them to open to any random page and
just read one paragraph out loud. Go ahead, do it. SAT
scales are arbitrarily shifted lower and lower to disguise
how dumb kids are getting year by year.
At least 10% have documented "learning disabilities," which
are reinforced and rewarded by special treatment and special
drugs. Ever hear of anyone failing a grade any more?
Or observe the intellectual level of the average movie which
these days may only last one or two weeks in the theatres,
especially if it has insufficient explosions, chase scenes,
silicone, fake martial arts, and cretinesque dialogue.
Radio? Consider the low mental qualifications of the falsely
animated corporate simians they hire as DJs -- they're only
allowed to have 50 thoughts, which they just repeat at
And at what point did popular music cease to require the
study of any musical instrument or theory whatsoever, not to
mention lyric? Perhaps we just don't understand this
emerging art form, right? The Darwinism of MTV - apes
descended from man.
Ever notice how most articles in any of the glossy magazines
sound like they were all written by the same guy? And this
guy just graduated from junior college? And yet he has all
the correct opinions on social issues, no original ideas,
and that shallow, smug, homogenized corporate omniscience,
which enables him to assure us that everything is going to
All this is great news for the PR industry - makes their job
that much easier. Not only are very few paying attention to
the process of conditioning; fewer are capable of
understanding it even if somebody explained it to them.
Tea In the Cafeteria
Let's say you're in a crowded cafeteria, and you buy a cup
of tea. And as you're about to sit down you see your friend
way across the room. So you put the tea down and walk across
the room and talk to your friend for a few minutes.
Now, coming back to your tea, are you just going to pick it
up and drink it? Remember, this is a crowded place and
you've just left your tea unattended for several minutes.
You've given anybody in that room access to your tea.
Why should your mind be any different? Turning on the TV, or
uncritically absorbing mass publications every day - these
activities allow access to our minds by "just anyone" -
anyone who has an agenda, anyone with the resources to
create a public image via popular media.
As we've seen above, just because we read something or see
something on TV doesn't mean it's true or worth knowing. So
the idea here is, like the tea, the mind is also worth
guarding, worth limiting access to it.
This is the only life we get. Time is our total capital. Why
waste it allowing our potential, our personality, our values
to be shaped, crafted, and limited according to the whims of
the mass panderers?
There are many important issues that are crucial to our
physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. If it's an issue
where money is involved, objective data won't be so easy to
obtain. Remember, if everybody knows something, that image
has been bought and paid for.
Real knowledge takes a little effort, a little excavation
down at least one level below what "everybody knows."
Stauber & Rampton, "Trust Us, We're Experts", Tarcher/Putnam
Ewen, Stuart PR!: A Social History of Spin 1996 ISBN:
0-465-06168-0 Published by Basic Books, A Division of Harper
Tye, Larry The Father of Spin: Edward L.
Bernays and the
Birth of Public Relations Crown Publishers, Inc. 2001
Bernays E Propaganda Liveright 1928
King, R Medical journals rarely disclose researchers' ties
Wall St. Journal, 2 Feb 99.
Engler, R et al. Misrepresentation and Responsibility in
Medical Research New England Journal of Medicine v 317 p
1383 26 Nov 1987
Black, D PhD Health At the Crossroads Tapestry 1988.
Trevanian Shibumi 1983.
Crossen, C Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact in
Robbins, J Reclaiming Our Health Kramer 1996.
O'Shea T The Magic Bean 2000.